Saturday, April 26, 2008

Longtime Denison coach dies

Submitted photo by Denison University
Former Denison University assistant football coach
Robert Shannon, middle, is pictured here in 1957.
To his left is future NFL head coach Ken Meyer
and to his right is Jack Swinderman.
Longtime Denison coach dies
Sports Writer
NEWARK — Ray Killeen knew immediately what part of Bob Shannon’s personality stood out to him.

“He had an incredible knack for being able to relate to kids,” Killeen said. “He had a phenomenal sense of humor.”

That trait is what Killeen said made Shannon, a legendary coach at Denison University, so successful during his more than 40-year career. Coaching across five decades, Shannon was as beloved in his final years as Denison track coach in the late 1990s as when he began coaching in the school’s football program in 1954.

Shannon, who was a little more than a month away from his 80th birthday, died Saturday at his home in Newark.

“A lot of times he used his humor to get his point across,” said Killeen, who coached with Shannon in the Denison football program. “If a kid wasn’t putting forth a great effort, instead of just ranting and raving, (Shannon) would say something in a very humorous way.

“But everybody knew what he was trying to say.”

Shannon assisted former Denison football coach Keith Piper for all 39 years of his wildly successful tenure.

Piper won 200 games and used the single-wing offense much of the time.

Shannon was at his side through it all, including the 10-0 regular season in 1985, when the football team earned national recognition.

Shannon, however, had an equally big impact as the Big Red’s track coach from 1958 through his retirement in 1998.

Shannon coached 1976 Olympic Gold Medalist Herman Frazier and NCAA national champions Scott Shorney and Ed Colley, won the North Coast Athletic Conference’s coach of the year award 10 times and his team in 1987 placed fifth at the national meet.

“At that time, we had a lot of Newark kids who went to Denison,” said former Newark track coach Gene Booher. “It was a very good relationship between Newark High School and Denison.”

Shannon, who was a longtime official and worked the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, also touched the area high school track scene. Shannon and Denison hosted the Newark Relays, an indoor track meet, during his tenure.

The Big Red track program hosted indoor meets nearly every weekend during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s and allowed the Granville High School program to use its outdoor facility when Granville’s old track was in need of repairs.

“He had a good rapport with the area coaches,” Granville track coach Bob Hollen said. “If you had a question about technique, you could give him a call or go out and talk to him. Nobody has seen it all, but it was always nice to bounce things off him.”

Shannon graduated from Newark High School, then attended Denison and played football for Woody Hayes on the program’s undefeated teams in 1947 and ’48.

Shannon also was a physical education professor at Denison during his coaching tenure, and he spent the 1966-67 school year in Iraq as a Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Baghdad.

“He was just this outgoing, friendly, dynamic man,” Killeen said. “He was always positive and upbeat. In my opinion, I don’t think Denison will ever be the same with (Shannon) and Keith Piper gone now.”


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