It’s early summer in suburban Akron and three men wait for Gerry Faust, perhaps the greatest of all the great football coaches in Ohio high school football history. They’ve summoned Faust to the clubhouse of their country club in Fairlawn for a game of gin rummy. “They invite me over so they can take my money,” he quips.
At 79, Faust has lost none of the earnest energy that helped him build the football program at Archbishop Moeller High School into the perennial powerhouse it remains today. He still travels across the country giving the same motivational speeches he gave for 20 years in the Moeller locker room, and later—with far less success—on the college level with Notre Dame and Akron. Some things, however, have changed. The father of three, Faust has now taken on the role of dutiful grandparent, picking up and taking kids to and from pool parties and basketball camps. But despite his 20 years removed from the game in an official capacity, he still keeps in close contact with Notre Dame, frequently consults with his former assistant Terry Bowden (now heading Akron), and tries to meet with current Moeller head coach John Rodenberg once a month. “I think Moeller’s such a great high school in every form,” Faust says. “Athletically. Socially. Religiously—it’s just an outstanding school.”
It’s hard to think about Cincinnati football without thinking about Moeller, though Faust’s program is only as old as the school itself, which opened in 1960. He was still a young man then, just a few years removed from playing quarterback at the University of Dayton, and yet on the verge of becoming a coaching innovator. He brought in a ballet instructor to help his players gain agility, introduced speed drills in the winter months, and helped institute a weight-training program. On top of that, he and his staff would routinely meet with college coaching staffs throughout Ohio, seeking out new ideas.
We know the rest. For a period of 18 seasons starting in 1963, his teams were nearly unbeatable. He won 174 games and lost only 17. Nine times his teams went undefeated in the regular season, winning 53 straight regular season contests during one stretch. Moeller won five state championships and four national titles. With all that, how could he leave?
“I never would have left Moeller High School if I didn’t get the job at the University of Notre Dame,” he says. “I would have coached there the rest of my life. But I always said that if Notre Dame called I would go there because it was my dream. In 1980 I got the phone call. But to this day, Moeller is a place that I love.”
And though he still lives close to Akron, his view of Cincinnati football—whose modern era he helped define—has never changed. “The whole state’s a great football state,” Faust says. “But Cincinnati’s the best.”