The Times West Virginian

Mickey Furfari

June 17, 2014

FURFARI COLUMN: Noll was the most successful football coach I ever knew

MORGANTOWN — Charles Henry “Chuck” Noll was without question the most successful football coach at any level that I’ve ever known in my writing career.

Noll, who died in his sleep at 82 last Friday night, served 23 enjoyable – and most memorable – years as mentor of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The owner of the franchise, the late Arthur Rooney Sr., couldn’t have come up with a better, classy hire.

Noll guided the Steelers to 209 victories and an all-time record of four Super Bowl titles.

I got to know – and respect – Noll from his arrival in 1969 through 1993 when he retired from coaching. I happened to be associated with The Dominion News in Morgantown nearly all of that time.

It was delightful to watch and report on his great teams, then after the games, attend Noll’s well-spoken post-game press conferences.

I’m sure Steeler fans throughout the tri-state area enjoyed those, too, on radio and TV. There are so many interesting things to write about Chuck Noll that I hardly know where to start.

In the 1970s, he brought a team to Morgantown and defeated Cincinnati in a pre-season NFL game at Mountaineer Field. Some readers likely remember that sunny afternoon.

He also has flown his own plane, as a licensed pilot, into Morgantown on Pro Day workouts at WVU.

My younger brother, Bill Furfari, who died several months ago, also piloted his own plane, and he got to know and admire Noll as a flier in Pittsburgh’s airports on occasion.

The Cleveland, Ohio, native also was a licensed sailor. He and his wife had a home in Florida as well as in Swickley, Pa., where he died of natural causes.

Another memorable link to Morgantown as well as to the Steelers, was the late broadcaster Jack Fleming’s call of Franco Harris’ “immaculate reception” on a pass catch. It gave the Steelers a win against a Florida team in a playoff game.

Fleming, a widely known local-native, was “Voice of the Mountaineers” for many, many years and a WVU alumnus. He also broadcast Steeler games for 37 years.

Gerry Dulac, long-time sports writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, recalled in an excellent article that success was never a destination for Chuck Noll.

“It was not a road that had an ending, rather always a new beginning,” he wrote. “It was a journey, a path that never allowed for complacency or made room for satisfaction.”

Noll taught his players that, whether it was life or football, getting to the top was not nearly as important as staying there.

He’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and quarterback Terry Bradshaw along with several other players are in there with the guy they dearly loved and admired.

Gerry Dulac noted, Noll always traveled with the same dose of humility and purpose, never seeking attention.

What’s more, he always tried to prepare his players for a career after football. That was a vital role in Noll’s teaching.

He always referred to that as “their life’s work.”

I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to cover the Steelers during Chuck Noll’s 23 glorious years of unmatched success in Pittsburgh.

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Mickey Furfari
  • FURFARI COLUMN: Five major sports topics of interest to area fans

    Tom Hart, a widely known retired Morgantown High School administrator and coach, continues to excel as one of the nation’s top bowlers.
    However, he told me he faces knee-replacement surgery. So he’s going to find it necessary to give up bowling during a period of rehab. Hart has competed in an amazing total of 45 U.S. Bowling Congress tournaments during his outstanding career.

    July 25, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Ex-Mountaineer track star dies; WVU athlete arrests may be concern

    I’ve learned belatedly that James Gordon “Jim” Dial, an outstanding men’s track and field sprinter at West Virginia University during the late 1940s, has died.
    He was a native of Huntington who earned All-State first team status. The Huntington High star led all scorers in the state Track Championship meets in both 1946 and ’47.

    July 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Jedd Gyorko running and taking batting practice now

    A report on the internet at this week’s start indicated that Morgantown’s Jedd Gyorko might be ready finally to rejoin the San Diego Padre’s starting lineup.
    He has been on the Major League’s disabled list since June 3. Problems with his feet was given as the reason Gyorko was unable to keep playing.

    July 16, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: WVU hopes to boost season-ticket sales

    West Virginia University’s season-ticket sales for football are the lowest in nine years just two months before this season’s first home game.
    That will be on Saturday, Sept. 6, against Towson State. The Big 12 portion of the schedule follows.

    July 10, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: San Diego Padres’ Gyorko remains on disabled list

    Stringing together some odds and ends that may interest you:
    • Jedd Gyorko still is not active with the San Diego Padres. The former West Virginia University standout has been on the baseball’s disabled list for just over a month and hopes to return soon.

    July 9, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: It had to feel like ‘Ol’ Home Week’ for the Tricketts

    It might have felt like a bit of “Ol’ Home Week’ to West Virginia University starting quarterback Clint Trickett.
    His parents, Rick and Tara Trickett, were in the Morgantown area and stopped by to spend some time with Clint. They still live in Tallahassee, Florida.

    July 3, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: WVU football season-ticket sales approximately 26,000

    Stringing together some odds and ends about sports that may be of interest to you:
    • West Virginia University season-ticket sales for the 2014 football campaign have reached approximately 26,000. That’s some 2,000 since the count of 24,000 when the renewal deadline was reached.

    June 27, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: USA Today has WVU 78th in football countdown from No. 128 to No. 1

    Like Las Vegas oddsmakers, USA Today’s sports writer Paul Myerberg doesn’t rank West Virginia highly in that newspaper’s early college football predictions in a copyrighted piece.
    In one of its thorough pieces, USA Today analyzed West Virginia in its No. 78 ranking among 128 college teams. That’s what is called a countdown from No. 128 to No. 1.

    June 24, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Las Vegas oddsmakers not kind to WVU in early listings

    Not long ago, I guessed that the West Virginia University football team will go 6-6 during the 2014 football season.
    That was based strictly on a hunch. It would show at least some improvement over last year’s pitiful 4-8 finish.

    June 22, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Five different items about a variety of sports

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • In a continuing federal court case out West, an economist recently testified that student athletes could receive as much as $1 million were he or she given a half share of a major college’s revenue from network game broadcasts over a four year period.

    June 18, 2014

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