‘The Mount’ remembers John Pont
A “name” coach who surprised a small school in Cincinnati by applying in 1989 to start up its football program is being remembered fondly at Mount St. Joseph following his recent death.
John Pont, who died July 1 at age 80, already had coached two Big Ten programs and led one (Indiana) to a Rose Bowl appearance when Mount St. Joseph, a women’s college that only recently had begun admitting male students, announced plans to sponsor a football team to help build enrollment.
Pont, who had left the collegiate ranks in 1980 and was coaching at an Ohio high school at the time, applied for the job, saying he was attracted by the opportunity to start a new program.
“We are so indebted to what John Pont did for the Mount 19 years ago,” current head coach Rod Huber, who assisted Pont during his three years at the school, said upon learning of his death. “We all admired the way that he started football at the Mount, which had been a women’s college for 60 years before going coed. He had a vision and knew that it would take time to build a program. But he had tremendous patience and loved working with the kids….
“My phone has been ringing all day with calls from those guys who played on those first teams. Today they are teachers, lawyers, doctors, but they all shared that experience of playing for coach Pont on those first teams. Coach Pont was most proud of those guys.”
Mount St. Joseph and two other Ohio schools joined with six members of the Indiana Collegiate Athletic Conference to form Division III’s Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference in 1998, and the football program developed into a league champion, winning three straight titles beginning in 2004.
“He started at the Mount with a vision of what Division III football could become,” Huber said. “There was no field, so he and his crew planted one. There were no locker rooms, so he built some. He gave the chance to play college football to guys who loved the game but who sat on the bench in high school. And look where we are today because of him -- with one of the finest facilities in the nation, conference championships, and winning seasons.”
Despite Pont’s relatively brief stay at Mount St. Joseph -- he left in 1992 to start a professional football team in Japan -- he maintained a presence on the campus through most of the rest of his life.
Pont often returned to the Mount to watch the Lions play, and attended ceremonies in 2004 to mark the grand opening of the Mount Sports Complex and Schueler Field. Three years ago, the school named the head football coach’s office in Pont’s honor.
Pont’s influence also has been felt elsewhere in Division III.
Among pallbearers at Pont’s funeral July 8 was Nick Mourouzis, former head football coach at DePauw, who played for Pont at both men’s alma mater, Miami (Ohio), then coached with him at Indiana and Northwestern.
Mourouzis eulogized Pont at the funeral in Oxford, Ohio, and recalled that his former coach had visited him in the hospital the morning in 1984 after Mourouzis had bypass surgery.
“You could always count on John to remember you,” Mourouzis said.
Now, old friends and colleagues are returning the favor, from former Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian -- who coached Pont at Miami and remembers him as someone who "could identify with everyone he met, from the janitor to the president” -- to the grateful former assistant at a Division III school in Cincinnati who today works in the office bearing Pont’s name.
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association