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Mutka: Portage’s Tom Reynolds goes from player to prof at Notre Dame

Updated: October 3, 2013 6:24AM



Until he walked on at Notre Dame in 1965, Dr. Tom Reynolds wasn’t your typical wide-eyed worshipper from Northwest Indiana.

Not too surprising since his dad intensely disliked the over-hyped, mythologized football program. He was pretty upset when his son decided to play for Ara Parseghian, discarding an earlier commitment to Valparaiso University for football and basketball. Reynolds switched out of respect for his high school coach Bob Smith, wooed by the notion of becoming Portage’s first football player to commit to the big-time program.

“That was the only reason,” said Reynolds, explaining his life-altering decision in a phone interview.

His family was so not thrilled.

“My dad had bought me a car to use,” Reynolds recalled, “but when I changed my mind he wouldn’t let me take it (to campus).”

Consider Notre Dame an acquired taste. It certainly didn’t hurt that the Irish were 24-4-2 during his first three years. Or that he was coached by one of the all-time greats.

Talk to the retired professor about the Era of Ara and the compliments roll off his tongue. Very this, very that. As in smart, determined, hard-working, motivational.

Catch my drift?

“He put the fear of God into you,” said Reynolds, who has maintained a lasting friendship with Parseghian. “He’s a great role model.”

Reynolds was a seldom-used sub on the unbeaten 1966 team, which was one of Notre Dame’s 11 consensus national champs. To this day the controversy lingers over a 10-10 tie with Michigan State. The “game of the century” took place in a November battle of unbeatens at East Lansing. Coincidentally, the only reason it took place was because Iowa had dropped out of a series the year before and MSU agreed to fill the late open date.

Parseghian took some heat because he played it safe in the final minutes, content to settle for a tie with reserve quarterback Coley O’Brien. Ara was unfairly accused. What critics glossed over was that the Irish played most of the game on hostile turf without quarterback Terry Hanratty, tailback Nick Eddy or center George Goeddeke.

“We were missing three All-Americans,” Reynolds said.

Eddy was a pre-game casualty, injuring his shoulder when he slipped on ice getting off the train. It was the last time Notre Dame traveled that way for a game.

In the first quarter Hanratty joined him on the sidelines, disabled by a Bubba Smith sack. Then Goeddeke suffered an ankle injury.

Parseghian played it close to the vest with O’Brien, who opened up the following week in a season-ending 51-0 rout of USC. Notre Dame pitched its sixth shutout to clinch the No. 1 rating.

In his only collegiate start at quarterback O’Brien completed 21 of 31 passes for 253 yards. His moment of glory over, he transitioned to halfback in 1967.

Reynolds lettered in his junior year, but the Irish slipped to a mere 8-2 record.

“I didn’t play much with two All-Americans ahead of me,” he said.

In his senior season, a career-ending knee injury benched Reynolds. Three surgeries later he went to graduate school, then served as a college professor of mathematics at Berkley, the University of Texas and his alma mater.

Since retiring Reynolds has taken a keen interest in the BCS playoff format, which was introduced 14 years ago and will be expanded to a four-team playoff in 2014.

What he campaigns for is “transparency” as a means to choose four teams. Old white guys sitting in a smoke-filled room doesn’t appeal to him. Not scientific enough. The process should be more objective.

“Their model is not very good,” said Reynolds, who argues that strength of schedule should carry more weight in choosing teams. “Mine is superior.”

His point system would reward teams for quality wins. Example: If A beats B, then B wins its next 10 games each victory compounds its total. Certainly it’s more meaningful than beating C, which finishes 5-and-5.

Such methodology would encourage teams to schedule attractive non-conference opponents. Football fans would be spared the tedium of such early mismatches as Missouri 58, Murray State 14; Oregon 66, Nicholls 3; Houston 62, Southern 13; and Michigan 59, Central Michigan 9.

“It would reduce the number of games scheduled for automatic wins,” Reynolds said.

The professor’s method, which he has researched over the last four years, makes sense. He’s written papers on the subject and would gladly turn his ideas over to the BCS with this suggestion: use it, improve on it.

Reynolds keeps urging transparency, but it’s difficult to keep corruption from creeping into the process. Not when so much money is involved. Not when TV networks have too much control over the conference season.

Not when the tail wags the dog.

Surveying the landscape: What a great time it is to be a baseball fan in Pittsburgh. They’re going nuts in the Steel City, which entertained three straight sellout crowds for a weekend series with the Cardinals.

Picking up 1996 American League MVP Justin Morneau over the weekend should provide a shot in the arm, although the four-time All-Star first baseman has struggled with concussion issues in the previous two years.

How ironic it would be if the Pirates advanced to the World Series and faced Detroit. What a story line: Tiger manager Jim Leyland, who guided Pittsburgh to its last playoff appearance, would provide.

Tossing in Detroit hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, who managed the Pirates from 2001-05, (when they were sellers, not buyers), would add to the fun along the shores of the Monogahela River.

Indiana’s 73-point binge against Indiana State temporarily raised my eyebrows Thursday, but let’s keep it in perspective.

Over the years the Hoosiers have disappointed me too often, but I will get a little amped if they reach their Big Ten opener against Penn State with a 4-0 record.

Having three talented quarterbacks is an embarrassment of riches and I had hoped coach Kevin Wilson could talk Nate Sudfeld or Cam Cameron into redshirting, but neither one seems interested.

Here’s hoping neither one will transfer, but keeping them happy as the level of competition rises is going to be tough. Still, it’s a good problem to have.



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