HUNTINGTON — Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame coach George Chaump passed away Sunday at age 83 according to media reports from Central Pennsylvania.
District III of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association announced the news on Twitter along with reports from www.pennlive.com and television station WHTM in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A cause of death was not immediately known.
Chaump coached Marshall University football teams from 1986 to 1989. His 33-16-1 record included the Thundering Herd’s first NCAA Division I-AA national championship game appearance in 1987 and a Southern Conference championship and No. 1 regular season ranking in 1988.
His 1987 team (10-5 overall, 4-2 conference) rolled through the I-AA playoffs with victories against James Madison, 41-12; Weber State, 51-23; and Southern Conference champion Appalachian State, 24-10 before losing the national championship game against Louisiana-Monroe in Pocatello, Idaho, 43-42.
In 1988 he guided Marshall (11-2) to its first Southern Conference championship in a tie with Furman (6-1). The Herd returned to the I-AA playoffs where it won against North Texas, 7-0, and lost to Furman, 13-9.
After four consecutive winning seasons Chaump left to coach at the U.S. Naval Academy and was replaced by Jim Donnan.
Chaump’s remarks in 2015 during a 1987 team reunion included saying the national runner-up team was very special to him.
“You know why? They did the unexpected,” he said in The Herald-Dispatch. “Nobody expected anything and we went to the national title game. After Louisville (34-31 road win) our kids felt nobody could beat us. They started to believe in themselves like no one’s ever believed. They took on teams in the playoffs and hammered them. They played like wild men.”
Chaump’s teams played a wide-open style with four- and five-receiver sets and an empty backfield. The only difference was quarterbacks went under center instead of getting in the shotgun. Fans learned to be in their seats before kickoff to see what Chaump had in his bag of tricks.
“We did a lot of imaginative, creative and exciting things,” he said. “We did get people out of the tailgate grounds. They came to understand we could score at any time.
I’ve thought a lot about what that season meant. I believe greater things could and would happen. The spirit we created. They say with spirit you can move mountains.
“We moved mountains. I feel for the players. I said why you’re special is you’re the ones who created the spirit that moved the mountains.”
Marshall hired Chaump in 1986 from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, an NCAA Division II football program, when Stan Parrish departed for Kansas State following 6-5 and 7-3-1 seasons — the Herd’s first consecutive winning seasons in 21 years. Chaump went 24-16 in four IUP seasons. His teams tied for first place in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference in 1984 and finishing first in 1985.
Chaump had spent 11 years at Ohio State University as an offensive assistant to Woody Hayes and three more as an NFL backfield coach for John McKay and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, played football and wrestled at Bloomsburg University before a coaching career that spanned six decades.
His first head coaching jobs in Pennsylvania were one season at Shamokin High School and John Harris High School. After being fired from Navy (1990-94) he returned to coach Pennsylvania high school teams at Central Dauphin, Harrisburg High and Central Dauphin East.
Chaump was inducted into the Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame (2013), the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame (2003) and the Bloomsburg University Hall of Fame (1994). He was also a past recipient of the Lowell Cade Sportsperson of the Year award from The Herald-Dispatch.