Chuck Landon: By George, Chaump sure could coach
Welcome to “Second Guess” Tuesday.
There’s only one view-point today.
The late George Chaump was born to coach football.
There’s no second-guessing that opinion. Anybody that ever met the easy-going, affable Chaump will attest to that. This man could flat-out coach football.
Offense? Defense? Special teams? It didn’t matter.
When Chaump was Marshall University’s head football coach for four years (1986-89), he usually concentrated on the offensive side of the ball. That was his specialty. But Chaump really didn’t have any limitations.
On one occasion I remember Chaump switching over and coaching the defense during practice one week because the upcoming opponent possessed a particularly potent offense.
What happened? What else?
Marshall’s defense completely shut the opponent down.
That’s how good of a coach Chaump was.
And although he spent only four years at Marshall, Chaump has a special place in Marshall’s football history.
Just ask Bobby Pruett.
“He’s the one who got it started,” said the iconic former Marshall head football coach. “George is the one who got Marshall into that first national championship game.”
With record-setting quarterback Tony Petersen at the controls, Chaump coached the 1987 Herd to a 10-5 record and a berth in the NCAA I-AA national championship game at the Mini-Dome in Pocatello, Idaho.
Marshall lost, 43-42, to Northeast Louisiana (now known as Louisiana-Monroe), but it was more a case of running out of time than it was getting beaten.
In Chaump’s free-wheeling, pass-happy offense, Petersen completed 28 of 54 passes for 474 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions. Star wide receiver Mike Barber had nine catches for 195 yards and a TD. And running back Ron Darby rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.
But the key to the appearance in the ’87 national championship game occurred earlier that October in Louisville, Kentucky. That’s when Marshall upset Louisville, 34-31, on a stunning, last-second touchdown pass from Petersen to Keith Baxter.
What made it even more memorable was iconic Howard Schnellenberger was Louisville’s coach. That’s why I went to his post-game press conference. And, yes, Schnellenberger was absolutely livid.
Chaump? He just smiled.
That contest was my favorite game during Chaump’s tenure at Marshall. It also was a turning point in the 1987 season.
Next, Chaump’s 1988 squad finished 11-2 and won Marshall’s first Southern Conference championship. After four years and a 33-16-1 record at Marshall, Chaump became head coach at the U.S. Naval Academy.
And after he got fired at Navy?
Why, Chaump kept coaching, of course. In fact, he returned to his roots. The Scranton, Pennsylvania, native, concluded his coaching career by leading the high school teams at Central Dauphin, Harrisburg High and Central Dauphin East in the Keystone State.
“George just loved to coach,” said Pruett. “That’s why he went back to coaching high school ball.”
In the meantime, first Jim Donnan and, then, Pruett coached Marshall to national championships. But it was Chaump who paved the way to post-season titles. That’s why he always will be a beloved part of Marshall’s football history and tradition.
George Chaump will be remembered as one of the very good guys, who also just happened to be an outstanding football coach.
Yes, by George, he could coach.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.