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Bob Reade

Quad-Cities area news coverage of the recent passing of Bob Reade recounted his immensely successful football coaching career at Geneseo, Illinois, High School and Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.

There is much to recount.

Legendary is a term most often applied to outstanding figures who have long since passed on. But Reade, who died July 5 at 87 years old, was an area legend in his time. In a 39-year coaching career, he turned losing programs around, won more than 85% of his games at both Geneseo and Augustana, ran up multi-year winning streaks at both schools and captured four consecutive NCAA Division III national championships. 

But what most news accounts overlooked was his first championship as a coach, which came — in Maquoketa. As assistant coach, he helped engineer what is still Maquoketa’s only undefeated football season, when the Cardinals finished 8-0 in 1957.

Reade was a native of Monticello, one of Maquoketa’s longtime WaMaC Conference rivals. In high school, he was a guard and a linebacker for the Panthers. He went on to Cornell College and played linebacker for the Rams. He set a goal of teaching math and coaching. After a two-year stint in the Army, Maquoketa became his launching pad when he came here in the fall of 1956.

It was a good place for the 24-year-old Reade to start. His mentor was Merle Harris, a coach who himself was turning the Maquoketa program around, taking over a team after a winless season in 1954 and bringing it to a perfect season in just three years.

In those days, schools of Maquoketa’s size had only a couple of coaches in the system — the head coach and one assistant on the varsity level. Reade was the varsity assistant; a second assistant was in charge of the freshman-sophomore team. They played on Mondays and he was assigned scouting duties on Friday nights.

Harris was the backfield coach and handled most of the decisions, both offensively and defensively. Reade worked with the linemen.

“I think Harris was pleased with Reade’s work,” recalled Jack Marlowe, retired longtime Sentinel-Press sportswriter. “My contacts with the players in the line praised the guidance of Reade.”

Jake Bickford of Maquoketa, retired men’s clothier, was the starting center on the 1957 team. He recalled that Reade instilled in the linemen that “fundamentals and timing were the two biggest things you can do to win a football game.” Reade stressed the importance of the offensive line getting off the ball before the defense. “He would take our offensive line and we would work hours on hiking and getting off the ball,” Jake recalled.

Reade also stressed sportsmanship.

“I remember one time (at a practice) that a bigger guy kind of roughed up a smaller guy,” Jake noted. “That wasn’t acceptable with Bob. Bob showed the guy when he played across from him on the next several plays just how rough that can be.

“But he respected everybody. Honor and honesty--you do it the right way, whether it’s in football or in life. Those were the fundamentals in life and football. Those were his principles and he stuck by that till he died.”

During the 1957 season, the Cardinals were tested only once. That came at the season opener, at DeWitt, ironically on a Friday the 13th (Sept. 13). The D-Hawks, as they were called then, were the defending Illowa Conference champions. Maquoketa came from behind three times, including erasing a 19-14 deficit in the fourth quarter with two late touchdowns, to win, 27-19.

After that game, Harris and Reade made some defensive changes. In the seven games that followed, opponents scored only 12 points, and no touchdowns on the ground. Maquoketa ended the season with a flourish, trouncing Marion 38-0 on a rain-soaked Indians field, to capture the WaMaC Conference championship.

Maquoketa entered the final game ranked No. 8 in the state, and the top-ranked small school, in an era when there was only one class, not six classifications in football as there are now. Unlike today, the Cards didn’t get a chance to test their skills against statewide competition, as post-season playoffs wouldn’t begin for another 15 years.

The 1957 team was inducted into the Maquoketa High School Hall of Fame last fall. I can’t recall whether I saw them play; I was a 10-year-old fifth grader that year. I do remember I would get up early on Saturday mornings to check the game story my dad had written at home the night before to see if they had won again.

During his two years in Maquoketa, Reade also coached the sophomore basketball team and varsity baseball during the final spring season in 1958. Led by pitcher Steve Reyner and second baseman Leonard Morehead, the ’57 team’s quarterback, the Cardinals advanced to the substate tournament before losing to Clarence. He also managed the Maquoketa Bears baseball team one summer.

Reade not only won his first conference football championship as a coach, he also found his future wife here. In 1961 he married Mary Jo Manning at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Maquoketa. She was the valedictorian of the Maquoketa High School class of 1960. In time, she gave birth to their own 11. She survives him. Longtime Maquoketans recall Mary Jo’s dad, V. M. “Joe” Manning, as the longtime owner-operator of Manning’s Meat Market on North Main Street.

Harris and Reade both left Maquoketa after the 1957-58 school year. Harris moved back to Boone, where he enjoyed further success with the football program there.

