Maryland lost more than ex-coach with the passing of Faber

January 18, 1994|By Bill Tanton

Whenever a legend dies, people are quick to say his passing marks the end of an era.

Seldom has an era ended as undeniably as it did with the death last Friday of Jack Faber. The obituaries only scratch the surface:

Dr. John E. Faber, retired coach and head of the University of Maryland's microbiology department. Dead of pneumonia at the age of 91.

They don't begin to tell you what he meant to the university for an incredible seven decades.

Faber came to College Park as a student in the '20s and stayed. He was at Cole Field House 10 days ago when Maryland lost to North Carolina in basketball.

At one time or another, Faber coached Maryland's football and basketball teams. He coached lacrosse for 35 years before retiring in 1963. His teams won nine national championships.

After that he served as faculty chairman of the university's athletic council. He was involved in the hirings and firings of coaches. He was president of the ACC.

A good perspective on Faber can be gleaned from an outsider, Bob Scott, who as coach and athletic director at Johns Hopkins competed against Jack and came to understand the role he played at College Park.

"For all those years," said Scott, whose daughter, Nancy, was an All-America lacrosse player at Maryland, "Jack was University of Maryland athletics.

"He represented the school across the board. He kept up a complete involvement in Maryland athletics. And for all that time he was the same humble guy. He was a very, very special man."

Ah, yes -- the man. Obituaries can only touch on that.

"Jack Faber was like a father to me," Richie Moran, a former Maryland player and Cornell's lacrosse coach for the past 26 years, said yesterday.

"My own father died in January of my junior year at Maryland. The next month we went right into lacrosse season. Dr. Faber and Al Heagy filled an unbelievable void in my life at that time.

"Throughout my career I continued to call on Jack and Al for advice. Dr. Faber -- I called him Doctor until a few years ago when he told me to call him Jack -- was a man everybody could contact and rely on when we came back to the university.

"That we had him here for 91 years was a gift from God. Everybody loved Jack and Al Heagy."

Heagy, a chemist for the university who died three years ago, and Jack Faber were inseparable. Faber used to say they were co-coaches in lacrosse, Heagy handling the defense, Faber the offense.

Faber's directness, his ability to cut through the nonsense and get to the point, is illustrated by a story often told by his players from the late '40s, back in the pre-recruiting days when lacrosse players just sort of showed up at a school.

Faber's players came to him excitedly one January day to tell him that a former high school star had just enrolled at Maryland.

"What school did he play for?" Faber asked.

"He's been in the service for the last four years," the coach was told, "but before that he was All-Maryland at Poly."

Answered Faber: "I'm not interested in has-beens or gonna be's. I want is's."

Jack's death marks the end of an era because the time is all but gone when a person will come to a school as a student and stick around for the rest of his life.

Maryland has had five lacrosse coaches since Faber retired 30 years ago. Andy Geiger, the athletic director, probably is just passing through College Park. So, too, is football coach Mark Duffner.

One reason Maryland people love Gary Williams is that he came back to his alma mater -- and looks as if he'll stay.

Years ago a Jim Kehoe, an Al Heagy or a Sully Krouse would, like Faber, come to Maryland and stay until retirement and even beyond. There were people like those at other schools, too.

Bob Scott has been at Hopkins for nearly 40 years. Lefty Reitz found a home at Loyola College and stayed until retirement. Today's Greyhounds play in Reitz Arena.

At Morgan State, Ed Hurt and Talmadge "Marse" Hill came and stayed. Now both have campus buildings named after them. Ed Athey played at Washington College in the '40s. He's still coaching the varsity baseball team.

You don't find that sort of thing much any more. Coaches come and go. It's a more transitory world, I guess.

Maryland will not soon have another Jack Faber and neither will anyone else.

To gain that kind of status, you have to fall in love with a place, and spend the rest of your life there. Jack Faber did both and Maryland is richer for it.

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