Coach Hardin: A Life Well-Lived


Coach in this great Sheldon Morris photo taken Saturday.

Nothing is ever given in life on this earth, especially the knowledge of the time that you have here.

All of us know what day we arrived; none of us knows the future day we will depart. All we know is to do our best to live the best life we can.

No one lived a better life than Wayne Hardin, the legendary Temple coach who passed away Wednesday, a couple of days from attending Alumni Day at the Edberg-Olson Complex on Saturday. By all accounts, coach was in good spirits and gave a great speech about “filling the stands” for future Temple football games to the 120 or so alumni players in attendance.

On a personal note, I have known coach Hardin since I was 17 and covered his football teams for the Temple News and for the Doylestown Intelligencer later. He was the greatest college coach I have ever known (hell, the greatest coach, period) and this was something I was convinced of since my college days. Sadly, his death came two months after the greatest high school coach I ever knew,  Central Bucks West’s Mike Pettine Sr., passed away.

I had always been convinced of Hardin’s greatness, but it was nice to get affirmation from other writers, too.

During a game in which Hardin put a big-time scare into Penn State for only what seemed like the umpteenth time, John Kunda, the sports editor of the Allentown Morning Call and a Penn State beat writer, broke the silence in the press box.


How fitting was it that the last championship game coach saw was Navy vs. Temple?

“Hardin’s out-coaching Joe again,” Kunda said.

The press box erupted in knowing laughter.

Later, when Tubby Raymond schooled a young Bruce Arians in a Delaware upset win over Temple, Philadelphia Inquirer writer Chuck Newman similarly broke the silence in the Blue Hen stadium facility.

“Will Wayne Hardin please report to the press box?” Newman said  over the public address system.

More laughter because Hardin had beaten Raymond in eight of the 10 previous years.

I was overwhelmed with pride, knowing that my school was the smartest school on the field every Saturday afternoon that Wayne Hardin was on my sideline and, because this was college football, that meant a lot.

Maybe everything.

Hardin always out-coached Joe Paterno, the way General Robert E. Lee always outcoached Ulysses S. Grant. Paterno, like Grant, always won because what those guys had at their disposal was more than what Hardin and Lee had.

Still, it was fun watching Temple move those chess pieces around and checkmating the bad guys time and time again.

Bill Belichick followed Hardin around as a 7-year-old son of an assistant coach to Hardin, and then followed Hardin’s teams at Temple. He took copious notes and is admiration for Hardin is documented for posterity.

“I’d say Wayne influenced me more than anybody else,” said  Belichick in a recent article by CSNNE’s Phil Perry. “Honestly, I saw other coaches at Navy take a different approach, and looking back on it, even though I didn’t know it at the time, but I would say looking back on it, I would rather be like him. I’ve seen these others, but I would rather do it the way he did it.”

I was there in the press room underneath the stadium at Colgate the day Hardin quit. I asked him why and he said simply: “Mediocrity is not my cup of tea.”

He was a very young 55 at the time.

It was Hardin’s idea to take the goofy-looking Owl off the helmet and spell out TEMPLE on the side.

“We want people to know who we are,” Hardin said. “We’re Temple.”

That “TEMPLE” became the brand during the winningest TEMPLE years and, when Al Golden arrived, he changed the ‘][‘ back to TEMPLE because, as Golden said, “that’s the brand Temple football had when it was respected throughout the country.” Perhaps a fitting tribute to Hardin this fall would be to bring back TEMPLE at least on one side of the helmets.

People in sports like to talk about records that will never be broken, mentioning Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Heck, I’m convinced no coach in Temple history will ever do what Hardin did, which is win 80 games in 13 years at the school. No coach might ever get Temple into the final Top 20 again because a Temple coach who gets the Owls on the brink will probably be gone by the bowl game. Hopefully not but that’s the reality of college football today.

Joe Morelli, a former Temple quarterback who never played for coach Hardin, made sure he drove coach to the games and that’s why we were all able to enjoy his company over the past few years.

“Joe takes good care of me,” coach said.

Last year, I asked coach if he still golfed at 90.

“Last time I did that was last week,” coach said. “I fell three times. I don’t do it any more.”

He asked me to walk him over to where his ex-players, led by Steve Conjar, moved their tailgate and I was more than happy to do that.

Look who I found!” I said to the guys.

“God bless you, Wayne,” Mark Bresani said. “I love that you come to the games. I’ll tell you what, when I’m 90, I will probably be here, too.”

About 20 years ago, Hardin finally introduced me to his wife, Jane, who stopped and grabbed me by the arm.

“We like you,” Jane said. “It’s not just because you have red hair like we did.”

She remembered my articles on the coach and said she appreciated all of the nice things I wrote.

I told her I meant every word and did.

Now coach and his beloved Jane are together but those of us who remain behind and knew him are grieving now. Perhaps the most important lesson he taught us was how to live a life well.

Monday: 5 Questions Kraft Needs to Answer


24 thoughts on “Coach Hardin: A Life Well-Lived

  1. To honor the GREAT Wayne Hardin, TUFB should wear the Cherry TEMPLE adorned helmet the entire 2017 season! Can we start a movement?

    • Count me in… at least TEMPLE on one side with ][ on the other. That should be the minimum.

      • Can you start an online petition and distribute it widely? I think we should go for the TEMPLE both sides and accept just one side as a compromise. Putting his initials on helmets or uniform tops just doesn’t seem like a big enough tribute. If the Athletic Dept/Coach Collins saw massive support for this, maybe it would happen (Maybe you could also get a Philly sports writer to do a story about the helmet tribute, too ?)

