Sept. 22, 2012
OXFORD, Ohio-One legendary football coach and five others with distinguished coaching careers were honored at Miami University Friday (Sept. 21) celebrating the school’s proud tradition as the Cradle of Coaches.
The 2012 Cradle of Coaches dinner celebrated the accomplishments of football immortal Paul Brown, who will have a statue unveiled in the Cradle of Coaches Plaza Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m., and the induction of Randy Ayers ’78, Thad Matta, Joe Novak ’67, Sandy Pearsall and Sue Ramsey ’78 into the Cradle of Coaches Association.
Throughout the sports world, Miami University has the unique reputation as the Cradle of Coaches, including individuals such as Earl “Red” Blaik, Weeb Ewbank, Paul Brown, Paul Dietzel, Ara Parseghian, John Pont, Bo Schembechler and Carm Cozza.
The Cradle of Coaches Association was established in 1971 to acknowledge the role Miamians have played in establishing Miami University as the Cradle of Coaches. While all Miami Alumni who go on to coach or those who have coached at Miami are considered a part of the Cradle of Coaches, the Cradle of Coaches Association began inducting individuals into the Association in 1992 to further recognize their accomplishments. In 1999 and 2000, Miami’s Hall of Fame Committee further developed criteria for induction into the Cradle of Coaches to be more inclusive of all sports.
Sketches of the inductees:
PAUL BROWN (September 7, 1908 – August 5, 1991), a 1930 graduate of Miami University and a two-time letter winner (1928-29) for the football team, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967. He was the first coach of the Cleveland Browns, a team named after him, and he later founded the Cincinnati Bengals. Brown began his coaching career at Severn High School in 1931 before becoming the head football coach at Massillon Washington High School in Massillon, Ohio where he grew up. His high school teams lost only 10 games in 11 seasons. Ohio State University then hired Brown and he coached the school to its first national football championship in 1942. Following World War II, he became head coach of the Browns, who won four AAFC championships before joining the NFL in 1950. Brown coached the Browns to three NFL championships (1950, ’54 and ’55), but was fired in January of 1963 amid a disagreement with team owner Art Modell. In 1968, Brown co-founded and was the first coach of the Bengals. He retired from coaching in 1975 but remained the Bengals’ team president until his death in 1991. The Bengals named their home stadium Paul Brown Stadium in honor of Brown. Coach Bill Walsh once called Brown “the father of the modern game of football” and “probably the greatest teacher the game has ever seen”.
RANDY AYERS (Miami ’78, ’81) has been a men’s basketball coach at the collegiate and professional ranks for more than three decades. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Miami following an illustrious playing career. Ayers moved on to stints as an assistant coach at West Point (1982-84) and Ohio State (1984-89) before assuming his first head coaching position in 1989-90, guiding the Buckeyes for eight seasons. At the helm of the Ohio State program, Ayers led the Buckeyes to NCAA Tournament appearances in his first three seasons and an NIT berth in his fourth season while boasting a Big Ten Co-Championship in 1990-91 and an outright title in 1991-92. His teams earned two consecutive No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament and finished fifth in the final Associated Press poll in 1991 and third in 1992. Ayers was tabbed AP National Coach of the Year in 1991 and earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 1991 and 1992. He began his tenure among the NBA coaching ranks in 1997-98 as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers. As the head assistant, Ayers helped Philadelphia to five-consecutive playoff appearances, including a trip to the 2001 NBA Finals. He held that position until assuming the head post with the 76ers prior to the 2003-04 campaign. Following the 2004 season, Ayers moved on to assistant coaching positions with the Orlando Magic (2005-07) and the Washington Wizards (2007-09) before returning to Philadelphia as an assistant coach in 2009-10. In August 2010, Ayers was named an assistant coach with the New Orleans Hornets and has spent the past two seasons with the organization. He was promoted to lead assistant in June 2011. A four-time All-MAC selection who helped Miami to a pair of MAC Championships in 1977 and 1978, Ayers and the Red and White upset defending national champion Marquette in the first round of the 1978 NCAA Tournament. He was inducted into the Miami Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991.
Thad Matta spent two stints on the Miami men’s basketball staff amidst an impressive career that has spanned more than two decades at six different schools. Matta was an assistant coach with the Red and White during the 1994-95 campaign and again during the 1996-97 season as Miami advanced to the NCAA Tournament and posted 20-win seasons each year. Miami won the MAC regular season title both seasons and captured the MAC Tournament title in 1997, while advancing to the NCAA Tournament second round in 1995. In 12 seasons as a head coach between Butler (2000-01), Xavier (2001-04) and Ohio State (2004-pres.), Matta has amassed a 323-96 record (.771) and compiled eight regular-season titles and six conference tournament crowns. As a head coach, he has guided all 11 eligible teams to postseason play, including 10 NCAA Tournament jaunts. He led the Buckeyes to the national title game in 2007 and a Final Four appearance this past season. Matta has been named MCC Coach of the Year (2001), Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year (2002) and Big Ten Coach of the Year (2006, 2007, 2010), while also being named National “Rookie” Coach of the Year in 2001 and being tabbed a finalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year in 2003. A five-time Columbus Dispatch Coach of the Year (2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011), Matta also was named USBWA District V Coach of the Year in 2006. He is just one of two coaches nationally to post 20 or more wins in each of his first 12 seasons as a head coach. In addition to assistant coaching stints at Miami, Matta also was a graduate assistant at Indiana State (1990-91), an administrative assistant (1991-94) and assistant coach (1997-00) at Butler and an assistant coach at Western Carolina (1995-96). Over his entire career, Matta has been a part of 18 postseason appearances, including 15 NCAA Tournament berths.
