Legendary Wittenberg coach dies

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Dave Maurer won two Division III football national championships and coached two runner-up teams.
Wittenberg athletics file photo 

Known to so many Wittenberg alumni simply as “Coach,” legendary coach, administrator and professor Dave Maurer passed away Saturday, July 30, at the age of 79.

Maurer was one of the most beloved Wittenberg leaders and mentors in the illustrious history of the university’s varsity athletics program. That is especially true among the student-athletes he guided on and off the field during his 40 years (1955-95) as an administrator in the Department of Athletics, as a professor of Health, Fitness and Sport, and, most notably, as a coach for the Tiger football, swimming, track and field, and golf teams.

“The entire Wittenberg family is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of legendary coach Davey Maurer,” said Wittenberg president Mark H. Erickson. “A Hall of Fame coach, Davey inspired generations of Wittenberg athletes to be ‘the best,’ but he did much more than that. He was also a caring teacher and mentor who prepared his students for success in life.

“As I have traveled the country talking to our alumni, many of them credit their success to the lessons they learned from Coach Maurer. Indeed, few individuals in the history of the university have had a greater impact in shaping the lives of our graduates than Davey. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

The respect Maurer earned during his long and illustrious career carries on today in the work of his successors, including current Tiger coach Joe Fincham, who surpassed Maurer’s Wittenberg win total during the 2010 season.

“When I arrived at Wittenberg 20 years ago, Dave represented all that is great about this university and its athletics traditions,” Fincham said. “He was a great mentor and friend, and he taught me so many important lessons.

“That’s the same kind of impact he had on so many Wittenberg University students, and not just those who played for him. Their respect for him continues to this day.”

While he enjoyed great success across the small college sports spectrum, it was his work on the football sidelines that earned Maurer his greatest accolades. He led the Tigers to two Division III football national championships as the head coach, including the first-ever NCAA Division III championship in 1973, and he served as an assistant coach for two other national title teams.

In addition, Maurer guided the 1978 and 1979 squads to second-place finishes in the NCAA Division III Tournament. Maurer earned national coach of the year honors twice, district coach of the year four times and conference coach of the year five times. His career culminated with induction into the National College Football Hall of Fame in 1991, the first “true” NCAA Division III coach to garner such recognition.

After more than a decade as an assistant football coach, Maurer took the reins in 1969 from fellow National College Football Hall of Famer, Bill Edwards. Maurer posted a career record of 129-23-3, good for an astounding .842 winning percentage, best among active coaches at that time. His Tiger teams went undefeated three times and won seven Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) championships in his 15 seasons as head coach, to go along with seven OAC crowns during his years as an assistant coach.

“Dave Maurer is one of the people who made Wittenberg University athletics into what it is today,” said athletic director Garnett Purnell. “His dedication, vision and ability to lead and motivate play an important role in shaping the way we teach our student-athletes years after he coached his last game. He will be missed, and on behalf of all of our coaches and student-athletes, my thoughts and prayers are with the Maurer family.”

Maurer’s knack for getting the most out of the players he coached and the students he taught at Wittenberg was rivaled only by his ability to connect with them personally as a mentor. His players consistently describe him as a brilliant tactician and a mentor who inspired them to work hard, persevere, prepare and believe in themselves.

“Dave Maurer was as good as a man gets; as a teacher, a coach, a leader, a father and a friend,” said All-American lineman Steve Drongowski, class of 1973. “Davey made Wittenberg and Springfield better places and all of us better people.”

In his honor, the Dave Maurer Honorary Scholarship was created in 2008 to be awarded annually to sophomore, junior or senior male Wittenberg students with financial need who have demonstrated such qualities as self-discipline, teamwork, cooperation, hard work, self-confidence, pride in accomplishment, competitive spirit, and the ability to deal with adversity. It is a tuition scholarship that may be renewable on an annual basis or may be rotated, per the committee’s discretion.

A public memorial service will take place at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3, in Wittenberg’s Weaver Chapel. Visitation will take place at Littleton & Rue Funeral Home at 830 North Limestone St. from 5-8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2.