Salem College lost ‘Cradle of Coaches’ member in Young

It’s a well-known fact that Miami University of Ohio, located in Oxford, is called the “Cradle of Coaches,” and deservedly so. The Mid-American Conference school just north of Cincinnati near the Indiana border has produced more than a handful of future NCAA Division I and NFL head coaches.

The nickname was brought to prominence in 1983 when former Miami sports communications worker Bob Kurz wrote a book about the legendary coaching tradition. The school’s association with it goes back to at least 1971. Heck, it even has its own “Cradle of Coaches Association” and inducts former coaches for their achievements as alumni.

Names like Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Weeb Ewbank, Sid Gillman, Ara Parseghian, Bo Schembechler, Jim Tressel, John Harbaugh and Sean McVay all cut their coaching staff in the southwestern portion of the Buckeye State. That’s just naming a few on the elongated list.

However, back in the 1970s and 1980s there was a smaller version of the “Cradle of Coaches,” so to speak, in central West Virginia. Salem College might not be the equivalent of Miami University, but the tiny NAIA school put together a football powerhouse like none other during that stretch in West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference history.

The Tigers reached the pinnacle in 1975 when they defeated Ouachita Baptist University of Arkansas 16-7 to win the Eastern Regional Championship which advanced them to the NAIA Division I Championship Bowl. As fate would have it, the Tigers, who were led by future Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jack “Hydroplane” Deloplaine, lost 37-0 to national power Texas A&I at Javelina Stadium in Kingsville, Tx.

The head coach of that team was Bridgeport native Joe Ault. Ault, who now resides outside of Columbus, took over that year when Moundsville native Ed Pastilong left after seven successful seasons (1969-75). Pastilong’s teams won more games than any other WVIAC team during his tenure. He went on to serve as athletics director at West Virginia University from 1989 until he retired in 2010.

Pastilong became head coach at Salem when Donnie Young ended a three-year stint and headed to Morgantown where he would be involved with the Mountaineers program for more than 40 years. His final Salem team went 8-1 and was ranked in the NAIA’s Top 20. He was named the WVIAC Coach of the Year that season. He was 19-6-1.

Sadly, Young, age 77, passed away last week. He was inducted into the Salem College Football Hall of Fame in 2017 during the bi-annual reunion at Oglebay Park. I had the opportunity to meet Coach Young on that night. I also remember him telling those in attendance at Wilson Lodge what a great time he had at Salem. He raved and raved about his experiences in rural Harrison (W.Va.) County.

Some other Salem College-to-WVU connections were New Martinsville native Bill Stewart who tragically passed away in 2012; Rich Rodriguez; and Terry Bowden.

Stewart was an assistant coach at Salem in 1977 when I entered school. He was my first college professor and went on to a 28-12 record and 2008 Fiesta Bowl championship as head coach of the Mountaineers. He succeeded Rich Rodriguez, the head coach at Salem in 1988, after “Rich Rod” bolted Morgantown for Michigan and then Arizona.

Bowden became the nation’s youngest head coach at age 26 when he accepted the position at Salem College in 1983. In three seasons at Salem, his teams won two WVIAC titles. His star quarterback was current Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher who spent most of his coaching career at Florida State under Bowden’s father, Bobby.

In 1986, Bowden left to be an assistant coach at The University of Akron for Gerry Faust.

Following a couple of non-productive seasons, the program was discontinued in 1989.

What a small world it is.


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