Former players, yours truly recall memories of Coach Joe Ault
The year was 1977 and I was a senior at Troy High School in southwestern Ohio.
Rumor had it one day that a college football coach was coming to the school on a recruiting mission. That was nothing really new because we had a really good football tradition, with quite a few players going on to play at the Division I level, and a few even took the next step to the NFL.
Several of my classmates were summoned to head football coach Barry Blackstone’s office. Then my name was called.
I was a student athletic trainer/equipment manager and had no idea why this coach wanted to see me. I made my way back to Coach Blackstone’s office and there sat this middle-aged gentleman who has neatly dressed in a suit jacket, tie and top hat.
He introduced himself as Joe Ault, head football coach at Salem College. I had heard of the school in north central West Virginia because Coach Blackstone’s twin brother — Larry — was an assistant coach with the Tigers.
To make a long story short, I was impressed enough with what Coach Ault had to offer, I went to Salem. It was the first time I had ever been away from home for an extended period of time.
Sadly, Coach Ault passed away earlier this week after a lengthy battle with health issues. He was 85 years old.
Although Coach Ault retired following my freshman year, I learned a lot from him in that short period of time. Student trainers/equipment managers tend to get a lot closer with the coaches than most players just because they are around them more.
Coach Ault was a great coach. He knew the Xs and Os better than anybody back then.
However, he was an even better person.
While at Salem, Coach Ault led the Tigers to the 1975 NAIA Championship game against Texas A&I where they lost to the Javelinas on their home field. Salem finished 11-1 and Coach Ault was named the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, as well as the NAIA North Eastern District Coach of the Year.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jack “Hydroplane” Deloplaine was the star running back on that Salem squad.
Prior to his short, but very successful stint as an assistant (1972-74) and later head coach (1975-77) at Salem, Coach Ault was a very successful high school coach at Bridgeport.
During his days as the Bulldogs mentor, his teams posted a 48-20-1 record from 1964-71. His 1965 team went undefeated.
Bill Marsh, a 1971 graduate, has the pleasure of playing for Coach Ault at both Bridgeport and Salem. He recalled his memories of Coach Ault in a recent phone call from his summer home at Seneca Lake.
“He studied film more than any coach I’ve ever known,” Marsh said. “He knew what defense to call when the opponents came out of their huddle. He knew what direction they were going to run the ball and always had us veering towards that side of the line.”
Marsh remembered one certain practice.
“It was a Wednesday practice and the first team defense was going against the third team offense. With the defense only going about half speed, Coach Ault blew his whistle and stopped practice. He told the defense if they were going to play like that on Saturday, it was them the people in the stands would be watching, not him.”
Marsh said Coach Ault was a motivator.
“He could get you pumped up really quick. He liked to see a lot of excitement at practice because he thought if you practiced that way, you’d play that way,” Marsh said.
Another player who had the opportunity to play for Coach Ault at both Bridgeport and Salem was Moundsville resident Sonny Brown.
“The man taught me so much about life I will always remember coach,” Brown said in a Facebook post.
Jerry Moore was a student manager for Coach Ault at Bridgeport.
“When I was in the 7th-8th grade I couldn’t play football,” Moore said. “I went to Coach Ault and asked him if I could be the team manager and he said ‘yes, but you have to work hard, you have to show up when you’re supposed to and you have to give your best.'”
Moore never forgot those words.
“He was one helluva man. He taught us so much, not only about football but about life skills. He was kind and passionate in everything he did.”
Moore recalled a story about Coach Ault’s caring.
“I had a tooth knocked out playing basketball and Coach Ault took me to the dentist and then had me fitted for a mouthpiece. You learned to love and respect him.
“Coach Ault was mild-mannered,” Moore continued. “However, when he’d tell you to do something and then show you how to do it, if you didn’t do it that way, he got upset with you.”
Mike Doyle, a St. John Central graduate, also played for Coach Ault at Salem.
“He recruited me. I can remember him being in my parents living room,” Doyle said in a telephone call. “A funny story was when he was recruiting me, his brother, Don, was the head coach at Bethany College and he was recruiting me, as well.”
Another story Doyle recalled about Coach Ault.
“It was a really hot day at Salem. Coach Ault got the team together after practice and told us that the team captains had come to him and thought the practices were really hard. Well, we would usually run about 10-12 40-yard sprints after practice, but that day we ran about 40 of them. Coach Ault then said I guess all the practices will be easier than this one.”
Following his time at Salem, Coach Ault finished his career at Watkins Memorial High School in Pataskala from 1978-86 and then Heath High School in 1989. His career record was 149-45-5. He started his coaching career in 1962 at Barnesville.
Thanks for the memories, Coach Ault! R.I.P.