Posted: Wednesday July 5, 2006 4:26PM; Updated: Wednesday July 19, 2006 3:58PM
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As you may recall, last week's Mailbag offered rankings of the 10 best and five worst coaches in the game today. Immediately, your e-mails came pouring in, several of which I planned to address to start out this week's edition.
Last Thursday, however, tragedy struck the college coaching profession, when Northwestern's Randy Walker died of a heart attack at age 52. With his memorial service scheduled for Thursday in Evanston, Ill., it seems inappropriate at this time to continue that discussion. Instead, I'm turning over the first half of this week's Mailbag to some of the e-mails I've received about Walker over the past week from people whose lives he touched.
As a Northwestern student from 1998-2002, Coach Walker was an inspiration to me both for his successes on the football field and for his unwillingness to compromise the high intellectual and moral standards that Northwestern represents in order to win. He will be missed. --Travis Cobb, Northfield, Ohio
As a fellow alum, it's hard to hear this news today; we were just having a big debate the other day on whether Walker would surprise everyone with a sleeper team this year during a rebuilding season. That conversation seems kind of silly right now. I am going to miss him leading the team out on the field this year. I'd like to say "life goes on," but this time it doesn't, really, because it's our school and he was, as you alluded to, in the prime of it all. -- Matthew Carinato, Chicago
As a Penn State fan who is 28, I always had to remind people that this was not the same Northwestern team that Penn State fans remember. They always played hard for Walker and always had class. The Big Ten will miss him, but his innovative offense will be remembered for years to come. -- John, Pittsburgh
As a Michigan alum and fan, I had a lot of respect for Randy Walker and what he did at Northwestern. When I was in school in the '70s, Northwestern couldn't dominate its band. In recent years the Northwestern game has been a white-knuckler. As one who likes a more balanced league where every game is a toughie, I hope they are able to find someone good for that job. As someone who is months away from turning 50, it gives me a bad feeling. -- Mark, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Not only is Northwestern in mourning, but so is all of the Miami University family. Coach Walker was one of us -- an alum who came home to the "Cradle of Coaches" to begin his career. He gave his town and this school so much, there really aren't words to express it. Usually, mid-majors moan when their coaches leave for bigger programs. In Coach Walker's case, we were thrilled that he had the opportunity to ascend to a bigger stage. He always had time to chat with the bag boys at Kroger, always had a helping hand for Miami alums in the city. This man gave my brother a chance to play college football at MU when every other school passed. Here in Oxford, so quiet in the summertime, we are too sad to find the words. -- Margaret, Oxford, Ohio
I am a Miami University alum and Coach Walker was coaching while I was there. We were looking forward to the Wildcats' visit to Oxford this fall [for the Aug. 31 season opener], and now it will be even more special. -- Adam, Indianapolis
He will definitely be missed. It's been hard to concentrate on other, less weighty football topics this week, but I'll do my best....