Mallory Men pay lasting tribute to coaching legend

There were seven of them on the podium, hundreds more in the Memorial Stadium bleachers and thousands upon thousands scattered throughout the country Saturday, paying respects to the man that shaped them.

They’re Mallory Men, the former college football players and assistants whose lives were touched by Bill Mallory during his remarkable and impactful 27-year head coaching career.

It’s a special fraternity, one divided into chapters for each of Mallory’s four stops. There’s a group for Miami (Ohio), one for Colorado, another for Northern Illinois and, of course, one for Indiana, too.

Each of those institutions were represented at a celebration of life ceremony at IU on Saturday afternoon, an occasion for laughs, thoughtful tributes and tear-jerking memories of the legendary coach.

“We celebrate him for his goodness and kindness, his caring attitude for every one of us,” former IU running back Anthony Thompson said, eulogizing his coach for those who packed into the sun-soaked East bleachers for the two-hour ceremony at Memorial Stadium. “We came as boys, but he made us men.”

Miami (Ohio)

In nearly three decades as a head coach, Mallory developed All-Americans, all-conference honorees and the kinds of gritty players that shape the backbones of all quality teams.

It started in Oxford, Ohio.

And in the beginning, there were the guinea pigs.

“We truly believe that coach tried out a lot of things on us,” said Mike Poff, a member of Mallory’s first recruiting class at Miami in 1969.

Thirteen years earlier, Mallory himself was a first team All-Mid-American Conference selection for Miami, playing under coaches Ara Parseghian and John Pont. When he returned to take over at his alma mater, Mallory immediately introduced his players to the methods that would make them winners.

“I can imagine what the staff meetings were like sometimes,” Poff said. “I can just see Coach (Ron) Corradini and Coach (Dick) Crum and Floyd (Keith) and these guys going back and saying, ‘Coach, we tried that drill, and we almost killed them. We can’t do that one.’ And I can see coach going, ‘Nope, that drill we’re doing.’ Many of the ideas were new to us.”

Whatever they were, they worked.

Mallory went 39-12 in five seasons at Miami, steering the undefeated 1973 team that beat Florida in the Tangerine Bowl and was ranked No. 17 in the final Associated Press poll.

Miami also topped rival Cincinnati in four of the five meetings between the schools during Mallory’s watch.

“His biggest coaching success was that he never had to fire an assistant coach,” Poff said. “You don’t see that anymore. You don’t see that loyalty anymore.”

The assistants

Floyd Keith doesn’t know why Mallory brought him aboard at Miami in time for the 1970 season.

“The guy hired me when I was 21 years old,” Keith said. “Hell, the only thing I knew was his name.”

But, as Keith later learned, Mallory wasn’t someone who obsessed over resumes or grand accomplishments. He was attracted to and impressed by quality people, and throughout his coaching career, Mallory remained loyal and devoted to the men he employed.

That meant those such as Keith were privy to the tenets Mallory adhered to while molding and coaching young men. Keith summarized Mallory’s process into 10 principles that every coach — every leader — can and should adopt:

— Coach your team as you would raise your family. “Be more interested in them than just about football.”

— Everyone is part of the program. “Bill used to say he raised me. He said he took me off his IRS when I was about 38.”

— There’s no substitute for character. “It should be the cornerstone for every decision you make with staff selection and players.”

— You’ll win with people. “It’s a people business. Always has been and always will be.”

— Lock your jaw. “Intensity, competitiveness and discipline.”

— Education. “He cared that you got a degree.”

— There’s no substitute for loyalty. “It’s too much about money anymore. It ain’t about the real things.”

— Integrity. “Do it the right way. The right way is not always the easy way.”

— Coaching is teaching. “He paid attention to details. He was about fundamentals.”

— Commitment. “Be involved. Get in it. Be 100 percent committed.”

It all stuck with Keith, and so many others.

“Bill Mallory did not pass away,” said Keith, who re-joined Mallory’s staff at Indiana. “His blood flows through the veins of not only his sons and daughter, but every coach and every player that was able to sit in that office or sit in a meeting and hear his words of wisdom.”

Colorado

Laid back and free-spirited, Boulder was a hip place to be in the 1970s. But when he started at Colorado in 1974, Mallory brought with him Midwest sensibilities.

“There was a clash of cultures when he and his staffed arrived at Colorado,” said Steve Stripling, who played for the Buffaloes under Mallory before later serving as one of his assistants, including all 13 of Mallory’s seasons in Bloomington.

But The Mallory Way prevailed, and the Buffs were rewarded.

