Minnegan, Towson coach, AD, dead at 99

Known as soccer pioneer, `Doc' taught and touched thousands over 50 years

August 13, 2002|By Lowell E. Sunderland and Bill Free | Lowell E. Sunderland and Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Donald I. "Doc" Minnegan, whose love of sports and five decades of teaching and coaching at Towson University touched many thousands, died Saturday at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. His death came after a brief illness associated with a stroke.

He would have turned 100 on Aug. 26.

Minnegan was a thoughtful and influential campus presence as Towson evolved from a two-year normal school, or teachers college, into Maryland's second-largest university. He began teaching part time in 1927 and retired in 1977 as a full professor and athletic director emeritus.

George "Bucky" Kimmett, who played basketball and soccer from 1948 to 1951, called Minnegan a "down-to-earth man and a wonderful man." The longtime Poly coach and teacher added: "I always felt like he wanted us all to go into teaching."

After Minnegan earned his doctorate in 1947 from George Washington University, he was called "Doc" by athletes, students, alumni and colleagues.

He was most widely known for his soccer teams.

"Doc Minnegan was a genius before his time in terms of equipment and ideas," said Dave Yingling, who played soccer and ran track in the early 1960s. "He had us wearing soccer shoes from East Germany when things weren't all that good between East and West Germany."

Yingling said Towson's soccer team ran passing drills and formations that were far more sophisticated than others used. "He had wings playing in the midfield and anything else you could think of," he said.

In January 1993, the National Soccer Coaches Association cited Minnegan's life's work in a sport he never played competitively for a third time by awarding him its highest honor, Hall of Fame membership. He also was in the Maryland Soccer Hall of Fame. In 1964, he was alternate manager of the U.S. national team for the Tokyo Olympics, another acknowledgment of his contributions to the sport.

Jim Gede, who won four letters each year (1949, '50, '51, '52) in soccer, basketball, indoor track and outdoor track, was Minnegan's attorney for 30 years. He recalled fondly their last conversation, in which the coach paid him a compliment for his standout performances.

He also recalled his coach's belief in fundamentals. "He felt if we were fundamentally sound, we couldn't lose," Gede said.

Minnegan pioneered Baltimore County's extensive, school-based recreation system that was emulated nationwide. He credited William Burdick, the man who hired him to be a playground worker, with laying the foundation. But as a volunteer and consultant, Minnegan built and refined the system.

He was named the county recreation board's first chairman in 1947. In 1965, Hubert I. Snyder, then the Baltimore County recreation system's longtime director, called Minnegan "one of the most brilliant thinkers I have ever met in the field of recreation and athletics."

Minnegan's reputation was such that twice in the late 1940s, the United States sent him abroad - to Europe, where he taught soccer to American troops, and to Korea, where he set up physical education programs. During World War II, he had helped direct youth athletic programs for Maryland.

His beliefs about the positive influences of athletics spread through numerous youth soccer clinics - long before summer camps became a standard for honing sports skills - as well as through instructing hundreds of prospective physical education teachers at Towson.

During Minnegan's 39 years of coaching soccer, his teams compiled a 231-132-34 record, winning four Maryland Intercollegiate Soccer League titles and one in the Mason-Dixon Conference, in 1964, the year before he left active coaching. Between 1930 and 1936, his teams won 66 of 77 games, although he considered his 1954-56 team, a stable group of players who lost once in 27 games and included three All-Americans, the best.

"My biggest disappointment isn't losing," said the coach. "It's just when they don't play well."

At various times, Minnegan coached basketball, baseball, track and swimming. In retirement, until being declared legally blind at 85, he was a golfer, often at the public Longview Golf Course in Cockeysville.

Others had roles, of course, but Minnegan undeniably fathered Towson's now full-fledged participation in intercollegiate sports. He started when women did not play competitive sports, few college men did, either, and his predominantly female school had fewer than 75 male students. Still, he eventually got Towson to compete with teams from better-financed, four-year colleges.

He founded Towson soccer in 1929, when he became a full-time faculty member, and basketball in the early 1930s. Baseball, gymnastics, track and wrestling followed. Men's lacrosse began in 1958, football in 1969.

Towson Hall of Fame president Bill Maczis said Minnegan was the athletic director when he was playing basketball in the early 1950s. "He was a father away from home for us," he said.

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