MUTKA: Football assistant Mark Deal has stayed true to his Indiana roots
By JOHN MUTKA firstname.lastname@example.org August 10, 2014 9:44PM
1967 Team (1968 Rose Bowl) reunion dinner at Henke Hall of Champions, 11/10/12_Mike Dickbernd
Updated: September 12, 2014 6:30AM
Mark Deal bleeds Cream and Crimson.
He’s been doing so for Indiana University football ever since he put on a uniform for Lee Corso in the mid-’70s.
Deal’s playing career spanned from 1975-78. Being a graduate assistant for IU in 1979 jump-started him in coaching. That team beat Brigham Young in the Holiday Bowl.
Indiana always has been inseparable in the Deal family, starting with Mark’s dad, Russ. He was a captain of IU’s 1945 unbeaten championship team and preceded Don Howell in a long-standing Hobart coaching dynasty. Mark’s brother, Mike, also toiled for the 1967 Hoosiers, who won the Big Ten title and played USC in the Rose Bowl.
Mark’s wife, Patricia, is an IU grad and their daughter, Carrie, completed the Deal family list of three generations of letter winners (volleyball, 2005-06). She also preserved the IU family ties by marrying former quarterback Blake Powers.
All three Deals have been inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame. If Mark had his way his mother, Eleanore, would be included in that pantheon. Her contribution? She posthumously helped him recruit West Side receiver O.J. Conner, a two-year starter in the late ’90s.
NFL Hall of Famer Hank Stram was one of her high school classmates at Lew Wallace. Mark chuckled at the thought of his mom calling Stram “Henry” in high school. To those with short memories, Stram coached Kansas City in Super Bowl I (lost to Green Bay) and IV (beat Minnesota in 1970). The Chiefs haven’t been back since.
Deal’s mother taught English at Froebel in the 1940s while carrying on a long-distance marriage with his father. Russ teamed up with Gary’s George Taliaferro for All-Big Ten acclaim at IU in 1945 and 1946 along with NFL Hall of Famer Pete Pihos.
“One of her pupils at Froebel was O.J.’s (Conner) grandma,” Mark Deal said during a conversation at the recent Big Ten kickoff. He recalled her inadvertent role during his coaching days at IU.
“O.J. lived right across the street from Tolleston Middle School. I was in the house talking to the family when his grandma found out who my mother was and said, ‘She was my teacher at Froebel. I loved her.’
“That sealed the deal. So you could say my mother recruited O.J. from the grave 14 years after she died,” Mark’s IU years were interrupted by stints at Rutgers (1991-95), VMI (1989-90), Kansas State (1986-88) and Marshall (1984-85). The offensive line coach returned to his alma mater in 1996, where he’s spent the last 19 years. Mike also coached for years, often teaming up with his brother, but presently works for ESPN out of Florida, doing high school football research for the talking heads.