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Trademarked, Solved: “Cradle of Coaches”

According to Miami (Ohio), the title “Cradle of Coaches” was first coined in 1959 by then-sports information director Bob Kurz. According to his 2002 book, “Miami of Ohio: Cradle of Coaches,” Kurz was inspired, in some fashion, by the SEC — some things haven’t changed, it seems. Kurz was driving to Oxford, Ohio, on a Saturday evening in late October when he picked up a game starring L.S.U., then coached by Paul Dietzel, a Miami graduate. Struck by how well L.S.U. was playing in 1959 — the Tigers, the 1958 national champs, won 20 straight games between 1957-59 — Kurz decided to do a little legwork.

Let’s turn it over to Kurz himself, who, after attending church the following morning, went to his office and researched the records of Miami alumni then active on the coaching ranks:

“Perusing the Sunday papers, I jotted down the record of the Miami alumni in the college and professional ranks. Red Blaik, Miami ’18, the legendary Army coach; Weeb Ewbank, Miami ’28, Baltimore Colts; Paul Brown, Miami ’30, Cleveland Browns; the aforementioned Dietzel; Ara Parseghian [then of Northwestern], Dietzel’s teammate and classmate, and finally, John Pont, Miami ’52 and current Miami coach. I threw in Sid Gillman, the Miami coach of Dietzel, Parseghian and Pont, from the N.F.L.

“Here it was, more than halfway through the season, and these Miami coaches had yet to lose 10 games combined. There’s a story there, I said to myself, as I put a blank sheet of paper in the typewriter. And on the blank sheet of paper, citing this amazing phenomenon, I called Miami the Cradle of Coaches.”

Why this trip down memory lane? Well, perhaps not content with the unofficial title of “Cradle of Coaches,” in early 2009 Miami took its case to the United States Patent and Trademark Office in an effort to officially trademark the moniker. A little more than three years later — on Feb. 21, to be exact — the Patent Office formally approved the request.

So, it’s official: Miami is now the “Cradle of Coaches,” meaning another school with a similar claim to fame must adopt a different turn of phrase. Perhaps the “Classroom of Coaches” — that works, even if the moniker’s a tad derivative — or the “Playground of Coaches.” Prior to Bill Snyder, Kansas State was referred to in some circles as the “Graveyard of Coaching Dreams.” But that’s neither here nor there.

Why did Miami seek to trademark the moniker? It’s the intellectual property of the university, for starters. But there’s also money at stake, as noted by Christopher Wilson, who works in Miami’s Office of General Counsel. The school now “owns the nationwide right to control the use of the trademark, including obtaining significant damages and attorneys’ fees from infringers,” said Wilson, via a university release.

The story doesn’t end there. It does for Miami, but not here. Can we pinpoint the actual day when Kurz had his stroke of imagination? According to Kurz, it was in late October of 1959. He was driving back to Oxford on a Saturday evening. While Kurz doesn’t say so, it’s implied that he was driving back from a road game.

He was listening to L.S.U. play in Baton Rouge. “The car radio was tuned to a station picking up a game from Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.” The Tigers were playing Mississippi State, to the best of Kurz’s recollections. Late October; Miami road game; L.S.U. home game; Mississippi State.

There are two possible dates. On Oct. 31, 1959, Miami lost a road game to Bowling Green, 33-16. On that same day, L.S.U. beat Mississippi, 7-3, in Baton Rouge. Everything fits minus one point: L.S.U. beat the Rebels on Oct. 31, not the Bulldogs.

On Nov. 14, 1959 — close enough, perhaps, for Kurz to mix up the dates — Miami lost on the road to Dayton, 13-0. On the same day, L.S.U. beat Mississippi State, 27-0, at home. Here, everything fits but one point: mid-November, not late October.

The tiebreaker can be found in one of Kurz’s statements above. “Here it was, more than halfway through the season, and [the list of former] Miami coaches had yet to lose 10 games combined.” On Nov. 1, the Sunday that Kurz compiled the list, the seven coaches — Blaik, Ewbank, Brown, Parseghian, Dietzel, Pont and Gilman — had combined for eight losses on the season.

On Nov. 15, the day after Miami lost to Dayton and L.S.U. beat Mississippi State, the seven coaches had a combined 16 losses; Gilman, then 2-5 with the Los Angeles Rams, was doing much of the heavy lifting. Based on that fact, Kurz’s mental bolt likely came on Nov. 1, 1959. One more issue: Red Blaik retired from coaching in 1958. Could Kurz’s recollections be one year off?

Nope. According to his book, Kurz coined the phrase while L.S.U. and Northwestern were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in The A.P. Poll. Cue the rankings on Nov. 1, 1959: L.S.U. was No. 1 with 132 first-place votes, while Parseghian’s Wildcats were No. 1 with 30 first-place votes. So: Nov. 1 it is.

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Comments

  1. Burnt Orange says:

    Great stuff. What is interesting is he threw in non alum and former coach Gilliam but left non alum and former coach Woody Hayes off of the list. Probably because Woody was having a rough season in 1959. So his list did not include a man who had already won two national titles and was created a few years before Schembechler, a Miami grad , took the post.

    Pont’s niece, Sally Pont, wrote a book about all of these men and their inter connected lives called Fields of Honor – I highly recommend it.

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