In football, coaches are usually traded like commodities; you’re either the hot stock or you are not, and being the not could mean your job is gone in an instant. One bad game and it could all be over for you. That is how stressful the job can be and how tight of a leash coaches are on when it comes to football, at any level from high school on up.
Which is why Munster Mustang Football, heading into its fiftieth season and only having two coaches ( John Friend and Leroy Marsh) in that timespan, is such a rarity.
Friend, who took the reins of the Mustangs in 1965, was already an established coach before he came to Munster, so the decision to take on a program in its infancy was not without enormous risk.
“It was a professional gamble for me to come to Munster,” Friend told IIMM. “But in the end it was the best thing that ever happened to me. What I learned was Munster is a great community that values the football team and things done right.”
And it’s that community, Friend says, that has turned Munster Football into one of the rarest programs in the country; an example for coaches all over the country to look to when trying to find programs ran the right way.
“I was talking to Northwestern’s coach, Pat Fitzgerald, at a dinner one time and he told me he had never heard of a program that had only two coaches in fifty years,” Friend added. “But it’s just different here. We have a great board that won’t fire you after one bad season. In fact, the only concern The Board and the community have right now is whether or not the current coach may be retiring soon.”
In other words, the game of football has transcended to something much, much bigger in Munster, Indiana.
“They say football is an extra-curricular activity, but at Munster I call it co-curricular,” said Friend. “We have built this program on teaching life lessons out on the field and making sure that everything is done the right way. It’s a culture here, really. That’s what we have built here, a culture.”
And current and former players of Munster agree, being a Mustang means something bigger than just being part of a team. It means you are part of something rare and special; a family that plays together and stays together.
"It was an honor for me to say I played football for Munster," said former Mustang and now Purdue Boilermaker, John Hulsey. "There are a lot of legendary players that played under these two coaches, and when you say you played for Coach Marsh, everyone gives you respect. It's that history and tradition that made me want to play football for Munster."
But history and cultures are not built alone, it takes a team, a community, to build them. And that’s what this year’s 50th Anniversary weekend celebration next weekend (8/20) is all about: the community coming together to celebrate a special culture and honor the storied history that culture has created.
The weekend will be anchored by Munster’s opening game against rival Lake Central, but dinners, golf outings, and chances for the community to come out and celebrate a great team are available all weekend.
For Friend, it’s a weekend he wouldn’t miss for the world.
“I’ll be there all weekend, from the start to the finish.”