May 30, 2011
The Elyria Chronicle-Telegram granted permission to MURedHawks.com to feature this story by C-T reporter Shaun Bennett about Miami head coach Don Treadwell.
The list of coaches that have influenced Don Treadwell during his lifetime is lengthy and star-studded. He is able to rattle off names from that list at will, and many of them hail from Lorain County. All together, those coaches helped push Treadwell toward athletic greatness, then molded him into one of the top college football coaches in the nation.
The journey took its biggest step earlier this year, when Treadwell was offered -- and accepted -- the head coaching position at Miami of Ohio -- the school he starred at as a wide receiver. He joins Elyria's Les Miles as the only two Division I college football coaches to hail from Lorain County.
He also gains membership into one of the most prestigious coaching fraternities around ... Miami's Cradle of Coaches. Among the past greats who have guided the Miami football team are Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian, Sid Gillman, Weeb Ewbank and Bo Schembechler.
Even in the company of such giants of the game, Treadwell won't forget his roots.
"I'm certainly proud to be from Lorain County," Treadwell said. "Everywhere I've been, even if there wasn't someone that I thought I would recruit, I'd still make it my business to come through Lorain County and at least give advice and some direction to families that may have been like me 30 years ago when I was in high school and may not know how the recruiting game works.
"So, trust me, I'm as excited about Lorain County as it is about both of us that have moved on."
Treadwell was born and raised in Oberlin, and became the school's star quarterback during the late 1970s. But long before that, he said his life was changed by sports and the men who oversaw them.
"Growing up, athletics was kind of a way of life," said Treadwell, who will be at Windows on the River restaurant in Cleveland on June 8 as part of a summer meet-and-greet tour with Miami fans and alumni. "Nowadays you have to try to get kids to go outdoors with these Playstations and all that. If we were going to be entertained, you needed to get out and be a part of it."
Treadwell's first sport was baseball. He lived two blocks from Oberlin's hot stove diamonds and he and his friends would play pickup games from early in the morning until they had to go home for dinner.
"That's just kind of what you did growing up in Oberlin," he said.
Soon he was playing basketball and backyard football. Then came organized sports, and Treadwell jumped in without hesitation.
"One of the first coaches that affected me was a gentleman by the name of Marv Hougland," he said of the legendary Clearview head track and assistant football coach who died last year. "Marv was one of the youth baseball coaches and he happened to be the guy that picked up my age group. He had such fun with our group, he just kind of stayed with us for the next four years, moving up the levels with us.
"He had such an impact on my life. You fast forward and you see where you are now and that you've been doing this for 30 years as a living, and I can tell you that it was people like that -- little did I know then -- that were affecting me for the future ... for what I'd be doing one day."
It was a recurring theme in Treadwell's life. He was blessed with coming under the tutelage of one passionate coach after another, and he made sure to take something away from each one. Junior high brought Joe Harris, and high school brought Jim Donovan. Since Treadwell was also competing in basketball, baseball and track, there were many more that touched his life during his time in Oberlin.
"All those coaches had a tremendous impact on me during that time," Treadwell said. "Looking back now, man was I blessed to have so many positive role models in my life."
Growing up with Oberlin College in his backyard, Treadwell just assumed that going to college was the next step. He put up big numbers on the Oberlin High football field, and soon the colleges came knocking. Lee Tressel, the late father of Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, tried to get him to come to Baldwin-Wallace, but the list was narrowed to one when he stepped onto Miami's campus.
"It's so beautiful and it has what you're looking for when combining athletics and academics," Treadwell said. "It was here at Miami that I realized that (coaching) was something I wanted to do for a career. Tom Reed, the head coach at the time, helped me envision that possibility."
It was also Reed who gave Treadwell his first coaching opportunity. After four solid seasons with the Redskins, Treadwell was given a free-agent tryout with the Cleveland Browns.
"(Reed) said, `If you don't make it with the Browns, come back to Miami -- I'd love to have you back with us,'" Treadwell said.
During that offseason, Reed became the head coach at North Carolina State, and Treadwell, who did not find a job in the NFL, followed him to be a junior assistant for the Wolfpack.
"It's like being an apprentice," Treadwell said. "You learn the ropes while you're taking some graduate classes. You kind of get the feel ... is this something I want to do for a living?"
He did, and he never looked back. After his season with Reed, he became a part-time assistant at Dayton for a couple years before landing his first full-time assistant position under Jim Tressel at Youngstown State. Treadwell's time with the Penguins impressed the current Buckeyes coach.
"Don Treadwell, first of all, is one of the finest human beings I've ever met," Tressel said. "He gave us great service at Youngstown State for six years, and he was the offensive coordinator of our first national championship team. If I had a son who could play ball, I'd want him to play for Don Treadwell. I know what he believes in -- academics, athletics and community -- and he'll just do a fabulous job for Miami."
