Sports Extra with Dave Ross: Sidney and Miami have historic, unique football links

Sports Extra - With Dave Ross

Former Sidney running back Isaiah Bowser will transfer from Northwestern of the Big 10 to Miami of the Mid-American Conference once he graduates from Northwestern in June. Isaiah will then be immediately eligible as a graduate transfer for two seasons as he pursues a Master’s Degree in sports administration and/or business.

Bowser is a fine young man, and lots of folks are rooting for him, myself included. Hopefully his contributions to Miami football will merit mention along with those of others with Sidney-Miami ties. That list is extensive and involves more than just Sidney alums who played football for the Redskins/Redhawks.

Way back in the summer of 1901, Sidney High School was aiming toward another dominant season under head coach Reverend Thomas Hazzard, the local Episcopal minister, when Miami University was desperately making a very late search for a new coach. Miami contacted Hazzard about their opening.

The Reverend wanted to help Miami but was unwilling to leave the “orange and black” of Sidney. The amazing solution was for him to coach both teams while retaining his ministry, an arrangement that lasted only a single season and included many train trips along with the juggling of practice and game schedules on both ends. I guess that’s why Sidney played Piqua on a Tuesday in 1901.

The Miami Student newspaper praised Hazzard’s coaching but did note that Miami players often “puffed cigarettes in public” when the coach was not in Oxford. Sidney had a perfect 6-0-0 campaign while Miami went 1-3-1 with the lone win over Antioch. No doubt that Hazzard is the only football coach in history to beat both Antioch College and DeGraff High School in the same season.

For well over a century SHS has sent football student-athletes to Miami. Sidney newspapers of that era mentioned various players as being significant Miami performers beginning with Carl Custenborder in 1909. Others were Louis McVay who tallied two touchdowns and four PAT’s in a 1916 shutout of Ohio Northern, and Dick Wolfe, a 1921 Miami halfback.

The most enduring name of the Sidney-to-Oxford (or vice versa) connection didn’t play for Miami but still figures prominently in the equation. Fred Yager was a 1910 SHS grad who attended Miami and loved it, but never graduated. He became very wealthy and made the key donation that resulted in Yager Stadium opening in 1983. Appropriately, that’s where Isaiah Bowser will both practice and play home games.

In 1948 former Miami fullback Wayne Gibson became Sidney’s head coach, left for two years, and returned for the 1951-55 seasons. In 1956 he went back to Oxford as an assistant coach under John Pont and Bo Schembechler, then served as a Miami administrator until retirement.

Miami’s backup quarterback under coaches Woody Hayes and Ara Parseghian in 1950-51 was Sidney product Al Ward who had played for Gibson in 1948. Ward’s center in Sidney, Larry Hawkins, joined him in Oxford in playing for those two legends.

In 1960 the Sidney Yellow Jackets were hiring a new head coach when a recommendation came from Parseghian, then at Northwestern before he went to Notre Dame. Dave Haines was an offensive lineman for Ara at Miami and was hired by Sidney, just in time to open the new high school. He stayed 15 seasons including 30 straight wins from 1968-70. Haines remains Sidney’s longest tenured and winningest head football coach.

Dave’s 1967-68 quarterback, Steve Williams, went to Miami and started in 1971 and 1972 which both resulted in 7-3-0 records. One of his favorite targets was fellow former Yellow Jacket John Wiggins.

A fine Miami career was enjoyed by Sidney linebacker Derik Hines from 1979-82. He won four letters and was a top tackler. Defensive back Howard Daniel was a teammate at both places.

I might have missed someone but these are the highlights my research has revealed. Indeed, there’s quite a connection.

I’ll conclude this piece with my own Miami story. Back in 1972 I was a Miami freshman and worked for the athletic equipment department. On football game days, both team locker rooms were nearby our Withrow Court location. Before a big game with Kent State, their President called the equipment room hoping he could get coach Don James on the line to wish him well.

I was sent down the hall to get the coach and was briefly inside their team area. The mission was accomplished but the interesting thing is the identity of two players in that room, linebacker Jack Lambert and defensive back Nick Saban. Many of you will recognize both Lambert from Pittsburgh Steelers fame, and Saban of current college football coaching dominance at Alabama. The long and lanky Lambert controlled that game defensively on the way to victory, a league title, and bowl berth.

Sports Extra

With Dave Ross

Sports Extra appears each Friday. Dave Ross authored a 438 page book on the first century of SHS football that is available at the downtown Ross Historical Center. All proceeds benefit the Shelby County Historical Society. Ross joined the local media in 1975.

Sports Extra appears each Friday. Dave Ross authored a 438 page book on the first century of SHS football that is available at the downtown Ross Historical Center. All proceeds benefit the Shelby County Historical Society. Ross joined the local media in 1975.