Going from the sidelines to the classroom

Service: Former football coach and athletic director Dick Fordyce is still dedicated after 40 years at Harford Community College.

March 23, 2003|By Frank Lynch | Frank Lynch,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Sitting in an office just a short pass from the school's gymnasium, former football coach Dick Fordyce reflected on his nearly 40 years of service at Harford Community College and how he got to this point.

"It all began with a leg injury after three games in my senior year in high school," said the Pittsburgh native.

"Like most football players in my area, I expected to play college football in western Pennsylvania. But most area schools lost interest."

He explained that a friend of his high school coach happened to be in Pittsburgh attending a coaches convention. "He was on the staff at Springfield [Mass.] College and took time to tell me about the school and its program. I was impressed and decided to accept his invitation."

After earning a degree in physical education, he remained at the school as a graduate assistant on the football squad. It turned out to be another good decision because it led him to an assistant coaching position at HCC.

"One of the other assistants at Springfield was a friend of HCC head coach Jack Call and knew he was looking for an assistant. That's how I ended up here."

Now the man who guided the Fighting Owls to national junior college football prominence is teaching a full load of health courses.

"I am really enjoying myself," he said. "This is a good place to work because we have an opportunity to be a great influence on transitional students."

Fordyce said he misses coaching, but that his current duties bring great satisfaction. He didn't rule out a return to the sideline if the right opportunity came along.

"It would have to be as an assistant because I really don't want the headaches that go along with a head coaching position."

After six years as Call's assistant, Fordyce assumed head coaching duties at HCC in 1972. Over the next 14 seasons, he built a program that was the envy of Eastern JuCo football. His teams recorded four unbeaten seasons and were ranked No. 1 for two consecutive years.

"We had some outstanding players who matured while playing here and then went on to finish their careers at four-year schools," he recalled. "The most prominent player was Randy McMillan, who came to us in 1977 from North Harford High."

The Owls never lost a game with McMillan in the lineup, and the bruising running back went on to star at the University of Pittsburgh and in the National Football League with the Baltimore Colts.

His career was cut short after he was struck by a car while crossing York Road.

The Owls played in three national championship games, losing to Ferrum (Va.), Jones County (Miss.) Junior College and Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College. "We would have liked to have won each of those games, but it wasn't to be," Fordyce said.

The toughest defeat for Fordyce and the Fighting Owls came not on the field but by a decision made by the school administration when it was decided to drop the football program. The official reason given for its demise was funding.

Fordyce was disappointed - not for himself but for the student athletes who lost an opportunity to participate in a highly successful program.

"I understood the economics of the decision," he said. "Many junior colleges were dropping the sport while other schools were becoming four-year institutions."

The next season, Fordyce and his entire staff changed locations. His assistant Steve Harward had taken over the football program at C. Milton Wright High School and brought along Fordyce, Jack Nichols and Mark Harmison.

The move was ideal since it gave Fordyce a chance to eventually coach his sons Brian and Brad. Both went on to play college ball - Brian at Shippensburg, while Brad chose his dad's alma mater. He is currently the linebacker coach at McDaniel College.

Fordyce left C. Milton Wright in 1994 and concentrated on his duties at HCC. He took over as athletic director when Jack Nichols retired. He took the position on an interim basis and then handed the reins to Allison Geczi in 1999.

Geczi, who has since married Brad Fordyce, became the first woman to hold the AD post at HCC and is one of only three in the 18-school conference.

A 1994 graduate of North Harford High, she was a member of the HCC national champion field hockey squad. She earned a degree in sports management in 1998 from Towson University.

Her first challenge as AD was running a program loaded with many veteran coaches.

She wondered how she would be accepted. "I was slightly intimidated," she said, "but I quickly found that the coaches had no problems with me on board."

She said her major concern is maintaining stability on the coaching staff. "Most coaches are off-campus part-timers, and the turnover is unsettling. We often have to drop programs for lack of a coach."

She was quick to credit the presence of her father-in-law. "He is so respected both on this campus and off it. Whenever I have asked his advice, he offers well-thought-out answers based on his years of experience."

Now the coaching legend and his daughter-in-law look forward to offering an efficient one-two punch to HCC for years to come.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.