Even their names have an aura. They evoke visions of mud-speckled glory, of gravelly-voiced halftime speeches and eager-to-please running backs churning their legs for every inch. Ewbank. Parseghian. Hayes. Schembechler. Martin?
Chuck Martin is entering his first season as the head man for the Miami University football program, and much is expected. The so-called Cradle of Coaches demands lofty expectations from the moment a coach takes the stage at the introductory press conference. “I’ve heard from people who have been around a long time that there are comparisons to [former Miami coaches] Terry Hoeppner and Randy Walker, just in terms of [Martin’s] attitude and approach,” says David Sayler, Miami’s athletic director.
These legends of old aren’t merely mythical reminders of a more successful time, either. Shadows don’t make phone calls. “You get calls from John Harbaugh and all those coaches that have been here through the years saying, ‘You gotta get back to what it was,’ ” says Martin.
The last few years haven’t helped that cause. Miami has won more Mid-American Conference championships (15) than any other school in conference history, but only one has come in the past decade. Last season, the RedHawks went 0–12 in front of a mostly empty Yager Stadium.
In fact, the program isn’t even the hottest ticket in Oxford these days. The RedHawks men’s hockey team was an overtime deflection away from a national title in 2009 and have been a mainstay atop the college hockey rankings ever since, playing to capacity crowds at the sparkling Goggin Ice Center.
Returning to national prominence might be too much to ask. But regaining past dominance amongst conference peers—with a coach Sayler claims has inspired more ticket sales than anyone in 10 years—is a reasonable end. “We have to start winning the MAC before we have any other kind of conversation,” says Sayler.
That might not inspire any poetic imagery of a bygone era, but it’s a good place to start.