Poly coach was teacher on and off playing field

November 03, 2001|By Gregory Kane

BUCKY Kimmett stood on the podium outside Polytechnic Institute's gymnasium late Thursday, recalling how Augie Waibel, the school's late football coach, once answered a reporter who questioned him about the number of times a running back had carried the ball in a game.

"Augie," the reporter said, "you gave him the ball 45 times."

"It wasn't heavy," Waibel retorted.

A burst of laughter followed. The 50 or so seated in front of Kimmett -- gathered to honor Waibel as Poly's athletic center was named after him -- appreciated the tale. It was vintage Waibel, talking about classic Waibel football.

Run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, with fast, sturdy backs scooting or powering their way behind massive offensive linemen. Then, with opponents near collapse from the pounding, run the ball some more. Every now and again, there would be some passing plays that inevitably worked.

Aficionados of Waibel football attended the dedication. There was Bob Lumsden, now retired, but at one time Poly's football coach and athletic director. He was Waibel's boss when Waibel left Edmondson High School in 1967 to coach football and lacrosse at Poly.

Obie Barnes, head football coach at Forest Park High School, was among the attendees. Barnes played for Waibel at Edmondson in the 1960s. Bill Waibel, Augie's son and a 1981 Poly grad, was on hand, as well as Chris Wright of Poly's Class of 1991, who was a defensive back on the 1989 and 1990 football squads.

Joe Wilson, principal of Poly's arch rival, City College, came to pay his respects and honor Waibel. Bill Lewis was there. He graduated from City in 1942, was athletic director at Edmondson when Waibel was a football and lacrosse coach there and athletic director at Poly from 1980 through 1984, which coincided with Waibel's tenure.

And then there was Kimmett, yet another City grad who coached and taught at Poly. He was an assistant to Waibel, first at Edmondson, then at Poly.

Waibel died of a heart attack in January. His passing left a void in the lives of his sons, Bill and Mike, and wife Betty that may never be filled.

Waibel's death left the rest of us who appreciate his legacy with a sense that an era had passed.

"We had rivalries with schools like Loyola, Calvert Hall and Gilman," Kimmett said of the days he and Waibel coached at Poly. "We played City on Thanksgiving Day." Kimmett expressed the wish that those rivalries and that Turkey Day City-Poly game (they call it the Poly-City game at Cold Spring Lane and Falls Road) might return.

"I know that's what Augie would want," Kimmett said. "We challenge our students academically. We need to challenge them athletically."

Kimmett was referring to the days of old -- they seem like ages ago -- when City and Poly played their football in the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference. The MSA was an unusual league of private and public schools, one of the few of its type in the nation. The better schools played in the A Conference, the weaker in the B or even a C conference.

In the 1960s, City, Poly, Calvert Hall and Loyola were perennial A Conference powers. In the 1980s, Poly and Gilman had annual duels to determine the conference champion.

That all changed in the early 1990s, when city public schools voted to dump the MSA and join the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association. City schools joining the MPSSAA had several drawbacks, chief among them the elimination of old rivalries and the failure to generate new ones.

City and Poly now play in a public school league that requires them to beat a few tough city schools while feasting on the weak ones. By the time the state playoffs roll around, few city teams are battle-tested.

In his MSA days, Waibel saw to it that his teams routinely played the best. The Engineers had an annual game with Salesianum, a Delaware team.

In 1988, Waibel's team held its own before losing to a Brockton, Mass., squad ranked No. 1 in the country.

Waibel was committed to Poly's philosophy of challenging students academically and athletically. His son Bill stressed that his dad was overlooked as what he primarily was: "an excellent teacher."

When Bill and Mike Waibel finally unveiled the plaque that hangs in what is now the Augie Waibel Athletic Center, the inscription served as a reminder of that. The words are worth quoting, in these days of almost enforced mediocrity for Baltimore public schools.

"In memory of August R. `Augie' Waibel, Poly's Hall of Fame Coach, Football and Lacrosse: 1967-1997.

"We honor and remember: an inspired teacher who insisted that students achieve excellence in the classroom as well as on the playing field; a devoted and dedicated father-figure who served as mentor for thousands of Poly students.

"An honest and straightforward man who lived by the rules of sportsmanship he taught; a gentle man who taught students to put Poly first, self second."

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