  2. Mike, awesome article! I like the “Temple” thing… honor coach and pass players! I still remember “back in the day” when coach Wilson #6 threw Coaches cloths in the shower at Erney field. We shared the locker room for Cherry & White…back in the day. 1973 Go Temple!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Outstanding story, Mike. While Joe Juliano did a nice job today on today, I thought that read more like a dry obit and I liked the color you injected into his life. Wish it could get a more wider audience than TFF so that people not familiar with this site could read it.

  4. I always preferred the letter helmets. They represented a successful period of TUFB and were unique. You didn’t need to know the letters to know the team. Those cherry helmets and the hash marks on the pants were so identifiable as Temple. I turned on some recent year away games when the wore the “alternative” helmets and wasn’t sure I had the right game. But getting back to Coach Hardin, this was a special person and a great coach. It would be great to see him honored with the letter helmets (cherry colored). Also have WH showing on the jerseys.

  5. Really nice article Mike. Hardin was “the man.” Didn’t Ernie Casale AD hire him? I wonder if Collins would go along with these proposed uniform changes when he’s trying to develop his own image, especially since it could bring a lot of attention to a past coach on game-day broadcasts.

  6. I would hope Coach Collins would embrace all the aspects of the best of TUFB’s history including the memory of one be of its greatest coach. In the end, the number of regular, conference championship and bowl game wins will determine the attention he receives.

  7. Great piece Mike. Would have loved to see what he would have done with the present facilities and training methods. He was not a big weight training guy but changed his mind after Larry Kuharich became one of his coaches. It was Larry’s push that had him decide to have weight lifting become a vital part of the program and it was one of the main reasons the 79 team was so successful.

  8. How about the the Hardin-Era epaulets for one more season? Having a simple WH wouldn’t be as cool, and the TEMPLE helmets were also part of the Arians and Golden Years. Those three stripes on the shoulder are unique to Hardin.

    • the helmet was his idea, though. I think it would be the perfect tribute. Compromise. ‘][‘ on one side, TEMPLE on the other. It would be the best helmet in college football.

      • I was suggesting three three stripes on the shoulders on the jersey.

  9. Yeah easyowlfan, I would hope Collins would embrace it too – just a thought cause you never know how egos will effect things.

  10. every coach wants to put their own imprint on things. Al Golden hit a home run by putting Temple on the helmets and with his explanation. The bald-headed bastard put the ][ back on and Rhule experimented too much for my taste with things like black helmets, diamonds and the like. When he went to the more traditional Cherry helmets with the white ][ he won seven straight games. Collins can make his own mark and hit a home run with the fans by putting TEMPLE back on one side and keeping the Cherry helmets and the lucky white ][ on the other. That’s a King Solomon split-the-baby solution without the bloody side effects.

  11. Yes Indeed, I was at the Vet in the early 70’s to see Penn State nearly loose to Temple, It was so exciting to see Hardin call punts on 3rd Down. Everyone knew Paterno wasn’t sure if he could trust that 3rd down call. In the End Penn State wins by a couple. Oh_well ,but that is a example of how a coach makes the un-even situation a bit more even. Go Owls.l
    One of my 5 top games I ever saw.
    Again, the recall off seeing Temple beat Penn State 2 years ago still gives me 5 seconds of a mindless sense of happy happy, and to me it is a type of tribute to the valiant attempt made by coach Hardin yars ago.

    • I was at that game where we kicked on third down. It was exciting. I remember that at least part of the time we quick kicked without being in a punt formation. Whenever we failed to make a first down on the first two downs we kicked. The defense held Penn State down, but not scoreless. I don’t remember exactly when Hardin turned the offense loose. I think it was in the fourth quarter. We made a charge at the end but fell short. After the game Hardin said he didn’t think we could equal Penn State’s special teams especially in punting situations but we could compete otherwise and he structured the game so we had a chance. Great coaching in a game we were huge underdogs.

      • The genius of watching that tape (I was an assistant at another school at the time) was that Hardin knew the exact cadence of the time it took Penn State to get off the field and Temple to get the punt off. Paterno could never figure out how to get the punt return team on the field until Casey Murphy kicked the corner coffin. When Temple finally decided to play offense in the fourth quarter, Paterno’s head was spinning like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist. He did not know what to do and Temple almost got enough big plays off to beat that year’s National Championship team. Hardin was a certified genius.

  12. Pooch punting on third down flips the field, but is not a game changer. Hardin’s quadruple option was most memorable and won a bunch of games. Nobody on the schedule could defend it.

    • it is when the other team is ranked no. 1 in the country and you are not ranked and you lose to that team, 10-9, and easily could have won by getting into position to kick the game-winning field goal. That was the only hand Hardin had to play and he played it well. The fact that it did not result in a win was immaterial. A coach’s job is to put his team in the best spot to win and that was the way Hardin judged it and I salute him for it. Had he played it straight up, he probably would have lost, 48-7..

  13. I played for Wayne Hardin at Temple from 1977 to 1981. He left an I
    impression on each and every player. He will truly be missed. He was a great asset to Temple. RIP Wayne-o

    BRIAN J. REGAN, LB #59

  14. 1975 vs Penn State at Franklin Field. 3rd down punts kept the Nitts off balance all game. Game turned on a kick return for TD. Owls lost by single point.

  15. Brian, are you the comedian by the same name?

  16. Coach Hardin had the distinction of recruiting my brother to Temple, (Brian Gassert, #68, ’86) and coaching my Father with the Bulldogs (Ron Gassert). A true giant of football and he’ll be greatly missed by our family.

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