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Johns Hopkins' Bob Scott: A Man Of Accomplishment And Humility

October 17, 2016
On Oct. 15, Johns Hopkins University unveiled a statue of Bob Scott at the entrance to Homewood Field. The statue honors a man whose accomplishments as a Hall of Fame men's lacrosse coach and as a unifying athletic administrator helped Johns Hopkins become a model of athletic and academic excellence. 

But the longtime Johns Hopkins coach and athletic director, affectionately known as "Scotty," was never about self-promotion. Scott's humility and devotion to others were the hallmarks of a life that ended Sept. 15, when he died at the age of 86. 

"Scotty was the most beloved person in Johns Hopkins athletic history," longtime women's basketball coach Nancy Funk said. "He never elevated himself above anyone else and told us that every success we had was also a credit to others. I don't think he realized how significant he was to all of our lives." 

His Johns Hopkins cohorts described Scott, who retired in 1995, as a sincere man and a good listener, qualities that served Scott well during a life that touched thousands of people. 

"My brother was playing for Team Canada in the 1982 World Lacrosse Games at Hopkins," said former Johns Hopkins athletic director Tom Calder, who is now the school's director of alumni programs. "Between games, my mom, Betty, and I went to the hospitality tent and were introduced to Scotty. When I came back here in 1988 to interview with him for the associate athletic director position, the first thing he said to me was, ‘How's Betty?'" 

Scott began his undergraduate career at Johns Hopkins during the fall of 1948 and remained on the school's Homewood campus for most of the next five decades. The graduate of Baltimore's Forest Park High School was a standout for the Blue Jays' football and lacrosse teams. During his senior year, Scott earned honorable mention All-America honors in lacrosse and captained the South All-Stars in the 1952 North-South Classic. 

Following his 1952 college graduation, Scott served in the U.S. Army. A natural leader, Scott became an instructor with the Army Rangers. The end of his two-year service commitment marked Scott's return to the place where he began his intercollegiate athletics career. 

Scott was hired as Johns Hopkins' men's lacrosse coach in 1955. During the next 20 years, Scott built the program into a dynasty. He coached the Blue Jays to seven national championships, capping his career with the 1974 NCAA title. Scott's instruction and guidance were essential to the 42 players that earned first-team All-America recognition during his tenure, which ended with a sterling 158-55-1 record. 

"Coach Scott is Hopkins lacrosse," Dave Pietramala, a former Blue Jay All-American and the school's head men's lacrosse coach since the 2001 season, said. "When I think of Hopkins lacrosse, I think about the picture of Coach Scott with his flat-top haircut, his clipboard and his whistle that is right outside my door." 

In 1973, Scott took on a dual role as the school's athletic director. During his 22 years at the Hopkins' helm, Scott molded the athletic program into a powerful 24-sport entity. Johns Hopkins is an annual contender for the Learfield Cup, which is awarded to the nation's top overall athletic program. During the 2015-16 athletic year, Johns Hopkins finished 12th in the Learfield Cup standings. 

Scott's competitive nature and dedication to the entire athletic program were key ingredients to his successful tenure. 

"He fought hard for what he thought we deserved," Bob Babb, who has served as the Blue Jays' baseball coach since the 1980 season, said. "We all knew that if we really needed something, he would stick his neck out for us. And you saw Scotty at every event. He created an atmosphere where all of the coaches were pulling for one another." 

Scott had a keen eye for coaching talent. From 1980-93, he hired Babb (baseball), Funk (women's basketball), George Kennedy (swimming and diving), Bill Nelson (men's basketball), Jim Margraff (football), Ted Bresnahan (water polo), Leo Weil (women's soccer) and Janine Tucker (women's lacrosse). Kennedy retired after the 2015-16 season, but the other coaches are still in charge of thriving programs at Hopkins. 

Nelson has guided the Blue Jays men's basketball program since the 1986-87 season. Before he moved south, Nelson was the head men's basketball coach at Nazareth (N.Y.) College. Nelson was considering the vacant Hopkins position when he had a fateful conversation with current Denver men's lacrosse coach Bill Tierney, who was then a Blue Jays lacrosse assistant after working with Nelson at the Rochester Institute of Technology. 

"When I applied for the job, Bill told me that I'd be working for the John Wooden of lacrosse," said Nelson, referencing the legendary UCLA men's basketball coach. "Scotty really wanted to help our teams. He got more funding; I hired two assistant coaches that were with me for 25 and 30 years, and it turned the program right around. Scotty was a life-changer for me."

While Johns Hopkins is still recognized primarily as a Division I lacrosse power, Scott made sure the rest of the school's athletic programs received the necessary resources and attention. The balanced approach to athletics has resulted in consistently successful showings. The women's cross country team won three straight NCAA Division III titles from 2012-14. The men's and women's swimming teams are annually in the running for national titles, while the men's and women's basketball teams have each made 10 NCAA tournament appearances since Nelson and Funk arrived in 1986.

On the football field, head coach Jim Margraff's squad has won seven straight Centennial Conference championships and is an annual participant in the NCAA Division III tournament. A record-setting Johns Hopkins quarterback from 1978-81, Margraff was hired by Scott to take over the football program prior to the 1990 season. He is now the winningest collegiate football coach in Maryland history. 

"He made it very clear that he had great confidence in me," said Margraff, who was only 29 years old when Scott hired him. "There couldn't be a better mentor. He was organized and demanding but fair. He was the quintessential person as far as being a tough guy but also showing incredible respect for other people. If he was walking through campus and saw the president of the university, then walked 10 more steps and saw a man mowing the grass, they were treated exactly the same." 

While Hopkins' Division III teams have flourished, the Division I lacrosse programs have continued their successful runs. After Scott stepped down as the school's lacrosse coach in 1974, the program won six NCAA championships during the next 13 years, including three straight titles from 1978-80. Under Pietramala's direction, the Blue Jays added NCAA crowns in 2005 and 2007. 

In 1993, Scott hired Tucker to coach the women's lacrosse team. Tucker has since guided the Blue Jays to six NCAA Division I tournament appearances. 

Scott was a leader for women's sports at Hopkins. Under his direction, the school initiated its entire women's athletic program, which includes basketball, cross country, fencing, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, tennis, track and volleyball. 

Though all of his accomplishments will be remembered, Scott's unassuming nature and unselfish demeanor will stand at the forefront. 

"He had the greatest sense of humility of anyone I've ever been around," Pietramala said. "What was most important to him was his wife, Margo, his family (daughters Susan and Nancy), his friends and Hopkins. He had that innate ability to make you feel special, and he was more concerned with how he could serve, help and support other people. In doing so, he touched more lives than you can imagine. We live in less of a world without him." 

Issue 226: October 2016