Columns & Blogs

John Howard was Mr. CBC

With apologies to the following men — Dale Gier, Larry Hattemer, Ed Maxwell, Len Pyne, Dwight Pool, Jim Rodgers and Dick Zornes — John Howard might have been Mr. CBC.

Howard may have coached the most years at Columbia Basin College, starting in 1964 as the wrestling coach, and helping as an assistant with the football program, and finishing up as the school’s golf and tennis coach before retiring in 2002.

“If he wasn’t he certainly was right there,” said current CBC athletic director Scott Rogers. “I actually replaced him as a faculty member. He kept coaching. The only personal memory I have, was as a coach, I do know his love of life and enthusiasm were just contagious. Everything had a silver lining, and he was so positive.”

And now, Howard is gone. He died Tuesday at the age of 79.

Rogers is right. I remember taking his phone calls when he was CBC’s golf coach. He was always so upbeat on the phone, and that’s not something we take for granted at the sports desk.

Howard was elected into the NWAACC Hall of Fame in 1997 and the NJCAA Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1980 after a 38-year coaching career at CBC.

When he came to CBC in 1964, he revived a wrestling program that became a powerhouse on the west coast.

During his fourth season, the CBC wrestling team started winni ng and kept on doing so, winning 53 straight dual meets, a winning streak that lasted four years.

In 1971, he guided CBC to its first championship in the Washington Athletic Association of Community Colleges.

Two of his wrestlers, Darrell Keller and Gil Daminani, were national champs.

The CBC golf program won 10 NWAACC Championships under Howard.

But he’ll always be associated with the great wrestling teams. His 1972 squad was inducted into the CBC Athletic Wall of Fame in January.

“He was upbeat,” said Mike Fitzpatrick, a star on that team who was also inducted into the NWAC Hall of Fame last month. “He was one of the guys who was always positive.”

Fitzpatrick said what Howard did so well was recruit, brining in numerous state champions.

His assistant, the late Harold Surplus, was good at the technical stuff in wrestling.

“Those two together were a force,” said Fitzpatrick.

Don Draper, another standout on that 1972 team, told the story of when Howard was in boot camp.

“I guess the drill instructor needed a voluneter, because he had hurt this kid the day before,:” said Draper. “He had Howard do a fireman’s carry, and the instructor didn’t react quick enough and fell on his head. The next day they had a new instructor.”

Draper said Howard changed a lot of men’s lives.

“I didn’t get a scholarship to go to CBC,” Draper said. “I was on work-study. But two years later I get two offers from two of the best wrestling schools in the country at Washington and Oregon.

“He did enough to effect our lives. My life is better because of him. We probably didn’t (get together) enough.”

But he will always be remembered.

“I never saw him quit, and he had the most heart of anyone I ever saw,” said Draper. “He just recruited guys with heart, or did he develop their heart? Probably more of the latter. He made everybody better on the mat, and better as a person off of it.”

Fever named IFL franchise of year

The Tri-Cities Fever may not have advanced through the Indoor Football League playoffs after getting eliminated by the Nebraska Danger last Friday 86-43, but the league’s owners named the Fever the 2015 IFL Franchise of the Year this week.

Factors considered for earning this award consisted of attendance, sales, public relations, marketing, performance on the field, community involvement and overall representation of the IFL.

Teri and J.R. Carr have always run a good show for fans, and the $70,000 the team raised for charity in the community is a great testimony to their involvement.

“With the quality playing partners that we have, this is a true honor,” said Teri Carr. “Any team in the league could be deserving of this award and yet for them to recognize Tri-Cities is humbling. We always make it a point to do the right things for our community, players, playing partners, and the league. Thank you to those who have recognized that.”

All that is great, but here is what I remember: when veteran quarterback Houston Lillard went down with a nasty broken leg in the first half of a road game in Bemidji, Minn., in April, the Carrs immediately left the team’s viewing party at Uncle Sam’s Saloon in Richland, got their private plane ready in Pasco, and flew to Bemidji to pick Lillard up and bring him home so he could recover in the Tri-Cities.

I’m not sure there are many owners who would do that.

Other awards announced Wednesday: Iowa’s John Pettit (Executive of the Year); Sioux Falls (Best Fans and Community Relations awards); Green Bay Blizzard (Best Game Operations); and Colorado Ice (Best Cheerleaders).