Reade continued coaching at Beardstown, Illinois, then at Plano, Illinois. The latter football team had lost 30 consecutive games, the longest losing streak in the state at the time, and had scored fewer than 20 points during the previous season. After three seasons Plano had a winning record at 4-3-1.

In 1962 Reade became head coach at Geneseo’s J. D. Darnall High School. When he arrived, Geneseo had won two games during their last two years. Only 19 boys were out for football. Things changed. In his first season, Geneseo finished 4-5. It would be the last time a team coached by Reade would finish below .500.

In his 17 years at Geneseo, Reade led the Maple Leafs to a record of 146-21-1. They rolled up a then-state record unbeaten streak of 52 games and won state titles his last three years there.

That success was too good to be overlooked by colleges. Augustana, in nearby Rock Island, lured Reade in 1979. The winning continued. In seven years Reade’s record was 69-8. In his 16 years at Augustana, Reade compiled a mark of 146-23-1. He led the Vikings to four consecutive championships in NCAA Division III, the most populous division.

Augustana won 12 championships in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin and made 11 playoff appearances during Reade’s time on the sidelines. During one five-year span the Vikings put together a streak of 60 games in a row without a loss (that included one 0-0 tie).

He retired in 1995. In 1998 he was awarded the prestigious Amos Alonzo Stagg Award and a few months later was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame, added to numerous coach of the year and other honors along the way.

Kurt Kreiter, who retired this spring after a career as a teacher, coach and activities director at DeWitt Central, played for Reade at Augustana on three of the four consecutive championship teams.

Kreiter attended the University of Iowa during his freshman year, but found he missed playing football. He contacted Reade, who had recruited him in high school.

“I asked if I could join the team the next year. I transferred and what a lucky thing that was for me,” Kreiter recalled. “It changed my life, actually, being part of three championship — we never lost a game — and being coached by a guy like Coach Reade. He was incredible.”

Kreiter was a defensive end and outside linebacker on the 1984, ’85 and ’86 national championship teams. He noted that the seniors he graduated with never lost a football game. Their four-year record was 49-0-1.

“He had a huge impact on me,” Kreiter said. During his first two years, he was a “scout” defensive player in practices, (emulating the defense of the Vikings’ upcoming opponent based on scouting reports).

Reade didn’t rely on trick plays or anything fancy. His secret to winning was to stick with fundamentals. Run the football and play good, hard-nosed defense.

“Fundamentals and timing, blocking and tackling and execution,” Jake Bickford noted. “If you execute better than your opponent, you’re going to win. That’s how it was.”

“I got to run against our offense pretty regularly,” Kreiter recalled. “I was always amazed at how he coordinated his entire offense.”

He did things the right way. He didn’t recruit players from all over the country. In a 1985 article headlined “No doubt about it, Augustana is the giant of Division III football,” Sports Illustrated magazine noted that 102 of the 108 players on Reade’s squad were from Illinois. Another SI story observed that Reade’s .893 winning percentage in 13 years at Augie was surpassed only by the .994 graduation rate (160 of 161) of his players.

Perhaps most important, Reade also will be remembered for the beliefs and values he carried and instilled in his players.

“The thing that really stood out to me and that I carried into my coaching career was how he treated people,” Kreiter said. “He was a man of great faith. I never heard him swear. He was extremely prepared as a coach, but he also understood people--young people--so well. He was genuine. As creative a coach as he was, he was an even better person.

“To come full circle, I wanted to be Bob Reade when I became a coach. There was no way you could ever duplicate that. He is one of a kind.”

Kreiter pulled out a memory from the DeWitt-Maquoketa game at Goodenow Field in 2008, the year his son, Casey (now a long snapper for the New York Giants), was a senior and he was coaching the Sabers.

“Everything was going our way; we couldn’t have couldn’t have done any better in the first half. We had a pretty good win.” He noted that the 1957 team was honored at halftime, as it was the 50-year class reunion for those seniors.

“At the end of the game, I was talking to the team and as we broke up I saw an older man walking toward me on Goodenow Field and sure enough, I recognized it was coach Reade. We had a nice talk. He had been there that night and he told me, ‘I really like the way you run your offense.’ A comment like that coming from coach Reade — it really doesn’t get any better than that.”

“I was always impressed every time I would run into him since I graduated; he was still genuinely interested in me as a person and not as a former player. He’d always ask about my family. He remembered everybody’s name; that’s just the way he was. I don’t hold many people in higher regard than I do him.”

— Jack Marlowe and the Augustana College sports information department

contributed information for this column.