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The Mid-American was formed in 1946 and suffered through a traumatic series of dropouts and fill-ins until 1955, when the present membership was stabilized. Of the charter members only Ohio University remains. The league was never particularly strong because, while proximity cut down expenses, it also kept the league provincial and unpublicized. Nevertheless it acquired two remarkable reputations: a deserved one for the excellent football coaches turned out by Miami, and an inflated one for upsetting Big Ten teams.
Earl Blaik, Sid Gillman, Woody Hayes, Paul Dietzel, Ara Parseghian, Stu Holcomb, Johnny Pont, George Blackburn—all played football for, or coached at, Miami. The oldest school in the league (founded in 1809), 155-year-old Miami also turned out The McGuffey Reader and the country's 23rd President, Benjamin Harrison. From 1948 to 1958 Miami's football teams were the best things to be said for the conference. They won the championship or finished second every year, but the school was always put down as "the other" Miami because Miami of Florida, without a reader or a President to call its own (and a babe of only 39), outstripped it in football. Miami's designation in record books is therefore always followed by the parenthetical (0.), a slight that one sports columnist lamented in a poem: " Miami's Nemesis—Parenthesis."
The Mid-American's large reputation for knocking off Big Ten teams is overblown. In 49 meetings, Big Ten teams have had 40 victories, MAC teams eight, and there was one tie. Each MAC victory, however, has been worth its weight in newsprint and invariably sent tremors up Big Ten spines. The predictable consequences for the Big Ten team: 1) hire the coach that perpetrated the upset, or 2) don't be so naive the next time you're casting around for a schedule filler. After successive victories over Indiana (6-0) in 1954 and Northwestern (25-14) in 1955, Ara Parseghian was hired away from Miami to coach at Northwestern in 1956. But Miami has also lost 16 times to Big Ten teams. Its last—and the league's last—victory in interleague play was in 1962, over Purdue 10-7. In 1963 Miami lost to Northwestern 37-6; this season it will play Northwestern again, and Ohio will play Purdue.
Bowling Green, Marshall and Kent State have been unsuccessful in attempts to bully and /or con their way onto a Big Ten schedule. Assistant Coach Dudley of Bowling Green once spent a summer writing 60 letters of inquiry—feelers—to teams in the Big Ten, Southwest, South-eastern and Big Eight conferences. He said he received five "favorable" replies but no commitments. When Wisconsin had an unexpected opening in 1963 as a result of Marquette's discontinuing foolball, Bowling Green Athletic Director Dr. W. Harold Anderson immediately petitioned for the date on the logical grounds that Bowling Green would make a worthy opponent and in hopes that sentimentality would take hold of Wisconsin Athletic Director Ivy Williamson, a Bowling Green grad. Williamson, however, filled the open date with Western Michigan. Safety-first Wisconsin won 41-0. Privately Williamson told a Bowling Green friend, "Be truthful about it. What would we gain by playing you?"
The day is not far off, however, when a defeat by a Mid-American team will embarrass no one. Certainly professional teams have felt no embarrassment over the more than 60 MAC players they have signed, most notably Bob Schnelker, Don Lisbon and Bernie Casey of Bowling Green, Vince Costello of Ohio University, Mel Triplett of Toledo, Bob Adkins and Frank Gatski of Marshall, Dick Mostardo of Kent State and Bill Triplett, Bob Jencks and Tom Nomina of Miami. And certainly every coach should have the right to be a good loser to such as Doyt L. Perry.
Born winner Doyt Perry came to Bowling Green as an undergraduate out of the tiny Licking County, Ohio farm town of Croton, which can barely stand much coming out of. The last census showed Croton holding on with a population of 397. In that unspectacular setting, little Perry showed his mother the spectacular inability to recognize—or accept—adversity. His mother recalls that when she was giving him a spanking for some chore he had forgotten in favor of playing ball, Perry would say "Mummy, is you spanking me or is you petting me?"
From Croton's Hartford High, three-letterman Perry advanced on Bowling Green, where he was a 5-foot-8, 140-pound quarterback remembered by teammate Beefie Bortel for sealing secret surefire plays into his helmet. Beefie now runs a glass and mirror company in Bowling Green and enjoys ratting on Perry. Doyt was also the shortstop on the Bowling Green baseball team and a regular guard in basketball. In each sport in each of his three varsity seasons, 1929 to 1931, Perry led winning teams. His mind was made up: "I wanted to coach."
For 11 years Perry coached winning high school teams in Lorain (Clearview High) and Columbus ( Upper Arlington). He coached everything he could lay his enthusiasm on—football, basketball, baseball, track. Most members of his first football team at Clearview had never seen a football game. But they became winners, and so did every team Perry ever coached except one—the 1947 football team at Upper Arlington. Actually, that was only half a team. Perry ran off the other half for breaking training rules. He is, to this day, a purist: no smoking, no drinking, no swearing, no late hours, no back talk.
Woody Hayes hired Perry as his assistant at Ohio State in 1951 and was abused for it almost immediately by an Upper Arlington mother. "I've made up my mind not to like you," she said. "You took away the best teacher my daughter ever had."
Perry was in charge of Hayes's defense in 1954, when Ohio State won 10 straight, including the Rose Bowl, and was voted national champion. He was a sort of easygoing, pipe-puffing, imperturbable buffer to Hayes's gruffness, and was his all-hours-of-the-night sounding board if Hayes became inspired with an idea or was lonely. There was something Hayes could not resist about Perry's sinister half sentences. "Doyt would sit there in a squad meeting," says Hayes, "puffing that pipe, and he'd say, 'Now, I think...,' and he'd puff. 'Naw, forget it.' I'd practically jump out of my chair. 'For crying out loud, Doyt. Say it!' "