College Football Hall of Famer and former Navy head coach Wayne Hardin has passed away at the age of 91. Hardin suffered a massive stroke on Tuesday and passed away this morning.
Hardin was the head coach at Navy from 1959-64 and compiled a record of 38-22-2, including a 5-1 mark against Army. Hardin also coached in the first Navy-Air Force game which was won by Navy, 35-3, in 1960.
“The Naval Academy is heartbroken over the loss of one of our icons,” said Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk. “He was not only a great coach, but a special person that had the respect of everyone who played for him and knew him as a great leader. Coach Hardin set the bar in how we measure excellence at the Naval Academy. He has remained close to the Naval Academy and many of his former players through the course of his retirement. We have shared some special moments with him over the years when we have invited back some of his greatest Navy teams. He will truly be missed, but Wayne Hardin will never ever be forgotten by the Navy family.”
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Coach Wayne Hardin’s family,” said Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo. “Many generations have been blessed by his powerful influence both on the field and off.”
Hardin coached some of the greatest teams in Navy history. In 1960, led by Heisman Trophy winner Joe Bellino, Navy went 9-2 and played Missouri in the Orange Bowl. The Mids finished No. 4 in the country in the Associated Press poll.
In 1963, led by Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach, the Mids compiled a 9-2 record and finished No. 2 in the country in the Associated Press poll. The Mids played No. 1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl for the National Championship.
“Coach Hardin was such a big part of all of our lives,” said Staubach. “He did a great job of staying in touch with not only all of his former Navy players, but his Temple players as well and we are all going to miss him. Coach Hardin was the first person to teach me how to read defenses. I was a quarterback that would pull the ball down and run at the first opportunity, but he taught me how to stay in the pocket and what to look for. He was one of the true innovators of the game of football.”
“Coach Hardin was a coaching genius and was a true innovator of his time,” said Adm. Tom Lynch, USN (ret.), who was captain of the 1963 team and later went on to become Superintendent of the Naval Academy. “Today is a very sad day and Coach Hardin’s death is a loss for Navy football. For me personally, it’s like losing a father.”
After leading Navy, Hardin coached the Philadelphia Bulldogs in the Continental Football League, leading the team to the championship in 1966.
He took over the head coaching duties at Temple in 1970 and served as the head coach for 13 years, compiling a record of 80-50-3 and becoming the all-time winningest coach in school history. He led the Owls to the 1979 Garden State Bowl where they beat California for their first bowl win in school history.
In 19 years as a college head coach, Hardin compiled a record of 118-74-5 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
“I spent many hours in Coach Hardin’s home when he coached at Navy and was extremely close with his family,” said New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, whose father Steve served as an assistant for Hardin. “I learned so much from watching Coach Hardin coach the Navy teams and I continued to follow his career at Temple and I admired his brilliant game plans that he developed for opponents with superior personnel.”
“Along with my dad, Coach Hardin was very influential in my development as a coach and I copied many of his coaching methods and philosophies,” continued Belichick. “Over the past 15 years, I spoke regularly with Coach Hardin and his observations, suggestions and critiques were most helpful to me personally and he constantly stimulated by preparation and decision-making. I cherished my opportunity to converse with a Hall of Fame coach. He was one of the pillars and true innovators in college football. Coach Hardin’s football knowledge stretched almost a century, from Amos Alonzo Stagg and the development of the forward pass to our current game and he was on top of all of it. I am so proud of his words to me after Super Bowl LI, the last football game he watched. He called it “the greatest game I ever saw.”
Hardin was born in Smackover, Arkansas and attended high school in Stockton, California. He played college football at Pacific for Hall of Fame coach Amos Alonzo Stagg and his successor, Larry Siemering.
Hardin was an assistant coach at Navy for Eddie Erdelatz from 1955-58 and then took over the head coaching duties in 1959 when Erdelatz resigned.
After his coaching career, Hardin spent time as a color commentator for both CBS Sports and the Baltimore Colts.