NIU, Miami (Ohio) honoring Bill Mallory with trophy game

Vince Scott moved his family to Bloomington in 1994.

Why? Because that’s where Bill Mallory lived.

Scott was Mallory’s kicker during the coach’s four-year run at Northern Illinois from 1980 to 1983, and — like so many of Mallory’s former players — the two kept in touch across the ensuing years once Mallory moved on to Indiana in 1984.

In Mallory, a revered and respected coach, Scott had a friend and trusted mentor. He wanted his family to have the same.

“He encouraged me to come to Bloomington and make that my home for my office, which I did,” Scott said. “I did it because of his influence. I just wanted to be near him. I knew if I could follow his lead a little bit and take a little bit of something from him, I knew I’d be a better person.”

Throughout Mallory’s life, the coach was someone Scott strived to honor. In death, his former player is trying to do the same.

On Wednesday night, Northern Illinois and Miami (Ohio) will play in the inaugural meeting for the Mallory Cup, a newly-minted rivalry trophy in honor of Mallory’s life and football legacy.

Mallory, who died in May at age 82, coached at both Miami, his alma mater, and NIU, where this year’s game will be played. Shortly after his death, Scott and NIU coach Rod Carey, who played center for Mallory at IU from 1989 to 1993, wanted to create a tribute for their former coach.

A rivalry game is what they decided.

“I give Vince credit for this,” Carey said. “He mentioned, ‘What about a trophy game between Miami and Northern?’ As soon as he said that, it just felt right. I reached out to my administration and they loved it. I reached out to (coach) Chuck Martin over at Miami. He was all for it. It all happened quick.”

For good reason.

The Mallory name still carries weight at both institutions. Even after he and his wife, Ellie, moved to Bloomington for the IU job in the mid-1980s, Mallory remained loyal to the players he guided at both schools. The football programs, too, held him close.

After Mallory’s former defensive coordinator, Joe Novak, was hired as NIU’s head coach in 1996, Scott and a fellow NIU alum created an annual golf outing that was equal parts reunion and fundraising event.

“I think Coach Mallory made it 20 out of 22 years, and Mrs. Mallory was by his side for all of them,” Scott said.

Getting this year’s inaugural trophy game off the ground was a priority task for NIU athletic director Sean Frazier. After Carey forwarded the idea shortly after Mallory’s death, Frazier ran with it.

“He’s an iconic coach,” Frazier said. “Coach Mallory has done such a great job with creating not just champion football teams, but just great young men. The impetus was set in motion by Coach Carey and then he started to connect with different administrators. I called down to Miami and talked to (athletic director) David Sayler, and obviously Chuck Martin and he have talked. It was, ‘How do we do this the right way?’ Then the Mallory Cup was born.”

Mallory was 64-31 all-time as a head coach in the Mid-American Conference, and his win total and .674 winning percentage rank eighth in league history.

Mallory won a MAC championship with Miami in 1973, guiding the program to a Tangerine Bowl victory over Florida. He coached his alma mater for five seasons, compiling a 39-12 record.

After five years and two bowl appearances at Colorado, Mallory went to Northern Illinois in 1980 to rebuild its struggling program. During his final season in 1983, Mallory led the Huskies to an 8-1 conference record and captured NIU’s first conference title in its history as a now-Football Bowl Subdivision program. NIU went 10-2 that season and made its first bowl appearance in the California Bowl, which it won 20-13 over Cal State Fullerton.

Then, of course, Mallory moved on to IU and became the Hoosiers’ winningest coach, producing 69 wins across 13 seasons.

“I would not be where I am as a person and as a coach without his influence,” said Carey, who’s been NIU’s head coach since 2012. “I’m not a unique story. There are a lot of us out there like that. That speaks volumes to him. He knew that football was a great conduit for life, then he was a successful football coach. If the man isn’t in the College Football Hall of Fame, I don’t know why there’s a College Football Hall of Fame.”

While the teams from NIU and Miami battle for the Mallory Cup trophy on Wednesday night, more than 50 of Mallory’s former NIU players are expected to be in attendance, along with Mallory’s widow, Ellie, his daughter, Barbara, and Novak and his wife, Carole.

NIU is also establishing an endowed scholarship in honor of Mallory. The scholarship will be awarded annually to a football player who demonstrates dedication to the NIU program through selflessness and positive attitude.

“I think everybody was very passionate about honoring him and what better way than to have a rivalry game that will be on forever,” Scott said.

“I miss him a ton.”

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