More than a coach


If you want to gauge the true measure of Earl Banks' contributions during his 69 years on Earth, you have to look beyond his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame last December, beyond the 40 players he coached who went on to play in the National Football League, beyond his three consecutive undefeated seasons at Morgan State and his 95-30-2 record, beyond his own All-American status while a student-athlete at the University of Iowa.

You have to look at Earl Banks' work in molding college-age men at Morgan State into mature and responsible adults.

For Coach Banks, what happened on the football field was important, but not nearly as significant as preparing these young men for the rest of their lives. Time after time, he took on the role of second father to these ball players. He was always there when they needed him. He fed them in his home, found room for them to sleep if necessary, lectured them on the true values in life and advised them on how to handle their problems.

No wonder Earl Banks was revered on the Morgan State campus. Not only did the school's glory years in football coincide with his 14-year tenure (1960-1973) but he continued to dominate the school's athletic scene for another 14 years as the school's athletic director -- instructing both impressionable youths and their young coaches, who looked to him as the master teacher and as a friend.

Earl Banks taught his teams to play tough, hard, basic football -- solid defense based on sound fundamentals and unspectacular but equally solid offense. He coached football not only to win games but to teach his players the value of hard work, teamwork, discipline and clear thinking under stress.

He also became a Baltimore institution, active in a variety of charitable and civic undertakings. To young blacks in Baltimore's inner city neighborhoods, Coach Banks was a hero and a role model; for those who ended up at Morgan State because of Coach Banks' reputation or persuasion, he became a lifelong mentor.

Earl Banks died this week in a car crash. He was 69. But well before his death, he had imparted a philosophy of life to hundreds of Morgan State athletes who have since gone on to successful careers, on and off the playing field. That's quite a tribute to both Earl Banks the coach and Earl Banks the man.

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