At Loyola, Brune set teaching standard

High Schools

November 22, 2001|By Mike Preston

LOYOLA HIGH football coach Joe Brune was never seen recruiting players at recreation games. He didn't attend their practices. His conscience didn't allow him to emphasize winning at any cost, because he always believed that sports was secondary to education.

Brune, 67, is from the old school. Too old for some. After 35 years at Loyola, he will retire after the Dons meet Calvert Hall at 10 a.m. today at PSINet Stadium. He is being "urged" to leave because Loyola wants to keep up with the Joneses, which in this case, is the Calvert Halls, Gilmans and McDonoghs. Those schools have either state-of-the-art field houses or stadiums or both.

Loyola is building a new field house, and school officials also want a new football coach who will attract quality student-athletes. Recruit. Brune doesn't want to do that. Never has, never will.

He has way too much integrity. That's not to say Brune hasn't taken a recommendation on a player now and then, but he doesn't want to get involved in the serious recruiting business.

"It's the right time to give someone else the opportunity," said Brune, one of the area's most successful coaches and a 1952 graduate of Loyola. "It's time for somebody else."

I won't argue with Loyola's decision to go in another direction or complain about recruiting by private or public schools (yeah, they do it, too). The private institutions have the highest academic standards, and there is nothing wrong with athletics being used as a recruiting device, as long as it meets the criteria of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association, the governing body.

But that's also why I admire Brune. The man set his standards in 1959, when he began coaching at City. It was teach first, coach second. Brune is a guidance counselor at Loyola, where he also has taught literature.

"The football program is only a part of the educational process; it just adds to the education," said Brune, a Govans native. "My philosophy has always been if you can't tend to your academic responsibilities first of all, then you don't get the privilege of playing. All we expect from you is that you work as hard as you can and accept the responsibilities of playing hard. I became involved in teaching and coaching because of the interaction with people. There is nothing routine about it.

"What has continued to hold my attention through the years was working with young people and watching them develop," he said. "But athletics seem more important now than when I first started coaching. Parents are looking at sports as a way to get their sons into the next level through an athletic scholarship. I'm not saying that's the wrong perspective, but not for me, and I've tried to influence others."

We're in the era of specialization now. Football coaches want their players in the weight room year-round. Basketball coaches want their kids at camps. Lacrosse has become a year-round sport.

And little do parents realize that only a small percentage of high school athletes receive scholarships.

With Brune, football was an education. He believed in being tough and in top physical condition. The multiple T-formations and 50 defenses were his staples. A former player tells the story of how he fumbled at a road game, and when he got off the bus at Loyola, he had to jog around campus with a dummy bag taped to his back.

He never fumbled again.

"If we ran the belly 6 play in practice and the running back missed the hole, we had to run the play 10 straight times," said Tony Diehl, a linebacker-quarterback under Brune in the 1970s who is president of Absolute Relocation Services in Halethorpe.

"We did a lot of running," he said. "He had to be the most fundamentally sound coach I've seen. He demanded respect, and he got it. He isn't going to be bending over backwards to get players."

Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger played lacrosse for Brune in 1962 at City College, Brune's first year of coaching the sport. Ruppersberger remembers Brune's teaching football drills and how to win games by controlling the ground balls. If a player got in trouble in school, he ran what seemed like forever.

Ruppersberger credits the work ethic he learned under Brune and City football coach George Young for saving his life when he worked in the Baltimore County state's attorney's office. Ruppersberger was then 29.

"It was a real bad car accident," he said. "I had 20 fractures, needed 47 pints of blood and the doctors didn't expect me to live. I was on a respirator in a drug-induced coma for about two weeks. I had the out- of-body experience, the whole bit. I came through it, and at Shock Trauma, if you make it through it, you interview with a psychiatrist because they want to know what helped you through this.

"One, I was an athlete, in pretty good shape," said Ruppersberger. "But we also learned that the lessons I learned from Brune and Young played a major part in my recovering. It was an honor and a privilege to play for those two guys."

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