Considered one of the all-time greats of Miami University football and one of the pillars among the Cradle of Coaches, John Pont - a charter member of Miami University's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1969 and the first athlete in Miami history to have his jersey number retired - died at his home after a long illness Tuesday, July 1, at the age of 80.
Pont was a standout halfback for the Red and White from 1949-51. Pont was a three-time first-team all-MAC and all-Ohio selection and received honorable mention all-America honors twice. During his sophomore campaign in 1949, he led the nation in rushing, registering 977 yards. He also led the MAC in points as a sophomore with 54, while going on to lead the MAC in rushing as a senior with 883 yards. Pont spearheaded Miami to a MAC Championship and a Salad Bowl title in 1950 under coach Woody Hayes. He went on to play football in Canada in 1952.
Following his senior season, Pont's jersey No. 42 was retired. Shortly following his playing career, Pont joined the Miami football staff as an assistant coach under the legendary Ara Parseghian - who was in his first year as head coach at Miami during Pont's senior season - serving in the post from 1953-55. In 1956, Pont succeeded Parseghian and assumed the position of head coach at Miami, directing the Red and White for seven campaigns through the 1962 season. While guiding the Red and White, Pont compiled an impressive 43-22-2 mark, leading Miami to MAC Championships in 1957 and 1958. In his final season at the helm of the program in 1962, Pont led Miami to a Tangerine Bowl berth.
From Miami, Pont went on to serve two seasons as head coach at Yale (1963-64), eight seasons at Indiana (1965-72) and five years at Northwestern (1973-77). His 1967 Indiana team was the Big Ten Co-Champions and went on to play in the Rose Bowl. He owns the distinction as the only coach in Indiana history to lead the Hoosiers to a Rose Bowl and is the last to lead them to a Big Ten title. Pont was named the Football Writers and American Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 1967. He also served as athletics director at Northwestern from 1975-80.
He returned to coaching in 1984, serving as the head coach at Hamilton High School until 1989. When the College of Mount Saint Joseph went co-ed and started a football program, Pont returned to the college sidelines as the program's first head coach until 1992. In recent years, he has also volunteered his time with the coaching staff at Oxford's Talawanda High School.
Following an illustrious coaching career in the United States, Pont went international, taking his coaching talents to Japan for 13 seasons until retiring in 2005.
In addition to the Miami Athletic Hall of Fame, Pont was inducted into the Mid-American Conference Hall of Fame and also inducted into Miami's Cradle of Coaches Association in 1992. He also was inducted into the Indiana University Hall of Fame. Pont was a member of Miami University's Sigma Chi Fraternity.
Pont was born in Canton, Ohio on Nov. 13, 1927 and was the son of Bautista and Suzannah Pont. He is survived by his wife, Sandy. There are three children: John (Agnes) Pont of Newington, Conn.; Jennifer (Thomas) Shrack of Indianapolis: and Jeff (Lynn) Pont of Carmel, Ind.
His grandchildren include John (Pont), Aimee (Pont), Kevin (Pont), Alison (Pont), Amanda (Pont), Christopher (Shrack) and Carrie (Shrack).
Pont's family also includes his brother, Richard (Sarah) Pont of Wallingford, Conn., one nephew and three nieces.
Visitation will be on Sunday, July 6 from 3-6 p.m. at Oxford's Smith and Ogle Funeral Home (5086 College Corner Pike). A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Oxford on Monday, July 7 at 10 a.m. Burial will be in the Miami University section of the Oxford Cemetery. The public is invited to attend all of the observances.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the McCullough-Hyde Oncology Department (Oxford), The John Pont Scholarship Fund at Miami University, The John Pont Scholarship Fund at Indiana University, and the Athletic Department at the College of Mount Saint Joseph.
For more information and a photo gallery, please go to Miami's Athletic Web site at: muredhawks.cstv.com