OXFORD — The stakes are already high in the coming Super Bowl for former Miami University football player — and now coach of the Los Angeles Rams — Sean McVay.
But if McVay cares about being enshrined among Miami’s nationally acclaimed “Cradle of Coaches” statues at the school’s Yager Stadium, those stakes for him personally are now even higher.
There is already an empty statue podium erected among the college and pro football coaches’ statues celebrating the Butler County university as the famous birthplace for Miami’s many gridiron leaders who started there and went on to greater success.
A Super Bowl victory on Feb. 13 over the Cincinnati Bengals would guarantee his inclusion in that elite football circle as it did for former Miami player and later Baltimore Ravens’ Coach John Harbaugh in 2013 after he guided his team to a world championship.
But another Super Bowl loss for McVay might delay his eventual enshrinement, said the head of Miami’s athletic programs, said Athletic Director David Sayler.
“We built an empty podium in preparation for the next statue,” he said the of bronzed coaching figures aligned under a giant “Cradle of Coaches” banner outside the campus stadium.
“And that would certainly belong to Sean McVay if he were to win a Super Bowl, that would qualify him,” Sayler said.
The empty podium wasn’t done specifically in anticipation of McVay’s further success, he said and added the final decision on any statue belongs to a Miami committee.
Among the coaching greats to play or coach at Miami and now enshrined there are: Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals’ founder and coach Paul Brown, Ohio State University’s Woody Hayes and Notre Dame University’s Ara Parseghian.
The former wide receiver for the Redhawks and 2008 graduate, was the youngest coach – hired at 30 - in NFL history and the youngest to coach in a Super Bowl, when his Rams lost to the New England Patriots in 2019.
But the next statue is for the next football coach to earn it, Sayler said.
If McVay’s team loses to the Bengals and the former Miami receiver earns his second “L” in a Super Bowl, that podium may continue to sit empty.
“There is a set of criteria to have a statue done and certainly winning a Super Bowl is one of those pieces or a national championship in college.”
“I don’t know if he knows that … we have a committee that votes on these things,” Sayler.
Regardless of McVay’s legacy, Miami is a big winner whenever one of its own succeeds on the national football stage and the publicity for the school’s football program — and other sports — is immeasurable, he said.
Saylor said he has seen a Miami Redhawk football helmet in McVay’s office in the background during TV interviews from the Rams coach’s office.
Publicity for other notable former Miami players – such as the recently retired, future NFL Hall of Fame candidate Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers – helps keep the school’s NCAA Division I football program in the spotlight, he said.
“It really links the present to the past for us. A lot of the kids today don’t remember or know who Bo Schembechler (University of Michigan coaching great) is or who Weeb Ewbank (New York Jets 1969 Super Bowl champion coach) is, but they know who John Harbaugh is and certainly they now know who Sean McVay is,” he said.
“And having that link to the past is really important for us, not just for who we recruit to our football program but also for a fan perspective and a local area perspective as well as national.”
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