Four of Mallory’s five Colorado teams posted winning records. In 1976, he coached the Buffaloes to their first share of a Big Eight football title since 1961, guiding Colorado to an Orange Bowl appearance against Ohio State.

He was as fiery and intense then as he would later be known for at Indiana. Just ask those who used to pack into Folsom Field to watch Mallory’s teams in the ’70s.

“We have the ball, it’s fourth down and Coach Mallory decides to go for it,” Stripling said, recalling one classic Mallory moment. “We line up in the formation, and a fan throws a bottle right behind our offensive line. The offensive line jumps offsides, and we’re penalized. Now, we have to punt. Coach Mallory turns around, and he’s looking in the stands like ‘who could do such a thing to the Buffs?’

“He’s trying to watch the game, but the fans get into it like, ‘He’s over here (pointing to the offender).’ So Coach Mallory turns back around, and the fans go, ‘He’s over here.’ Pretty soon, Coach Mallory can’t take it. He drops his headphones, he turns and scales the wall behind the bench and goes into the stands. The fans erupt, security shows up and kicks the guy out. You want to talk about passion? How about that for passion.”

Northern Illinois

It was a lowly, moribund program before he arrived in DeKalb, Ill., in 1980.
Mallory changed that, transforming the Huskies into winners.

Northern Illinois won 57 percent of their games during Mallory’s four seasons as coach, doing so after going 14-29 during the previous four years.

His 1983 team went from a season-opening win at Kansas — the Huskies’ first over a Big Eight program — to an 8-1 conference record and the program’s first bowl victory at the California Bowl.

Mallory was inducted into the MAC Hall of Fame in 2013 and is the only head coach to lead two league teams to MAC titles.

“I wanted to honor coach in some way,” said Vince Scott, Mallory’s kicker at NIU for each of his four seasons. “We approached the head football coach at Miami University. We approached both of the athletic directors at NIU and Miami, and we also approached the Mid-American Conference commissioner about establishing a rivalry game between NIU and Miami in honor of Coach Mallory.

“Everyone was excited about the idea, and it’s now in motion. We hope to have it finalized in time for the inaugural game against Miami on November 14th in DeKalb, Ill.”

Indiana

Beating Ohio State in Columbus in 1987 was a great achievement for Indiana’s program. But what Mark Hagen remembers most fondly was the night before, and the story of a father and his son.

The Hoosiers practiced on the eve of that game in Ohio Stadium, an approach that teams of today wouldn’t think about taking. Afterwards, Mallory rounded up his players and pointed into the stands.

In 1951, Mallory and his father sat right there — right were Mallory was pointing — the last time Indiana beat Ohio State.

What happened next was vintage Mallory.

“He pulled a buckeye out that night and stomped it in front of his football team,” Hagen said, “because, by God, there was no doubt about it that we were going to go out there tomorrow and get it done. And that’s exactly what we did.”

Indiana, of course, went on to beat the Buckeyes in back-to-back years, a feat IU hadn’t accomplished since 1905.

After the 1987 victory, Ohio State coach Earle Bruce famously called it “the darkest day in Ohio State football.”

“One thing I always loved about Coach Mal was he’d always take opportunities, good or bad, to plant seeds for future events. He certainly did that,” Hagen said. “You know, we were going to enjoy that victory against Ohio State, but you didn’t have to look any further than Earle Bruce whining about how it was the darkest day in Ohio State history.

“By god, coach was not going to let us forget that because, you know what, that was a slap in the face. ‘If you thought today was the darkest day in Ohio State history, wait ’til next year.’ The next year, it wasn’t even that close. 41-7. That’s what coach had built here.”

With 69 victories at IU, Mallory remains the program’s most successful coach. He was the first Big Ten coach to win back-to-back conference coach of the year awards, and he guided the Hoosiers in the midst of their most successful period in program history.

“For those who might want a little perspective in how significant these achievements by Bill and his coaches at Indiana were, think about this,” IU radio voice Don Fischer said. “In the 36 seasons prior to Bill Mallory coming to Indiana, they had five winning seasons. Five. Since Bill Mallory was let go in 1996, Indiana football has had one winning season. I think that tells you all you need to know about Bill Mallory.”

24 comments

  1. Had forgotten the W’s against the Bucks was back to back. Don Fischer forever concise and on point really highlighted the brand Coach Mallory built at IU. Mallory Memorial Stadium would fit the brand well.

  2. Mallory had a great run at IU and it is a shame the last two years were in decline. He would have stayed at IU a long time if the season following the season IU beat OSU and UM carried on the winning he developed. Fischer uts things in perspective and shows the futility at IU in football.

