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West turf field to be named for two Queen’s coaching legends

August 26, 2014
COLUMN Claude Scilley

COLUMN
Claude Scilley

It took a long time for the tall foreheads at Queen’s University to get around to putting a name to the facility, but in the end they wound up exactly where they should be.

Many months after the board of trustees approved it, the university announced Monday the upper turf athletic field at west campus will be named Miklas-McCarney Field. Two more fitting men to celebrate the university would have been hard-pressed to identify, and there’s no more appropriate place to do so than one where, among other things, the football team practises.

That’s because when it came to football, Bill Miklas and Hal McCarney were all about the preparation.

Renowned for his painstaking attention to detail, Miklas coached—no, in his case taught is perhaps the more apt verb—offensive linemen for 30 years. Young men who, in some cases, by virtue of their size or athletic background, wouldn’t have been allowed on the field to audition with other teams, became national champions under Miklas’s guidance. Defeating bigger, stronger, faster opponents was not an obstacle, but a challenge for a man who imparted the technical expertise to enable his athletes to do just that.

Generations of linemen at Queen’s attribute any success they had to Miklas, an unassuming man who would never take any credit for it.

McCarney—Moose to anyone who knew him—coached with the legendary Frank Tindall and even after he retired in 1973 he remained connected with the team, dropping by the stadium to exchange ideas with successive coaches who never failed to learn something from those chats—or be entertained by them. He was also the team’s rainmaker, working hard to foster alumni connectivity to the team, whether it be by marshaling their financial support after graduation, or by catering an annual pasta fest while they were still members of the team.

McCarney’s was the invisible hand that helped to keep the program viable—and successful—at a time when egalitarian thinking reduced football’s share of the athletics budget at Queen’s amid the rising cost of sustaining a competitive program.

Both men personify traits the university often touts but to which it often pays only lip service—loyalty and excellence. When it came to his alma mater, McCarney epitomized the first; Miklas demanded the second not only on the football field, but in the classrooms of the School of Business, where he rose to be associate dean.

McCarney won the Jenkins Trophy as the university’s outstanding graduating athlete in 1951. Miklas won the Gino Fracas Trophy as the nation’s top volunteer assistant coach in 1994.

Miklas died in 2001 at the age of 60; McCarney in 2009 at the age of 81.

In a news release, former proteges of the two men wrote of the impact they had.

“When you’re young, real confidence is in short supply and hard to acquire. It is also badly needed, as you move from organized education to messy life,” wrote Charlie Galunic, a lineman who played at Queen’s from 1984-87. Galunic won the first Russ Jackson Award for academics, athletic achievement and citizenship and was later a Rhodes Scholar.

“Bill Miklas understood this. He knew that of all the things that he would teach us on the (field)—including how to slyly hold a defender without drawing the notice of the referee—the goal was not a particular football skill but a life skill, a sense of self that would translate into precious confidence.”

Peter Thompson, who played for the Gaels 1959-64, wrote that naming an athletics field at Queen’s in honour of McCarney is “most appropriate.”

“Competition was his life blood and teaching young men the attributes for succeeding in such endeavours was his forte. Hal’s unparalleled exuberance and passion for Queen’s was infectious. He taught and inspired those he coached to recognize that confidence is the key to success and that feeling confident is the product of perseverance, prior investigation of your adversary, innovative planning and thorough preparation.”

Miklas-McCarney Field will be dedicated this fall, at a ceremony yet to be scheduled but one that will no doubt will be part of Homecoming weekend, Oct. 17-19.

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