Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Welcome Back, Bob Surace

TigerBlog first started covering Princeton athletics back in the fall of 1989. Since then, he's been around literally thousands of Princeton athletes, first as a sportswriter and then in his time working here.

One of the very first Princeton athletes TB ever met was Bob Surace, who was the center on the 1989 football team that won the Ivy League championship. TB covered Princeton football during that season, and he has always remembered that he wrote a feature about Surace.

It's possible, in fact, that Surace was the first Princeton athlete about whom TB ever wrote a feature story. As the years have gone by and Surace's name has come up, TigerBlog always remembered talking to him so many years earlier and being impressed by him. It's the reaction that TB has seen hundreds of times since from other sportswriters after they interact with Princeton athletes.

Thinking back now, TigerBlog can't remember if he's spoken to Surace since his playing days, until late this morning, that is, when TB walked into Gary Walters' office to talk to Surace, the new head football coach here.

It's been more than 20 years since Surace wore his No. 64 jersey for the Tigers, en route to being a three-year starter at center and a first-team All-Ivy League selection. If TigerBlog passed him on the street, he's not sure he would have known who he was.

TigerBlog said congratulations, got a quote for the release and then started to say "I don't know if you remember me, but ..."

Surace cut TB off and said "you wrote for one of the Trenton papers. You wrote a story about me. Not too many people write about offensive linemen."

As far as TigerBlog is concerned, Surace is off to a good start.

TigerBlog met the media in Jadwin Gym and said all the right things, said them in the right way. Again, his voice is soft, but he is purposeful at the same time.

His comments suggested someone not wedded to one way of coaching, one offensive or defensive philosophy. He saw only one Princeton game on TV last year, the win over Yale, and talked positively about what he was watching. He spoke about building a staff and getting to work.

What about the job in front of him? Well, Princeton's new head football coach is obviously an alum, the first Princeton alum to be the head football coach since Bob Casciola from 1973-77, which makes him the only player in the last 50 years to go on to be head coach. Pretty much everyone who coached at football during the first 100 or so years of the sport was a Princeton alum, with notable exceptions Fritz Crisler (Chicago) and Dick Colman (Middlebury).

In addition, Surace's resume includes head coaching experience at Western Connecticut, a Division III school he led to an 18-3 record in 2000 and 2001. He also took Western Connecticut to the Division III playoffs in ’01 and won a game for the first time in school history.

He has spent the last nine seasons as an assistant coach with the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals. The team has been dealing with a great deal this year, success (first place in the AFC North and seemingly headed to the playoffs) and tragedy (the death of wide receiver Chris Henry and the death of the wife of another assistant coach).

Surace's father was a high school football coach, at Millville High in South Jersey. His wife Lisa (then Tanners) was a four-time letterwinner in soccer at Princeton.

All in all, it appears to be a nearly perfect background for a head coach at Princeton.

TigerBlog asked Surace for a quote for his release, and the new coach answered in a very soft voice. "I'm so excited about coming back to a place that is so special," he began.

TB has written dozens of releases about new head coaches, and the alums always start off with words like that. They have a different view of Princeton, looking back on the experience they had and wanting to recreate that for the players who come here to play for them.

The lead story on is now the story announcing Surace's hiring. The second story is the one that names Jeff Terrell as the No. 4 male athlete of the decade at Princeton.

There's a certain irony there, honoring the greatest player to play here in the last decade as the announcement of the new coach for the new decade is made.

Terrell represents the pinnacle of what Princeton football can be, a player who led a championship team, who delivered highlight reel plays, who put fannies in the seats, as they say.

TigerBlog welcomes Bob Surace back as the new head football coach at Princeton.

TB wishes him more than his share of Jeff Terrells in his career.


Anonymous said...

Very excited about Coach Surace; he seems like a great catch. All of his successes will mean even more since he's "one of us," so to speak.

Anonymous said...

I believe Dick Colman's alma mater was Williams not Middlebury!

Anonymous said...

As a father of a possible recruit, Coach Surace took the time to call my son before and after the Bengals game on Sunday, 12/27! We are impressed