  3. I agree Coach Mallory was to this point the best that has been at IU. Sadly, the futility that is IU FB is self inflicted by Hoosier Nation. Who else has the ability to bring the appropriate amount of pressure to bring about the necessary changes?

    As for naming Memorial after Mallory, it would be a great idea if 100 years from now he was still the best at IU. You never know how things will turn out in the future. I am hesitate to name facilities after coaches too quickly. My favorite is Bryant-Denny at Alabama. In a few years there will be a demand to make it Bryant-Denny-Saban. If they keep racking up multiple championships with future coaches the name could extend all the way around the stadium!

  4. It’s a bit much to name the stadium after him. He was a good coach, the best football coach IU has had, and he obviously was beloved by his players, but he did not rise to the level of success that warrants naming the football stadium after him.

  5. I’m thinking it’s not a ‘bit much’ at all. He’s the only IU coach in almost 40 years to have a plus .500 conference record. His teams accomplished a better than .500 conference record in 4 of his 13 seasons.

    The combined 20 seasons of Cam Cameron, Gerry DiNardo, Terry Hoeppner, Bill Lynch, Kevin Wilson, and Tom Allen do not include one plus .500 conference record.

    I see no problem changing the name to Bill Mallory Stadium. Don’t be fooled by overall .500 season records and the increased numbers of bowl invites today that arise out of wins against non-conference cupcakes. Mallory is the only coach in over three decades who actually fielded teams that played plus .500 in the conference and battled as though they belonged in the Big Ten.
    In addition to Indiana’s rare conference success under Mallory, he sure seemed like a very decent man as well.

  6. Po, those of us that want the field or stadium named after coach Mallory is due to what he produced on the field in IU dismal history of football but more due to his commitment to the university over the years. Coach Mallory’s legacy is much more than just his record.

    1. V13,
      I really hate to somewhat disagree with you on this subject, especially with it being over Coach Mallory. The problem is what if Tom Allen or some successor coach down the road actually takes IU to the FB promised land? At the risk of being redundant on this matter, the best parallel is Bill Snyder at Kansas State. KSU had every bit as bad of a FB history as IU, but the body of work put together by Bill Snyder has exceeded that of Bill Mallory. Granted, Coach Snyder has received far superior support from KSU than Coach Mallory ever did from IU.

      This is a serious discussion as to what should be the standard for giving such an honor posthumously or not. I honestly feel if Coach Mallory had been given the support Coach Snyder has been given, the stadium would have already been named after him and probably before he retired. It is a terribly bad break for the Mallory legacy, but as you well know, sports are always a series of breaks good or bad. Could I see naming maybe the field for him as you suggest? Possibly, as long as the stadium naming is reserved for the coach who actually takes IU FB to a much higher level.

      Should there be a statue of him in a prominent location at the stadium? That should have already been done.

  7. It’s kind of a silly discussion because it’s not going to happen. If anyone in authority or influence within IU wanted to begin a movement to get Memorial Stadium re-named after Coach Mallory, they’d have started that process by now, while he was alive. thinkaboutit’s comments in the post above are right on the mark. Coach Mallory should be honored in some way, but re-naming Memorial Stadium after him is over the top. He was a good coach and an even better man, but his accomplishments while at IU do not rise to that level of distinction. Let’s hold off re-naming the football stadium until we get a coach who wins the Big Ten Championship a couple of times and who retires after coaching IU for over a decade with a winning record.

    1. With the manner Podunker used to go after Bill Mallory’s son, Doug Mallory, I would imagine Coach Bill Mallory would have liked to have seen ‘Po-hide Stadium’ to ‘Knuckle Sandwich Stadium’……”while he was alive.”

      We could always rename Memorial to ‘Bob Knight Stadium’…? Football would have been long deceased before the Mallory years without the overall influence of how a serious and dominant winning basketball program could hold our standing nationally and in the Big Ten.

  8. …”right on the mark”…
    The philosophy that brought about that remark means you could wait endlessly being afraid to make a decision.

  9. Kevin Wilson will never be honored for anything at IU (nor will Bob Knight).

    Fact Remains: Kevin Wilson is the man who changed the culture. There is no momentum under Allen without Wilson. I’ll never forget the early radio interview Wilson had with Jack Trudeau. Wilson gave Trudeau the biggest on-air punch in the mouth in the history of IU Football mockery.
    Wilson brought an excitement with the hurry-up…He brought risk-taking and big play options….and he recruited damn good receivers and NFL variety running backs. He lost his job not over mishandling injured players(he never put a player on the field not cleared by medical staff) but over mishandling the narcissistic boss of IU’s athletic department.
    Might as well go with Bill Mallory Stadium….It’s a far more honorable thing to do(and a far more deserving thing) than anyone in the immediate future who will harness some success because of the cultural change under Wilson.

