Choosing and recognizing just nine coaches who have impacted Greater Cincinnati football over the years is a challenging task. The area is rich with great high school football traditions and it compares to anywhere in the country when it comes to the larger-than-life characters who have led some of the country’s best programs.
Here are nine legends to spotlight:
Bron Bacevich, Roger Bacon: This legend finished his career with a mark of 312-70-3, but he gets on this list thanks to a 150-39-8 record as head man of the Roger Bacon Spartans from 1954-73. Ohio didn’t start their playoff tournament until 1972, so Bacevich didn’t get much of an opportunity to go for a state title as many others have. However, he was still recognized as National Coach of the Year in 1973, his last year at Roger Bacon. The Spartans won seven Greater Catholic League titles in his 19 years, and finished unbeaten four times. Bacevich also coached at the University of Illinois and ended his career having coached at six high schools and three colleges. He was induced into the football halls of fame in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Bacevich died in 1993 and Bron Bacevich Memorial Stadium at Roger Bacon High School was dedicated in 1996.
Kerry Coombs, Loveland and Colerain: The former UC and current Ohio State assistant coach built a dynasty at Colerain in his 16 seasons there, making the playoffs 10 times, going unbeaten in the regular season seven times, winning seven straight GMC titles and captured the Ohio Division 1 title in 2003. Four other times, his Cardinals made the ultra-competitive Ohio Division 1’s state semifinal round. Coombs went 167-48 as a head coach, including a 161-34 mark at Colerain. Coombs is currently the cornerback coach for Ohio State University, but he can be found frequenting Cincinnati area games, especially in his West Side stomping grounds.
Gerry Faust, Moeller: Faust started the Crusaders’ program from scratch in 1962, and 19 years later he left Moeller for Notre Dame. While at Moeller Faust went 178-23-2, won 12 Greater Catholic League (GCL) titles, five Ohio Division 1 championships, and four national championships. The Crusaders went unbeaten seven times in Faust’s tenure, and they won 38 consecutive GCL games from 1973-80. In his last six seasons at Moeller the Crusaders went 70-1. Faust went on to coach at Notre Dame in 1980 where he went 30-26-1 before he was succeeded by Lou Holtz in 1986. He then went to the University of Akron where he remains the third winningest football coach in school history. Faust still regularly attends Moeller games and matches, for football and otherwise.
Bob Lewis, Wyoming and Conner: Lewis is another coach that probably could have more state titles if he coached when Ohio had a postseason tournament. In any case, he won titles in both Ohio and Kentucky, one of two coaches to accomplish this feat. He went 198-27-7 at Wyoming, including a state title and an astonishing 11 unbeaten seasons. His 1962 Cowboys squad didn’t allow a point to be scored on them all season. After leaving Wyoming in 1978, Lewis went to Conner where he won a Kentucky AAA title with the Cougars. Lewis ended his career with a 270-55-8 overall record. Lewis passed away in 2009 at the age of 83, and the Cowboys’ home field was renamed Bob Lewis stadium.
Terry Malone, Hamilton Catholic/Hamilton Badin: Malone went 360-117-8 in 45 years (Catholic merged with Notre Dame HS to form Badin HS in 1966). His squads ended the regular season unbeaten seven times, and 14 other teams only lost once. His teams went to the playoffs 16 times, and he led Badin to the Ohio Division III crown in 1990, after finishing runner up in 1978 and 1980. At the time he retired in 2003, he was Ohio’s all-time winningest coach. He also owns the distinction of owning wins over fellow legends Bron Bacevich and Pat Mancuso. Malone spent time as Badin’s athletic director and a history teacher, even after his retirement from coaching. The cherished coach is also a Xavier University alumnus and played linebacker and fullback for the Musketeers.
Pat Mancuso, Princeton: In 37 years, Mancuso went 305-76-1 with three Ohio state titles and 29 Greater Miami Conference titles (including 21 in a row) and, remarkably, no losing seasons. In 1978, Mancuso and the Vikings handed Moeller and Gerry Faust their only loss in Faust’s last six years at the school, which propelled the Vikings to the Ohio Class AAA title. Back in those days, only one team from Ohio’s four regions throughout Ohio made it to the playoffs. Mancuso was also the first recipient of the Bron Bacevich Award, which is given annually to a local coach at Roger Bacon’s High School Sports Stag.
Dale Mueller, Withrow and Highlands: During his reign at Highlands he posted a 250-36 record and won 11 of the school’s 23 state titles, which is tied for the most state titles in Kentucky history with Trinity. Overall, Mueller was 309-67 in 29 years, which included nine seasons at Withrow. His 1998 squad scored 801 points in route to a 15-0 record (that squad included future NFL players Jared Lorenzen and Derek Smith) and his Bluebirds raked in six straight titles between the 2007-12 seasons. Mueller retired in 2013 at age 59, but remained the school’s athletic director and AP physics teacher for another school year. He was named the National Coach of the Year in January for Highlands’ performance in the 2013-14 season.
Bob Schneider, NewCath: Like Terry Malone in Ohio, Schneider was the winningest coach in Kentucky high school history at the time of his retirement. Before Schneider took over, NewCath had won only 64 games, but between the 1966-2010 seasons (an average of one and a half wins per season). During his reign, Schneider coached the ‘Breds to 345 wins, including three Kentucky titles along with six other title game appearances. In the 2000s, he raised NewCath to the elite level of Kentucky Class A, where they combined with Beechwood to form one of the top rivalries in both Greater Cincinnati and in the state of Kentucky. Schneider retired at age 72 after heart health issues in the previous season caused him to miss the state playoffs. However, he didn’t stay far from the team in retirement and still holds a quasi-assistant coach position.
Mike Yeagle, Beechwood and Lloyd: The Tigers were in the state championship game 11 times in his 15 years as head coach, winning eight of them. During that timeframe, Class A in Kentucky included powerhouses such as Pikeville, Danville and Mayfield. Later in Yeagle’s tenure, the Tigers had to beat Schneider’s NewCath teams once to get home-field advantage in the postseason, and a second time just to advance to the state quarters or semifinals. Overall, Beechwood was 171-24 during his tenure. Yeagle said he considered resigning after 1994 when star player Josh Bishop ruptured a vein in his brain during a game. He survived and continued to play football, and Yeagle remained head coach until he retired in 2002 at age 41 citing health issues. He stepped down abruptly right before the start of the season and never attended high school football games, later saying “I had hit rock bottom.” Yeagle was hired to coach Lloyd in 2007, but resigned from the position in October of that year, again citing health concerns.
Honorable mentions: Homer Rice (Highlands), Bernie Barre (Beechwood/Wyoming), Steve Rasso (Covington Catholic, LaSalle, Mariemont, and St Xavier), Owen Hauck (Highlands, Mt. Healthy, Boone Co.), Angus King (Withrow), Lynn Ray (Covington Catholic), Steve Klonne (Moeller, McNicholas), Steve Specht (St. Xavier), Doug Ramsey (Elder), John Rodenberg (Covington Catholic, Moeller), Tom Grippa (Beechwood, Fairfield, Elder, LaSalle)