JOE NOVAK (Miami ’67, ’68) spent 40 years on the gridiron at the high school and collegiate levels. He returned to Miami as an assistant coach from 1974-76. During that time, Miami won two MAC titles, going undefeated in MAC play in 1974 and 1975, while winning the Tangerine Bowl both of those seasons. Prior to his time at Miami, Novak began his prep coaching career as an assistant at Warren Western Reserve High School in 1968. Elevated to head coach five years later, Novak led Western Reserve to a 12-0 record and Ohio’s large school division state title to earn 1972 Coach of the Year honors. He took Western Reserve back to the state finals a year later with an 11-1 record before joining the collegiate ranks. After a combined 22 seasons as an assistant coach at Miami, Illinois (1977-79), Northern Illinois (1980-83) and Indiana (1984-95), Novak assumed the head coaching post at Northern Illinois in 1996 and spent 12 seasons guiding the Huskie program. Novak inherited a struggling NIU program that he guided to four MAC West Division titles (2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005) and two bowl game appearances. The Huskies won the Silicon Valley Bowl during the 2004 season and earned a berth in the Poinsettia Bowl in 2006. He was named MAC Coach of the Year in 2002 and tabbed Region 3 Division I-A Coach of the Year by the AFCA in 2003. Winning the first seven games of the 2003 season, which included the two biggest wins in program history with upsets of Nov. 15 Maryland and No. 21 Alabama, NIU was ranked as high as 12 in the AP Poll and 14 in the Coaches Poll. Members of his final signing class went on to capture the 2011 MAC Championship. Novak finished his coaching career ranked among the league’s top 10 for career wins (63) and MAC wins (47). A stand-out defensive end who spearheaded Miami to MAC Co-Championships in 1965 and 1966, Novak was inducted into the Miami Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007-08.
SANDY PEARSALL spent six years (1992-98) guiding the Miami softball program before being hired to start the Louisville softball program where she has spent the last 13 years amassing a 506-261 record (.659). The Cardinals are coming off the best record in program history with a 55-5 mark, including a 20-2 BIG EAST record, en route to conference regular-season and tournament titles. The coaching staff also was tabbed 2012 BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year. Pearsall has guided Louisville to five conference titles (C-USA regular season 2005; BIG EAST regular season 2006, 2012; BIG EAST Tournament 2007, 2012) and nine straight NCAA Tournament appearances (2004-12). She also was named 2000 Conference USA Coach of the Year in her first season guiding the Cardinals. At Miami, Pearsall mentored nine All-MAC selections and 16 Academic All-MAC honorees in addition to seven academic all-district selections. She spent three seasons prior to guiding the RedHawks as head coach at Colorado State. While at CSU, she was successful in developing the Rams into an annual contender for the Western Athletic Conference championship. Her 1990 squad captured the league title and earned Pearsall Conference Coach of the Year honors. Her construction of the Louisville program is the second time she has built a program from the ground up. In 1988, Pearsall headed the newly-formed Florida A&M team and led the squad to 36 wins in two seasons. Prior to FAMU, she took the San Francisco softball team from the bottom of the conference to second place in just three years and earned NorPac Conference Coach of the Year honors. Pearsall began her coaching career as the outfield coach at Pacific from 1984-85. She has been a collegiate head coach for 25 years and owns a 756-595 career mark (.560).
SUE RAMSEY (Miami ’78) completed her 25th year as a collegiate women’s basketball head coach this year, and it was a banner campaign. Ramsey, who has guided the Ashland program for 17 seasons, led the Eagles to a 33-2 record and the 2012 Division II National Championship game. AU won its first GLIAC basketball championship in school history and went undefeated in conference play in 2011-12. The team won 33 consecutive games during the season, which was the longest Division II active string in the country at the time for men or women. She was named the WBCA Division II National Coach of the Year and also was the GLIAC Coach of the Year, while earning the WBCA’s Carol Eckman Award, which recognizes commitment to the game of basketball. Ramsey has compiled a 287-195 record (.595) at Ashland and a 382-326 mark (.540) as a head coach. She guided the Eagles to three straight GLIAC South Division titles from 2004-06 and has posted four 20-win seasons at AU. In 2011, she was awarded the FCA Kay Yow Heart of a Champion Award. Prior to Ashland, Ramsey spent eight seasons guiding the Dayton Flyer program (1986-94). Additionally, Ramsey was an assistant coach at Cincinnati (1984-86) and Miami (1983-84) and a graduate assistant coach at Illinois State (1982-83). Her coaching career began at Noblesville (IN) High School in 1979-82 where she twice was selected as the county coach of the year. In addition to her basketball duties, Ramsey is also Ashland’s senior woman administrator and is an assistant athletic director. Ramsey is currently on the board of directors for the WBCA and is serving as the Division II legislative chair. She also served four years as a member of the NCAA Division II women’s basketball committee. Ramsey played one year at Miami (1977-78), serving as co-captain, after transferring from Indiana where she was the first woman to receive a basketball scholarship.
Carol Clark Johnson
Dr. Stephen R. Strome