  10. Are there any video links of the seven men paying respects to Bill Mallory…? I’ll go searching …. I was just curious. Well done tribute by Mike Miller but it would be nice to see/listen to the speeches too. Thanks.

  11. I don’t recall giving anyone heat for posting videos…I may have given Jeremy some when he posted a song by ‘Canned Heat’ into a Hoosier Morning…? And what happened to Hoosier Mornings…? Did it go up to the country?

  12. I don’t believe I own a ‘Canned Heat’ album…That’s rather a shame. Hope you bring back Hoosier Morning….or as I once referred to it, Hoosier Smorgasbord.

    Still want to know the “heat” Chet was talking about….? Was it simply the griping that was done a while back because of poor sound quality on a few videos/interviews? Don’t think I was in that bitch-fest.
    It is rather interesting how some of your preconceived notions have done an about face concerning the delivery of this product…HSR was intended to be formulated as a more modern/in vogue place where video content would be dominant due to belief in trends dictating that information is more preferred/consumed in the unwritten form. Appears you’re moving back/away from that model. The written stories are as strong as ever. The Roku stick application has been abandoned….You have your share of videos, but the only real reason people come to Scoop is to dig further into your finer written pieces….The other main reason is to badger each other (it’s in our DNA. Caveman must pound chest) and hear Chet’s tales of an exceptional life along with its daily trials and tribulations.
    Books are also making a resurgence. Are people finally tiring of simply being bombarded by videos and imagery made with little thought or heart behind their creation? There may be hope for society after all….and maybe some hope for Hoosier Scoop too. Feel the heat …of the written word! Some like it hot!…rather than in watered down images fed on a spoon. Hoosier Morning is cool. Links to great written sports stories from HT journalists and a few from choice outside sources given their due acknowledgement. And then Jeremy put the frosting on the cake with a nice and concise YouTube music clip of his liking. Feel the heat!

  13. We’re zapping a lot of people in the media these days….We call them “vulgar” and “disgusting”…..and some of them truly are. But those who tighten their lips and bit their tongues may be the most vulgar of all. Fear is a very vulgar thing and sometimes the only way to shock a society(or an individual) out of the grips of brainwashing and fear is via a very crude and raw version of language as crude and corrupt as the conformity beaten into many…and the freedoms being taken away from all. Those who do not understand the value of the word unconstrained are not student’s of America’s roots and her history.
    Do you believe there was “civility” when Burr and Hamilton dueled to defend their power? Would it be a stronger America had those words and exchanges been censored? Nobody is promoting we return to dueling with pistols, but should we fear dueling with words(though sometimes raw and vulgar) while only those in government hold the pistols of power under their vulgar desires, greed, corrupt intentions and desires to paint all opposing/dissenting forces as “fake” or “un-American”…?

    The words of Alexander Hamilton(expressing his views of Aaron Burr):

    Nothing has given me so much chagrin as the Intelligence that the Federal party were thinking seriously of supporting Mr. Burr for president. I should consider the execution of the plan as devoting the country and signing their own death warrant. Mr. Burr will probably make stipulations, but he will laugh in his sleeve while he makes them and will break them the first moment it may serve his purpose(courtesy: Wikipedia).

  14. Wow…Anthony Bourdain dead. Very sad….Loved watching Parts Unknown. He was a rare and fun soul. Always seemed so full of life and completely fearless. I envied his vibrant spirit and his successes taking him to places I could only dream of ever seeing….At the same time, he had a unique gift to make one feel as if they were part of his experience. So full of piss and vinegar but generously seasoned with kindness and humility. I just don’t understand it. Tragic …as all who can’t seem to conquer or keep at bay the demons and pain so often hidden from normal view. I’ll miss him.

  15. I agree that if Allen takes IUFB to the promised land, it will be on the momentum started by Wilson. I was tickled by KW’s radio mouth-punch to Trudeau when it happened, and that carried over to his teams- IUFB under Wilson had a real fighting spirit and never gave up (even if there were collapses a la blowing that big lead against Rutgers).

    Was the injury thing a pretext to fire KW? I, for one, think that KW had peaked as a head coach and Glass knew it and took the opportunity to replace him without paying the buy-out. Only time will tell if this was genius or folly.

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