Wayne Hardin, former Temple football coach, dies at 91

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Former Temple football coach Wayne Hardin passed away at 91 after suffering a stroke on April 11.

Wayne Hardin, 91, who went to Temple in 1970 when the Owls were upgrading their football program and became the winningest coach in program history, died Wednesday, one day after having suffered a stroke.

Mr. Hardin, an avid golfer who lived on the sixth hole of Manufacturers Golf and Country Club in Oreland, died just four days after taking part in Temple's alumni day celebration, where more than 120 former players attended.

Considered one of college football's brightest offensive minds, Mr. Hardin did not coach again after resigning from Temple following the final game of the 1982 season, going 80-52-2 in his 13 seasons as head coach. He also went 38-22-2 in six seasons at Navy, where he coached two Heisman Trophy winners - Joe Bellino in 1960 and Roger Staubach in 1963.

Mr. Hardin was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2013.

Although he was away from the game, Mr. Hardin followed the Temple program and developed a relationship with Matt Rhule, who coached the Owls for four seasons before accepting the head coaching position at Baylor in December.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Wayne Hardin," Rhule said in a statement. "Coach was a tremendous mentor and friend to me and was always there with a kind word or sage advice. I will miss him immensely, but I am a better man and coach for having him in my life."

Geoff Collins, who succeeded Rhule, called it "a very sad day for the Temple football family."

Steve Joachim, a Haverford High graduate who played for Mr. Hardin in 1973 and 1974 after transferring from Penn State, said the coach had a big impact on his life. He said that Hardin's former players, from both Navy and Temple, stayed in touch long after they played for him because he cared about them.

"He was always interested in what was happening with everybody," said Joachim, who won the 1974 Maxwell Award as the top player in college football. "With Coach Hardin, everybody on the team was important. It didn't matter if you were a star or a starter, he cared about everybody. That creates loyalty and a camaraderie among the players, and I think that held up over the years."

The relationship Mr. Hardin had with his players was evident at his 90th birthday party last year in South Florida, where he maintained a home. Staubach and Tom Lynch, a captain on the 1963 team and a retired Navy rear admiral, were among the attendees.

"We had a room full of Navy people and Temple people and it was a real high point for him," his son, Gary, said Wednesday.

Another attendee at the party was New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, whose father, Steve, was a member of Mr. Hardin's staff at Navy. Gary Hardin said his father and Bill Belichick kept in contact over the years.

Mr. Hardin was born in Smackover, Ark. His son said his father "loved the way he grew up, which was tough."

Mr. Hardin attended high school in Stockton, Calif., and attended the College of the Pacific, where he played quarterback and halfback for legendary coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. He began his coaching career in 1950 at Ceres (Calif.) High School.

"When I went into the business, I didn't do it to win games, go in the Hall of Fame, get publicity, or anything like that," Mr. Hardin said in a 2013 interview with the Daily News. "It was to do the same things for other kids that all those coaches did for me."

Mr. Hardin became an assistant coach at Navy in 1955 and took over as head coach there from 1959 through 1964. The Midshipmen finished fourth in the Associated Press poll in 1960 and second in 1963.

Mr. Hardin was hired at Temple in 1970 after the Owls left the Middle Atlantic Conference and decided to upgrade their schedule as an independent. Temple picked up its first big win in 1972, defeating West Virginia, an established Eastern power. Wins over Boston College and Syracuse followed.

Although the Owls went 0-8 against Penn State during Mr. Hardin's tenure, the two teams played some memorable games, including a 31-30 loss at Veterans Stadium in 1976 in which Hardin went for a two-point conversion late in the game that failed. Two years later at the same venue, Temple lost, 10-7, on a late field goal.

While at Temple, Mr. Hardin sent a number of players to the NFL including Joachim and defensive lineman Joe Klecko (New York Jets), tight end Randy Grossman (Pittsburgh Steelers), cornerback Kevin Ross (Kansas City Chiefs), offensive tackle Jim Cooper (Dallas Cowboys), and wide receiver Steve Watson (Denver Broncos).

In his time away from football, Mr. Hardin played plenty of golf. His son said he made 10 holes-in-one and shot his age on numerous occasions, the first time when he was 68.

Funeral arrangements were not complete. In addition to Gary, of Bethlehem, survivors include sons Greg of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Richard of Fort Myers, Fla., and a sister, Sheri, of Lansdale, along with five grandchildren.

jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq