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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

In Memoriam -- Wayne Hardin

You might not remember his name.  But you probably do if you rooted for Navy with Heisman winners Roger Staubach and Joe Bellino or Temple with some greats that included Joe Klecko or Penn State, whose teams in the late 1970's Hardin's Temple Owls tormented, losing two close ones, a one-point loss at Franklin Field and a three-point loss at Veterans Stadium where Temple had the ball late in a tie game only to caught it up and lose very late on a field goal by one of the Bahr brothers.  This was a game where Hardin leveraged every advantage he had, including having his nation-leading punter Casey Murphy punt on third down to keep the Nittany Lions deep in their own part of the field for a significant portion of the game.  But for that fumble, the strategy could well have led to a very sweet Temple win.

Wayne Hardin died today at 91.

It was Hardin who innovated, who elevated Temple's schedule, who engineered some outstanding seasons with talent that the linked obituary references.  He prepared for a home game against powerful West Virginia by having his players practice carrying him off the field after they won the game.  Big underdogs, they smoked the Mountaineers at the old Temple Stadium in the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia off Cheltenham Avenue.  He once deployed a "relief pitcher" strategy for his Maxwell Award winning quarterback, Steve Joachim, occasionally pulling him for a talented back-up, Marty Ginestra. 

His teams played hard, his teams executed, and his teams won a lot more than they lost.  It took decades to bring the program back to prominence.  Sure, a young former Alabama assistant named Bruce Arians made a go of it right after Hardin left in the early 1980's, but even the very promising Arians struggled and a whole host of successors did the same, some mightily.  It took the hiring of former Penn State player and assistant Al Golden a decade back to begin the turnaround; the Owls have been pretty darned good ever since.

I went to a lot of the games that Hardin coached; the Owls were in almost every one of them.  The team was fun to watch.  I'm sure Coach Hardin appreciated the turnaround on North Broad Street and at the Linc very much and probably jumped for joy when the Owls took it to Penn State two years ago.  He is in the College Football Hall of Fame, and Temple was fortunate to have him for a good part of his career.

May he rest in peace.


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