Oddly enough, the six seasons at YSU were the longest stint Treadwell has had during his lengthy coaching career. He then spent time as the running backs/wide receivers coach at Miami, became the wide receivers coach at Cincinnati under rookie head coach Mark Dantonio, who was also on Tressel's staff at YSU, and became Tyrone Willingham's running backs coach at Stanford.
"I had some highlighted stops," Treadwell said. "When I came back (to Miami) after I left Youngstown State, the late Randy Walker was the head coach. He was the first that made me understand about the cradle of coaches. He opened my eyes to that. He was also the first one to say, `Don, do you think one day you'd like to be the head coach of your alma mater?'
"I hadn't given it a whole lot of thought, but after he said that to me I said, `You know coach, that sounds like a pretty good thought there.'"
Treadwell coached at Boston College and did another stint at N.C. State before joining Dantonio again at Michigan State. It was his last stop as a position coach, and he became the offensive coordinator at Ball State two years later. He also served as the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati for a couple years before once again hooking up with Dantonio and becoming the Spartans' offensive coordinator in 2007.
"He's been my rock as a staff member," Dantonio said. "He's a very composed person, a very disciplined person. He's got a great heart for the Lord, and I think that carries him through difficult times."
Also helping him succeed has been the knowledge he's gained throughout that climb up the coaching ladder. Treadwell took time to name off just about every coach he's worked for, and was able to give many examples of how each bettered him as a coach and as a person.
"Jim Tressel was ahead of his time," Treadwell said. "He's so intelligent, he could be doing anything else and making millions of dollars. He influenced me, Coach Dantonio and all the gentlemen he worked with. He just had a way about him because he had been mentored by his father and coaching was in his blood."
Tressel had served as Treadwell's position coach at Miami for two seasons.
"We really hit it off here," Treadwell said. "I thought, `If that's what a player-coach relationship can be like in college then, hey, I'm all for that.' I didn't know any different. I didn't know until I got into the business that there are a whole lot of coaches out there with different personalities."
Willingham was the position coach Treadwell got paired with at N.C. State when he was interning with the Wolfpack.
"We just ended up having a tremendous relationship and he's been a mentor of mine since the mid-80s," Treadwell said. "I've never lost touch with him. He got his first head job at Stanford, coming from the (NFL's Minnesota) Vikings, and he brings me aboard right off the bat."
Treadwell also mentions his time with Tom O'Brien at Boston College, Bobby Williams at MSU and Brady Hoke at Ball State. But no coach has reached Treadwell like Dantonio.
"Coach Tread and I go way back," Dantonio said. "We've shared a lot of good times together and we've shared some heartaches together. He's like a brother to me. When you have close friends, regardless of where you're at, when you reunite with them it's like you haven't missed a beat ... and that's the way it is with Tread."
So it's not hard to imagine how tough it was for Treadwell when word reached him of Dantonio's midseason heart attack last year. The ailment sidelined Dantonio and Treadwell became the Spartans' interim head coach.
"It was a unique one, because you never imagine one of your best friends to become ill and you get thrust into the limelight because of it," Treadwell said. "Your first concern was for your friend and his family."
Michigan State was unbeaten and coming off an impressive last-second victory over Notre Dame. Treadwell kept the Spartans afloat, and even led them to an impressive win over No. 11 Wisconsin.
"He just did a tremendous job," Dantonio said. "Probably one of my proudest moments as a football coach was when I sat in that hospital and watched the Wisconsin game and him direct our football team. He did an amazing job."
The short run proved to be an impressive addition to Treadwell's resume, and not many were surprised when Miami came calling during the offseason.
"Timing is everything," Treadwell said. "One of the things they wanted to look at was were there any Miami alum around that wanted the job? I was coming off that season and wondering if this would be a good time for me to look around and see what was out there. Certain things fall into place at certain times for a reason."
So the RedHawks offered, Treadwell accepted and the new head coach has spent the last five months crafting his first program.
"You are influenced to a degree by each stop you're at," he said. "You hope that you're influenced in a positive way, and that's where I've been blessed. I've been with so many great head coaches. Those names that I listed are names that everyone knows.
"Win or lose, it's going to be a very good year."
The Future is NOW for Miami Football! Get your season tickets TODAY as New Miami Football Head Coach and alumnus Don Treadwell prepares the RedHawks to defend their MAC Conference title. This season's schedule includes six home games, including rival Cincinnati (Oct. 1) and West Point's Army (Oct. 8). Other games slated for Yager in 2011 include Bowling Green (Sept. 24, Family Day), Buffalo (Oct. 29, Homecoming), Akron (Nov. 3) and Western Michigan (Nov. 16).
Season tickets start at just $70. To order call (513) 529 - HAWK, visit the Athletic Ticket Office at Millett Hall or online at www.MURedHawks.com.