by Brent Harris
Meet the man behind MOWNBU—”Men of Wabash, Nothing Breaks Us”
WHEN CLYDE MORGAN TOOK OVER THE WABASH TRACK and field program following the retirement of legendary and beloved Coach Rob Johnson H’77, he had a lot more to do than work with runners to develop speed and endurance.
“Coach Johnson was an excellent track and field coach, but he was also a great people person,” says Morgan, now a six-time North Coast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year. “I had to follow someone who cared a lot about everyone around him.”
For Morgan, that wasn’t an obstacle.
“It was one of the reasons I came here,” he says.
“I really think of myself as a life coach, not a track coach,” Morgan says. “It’s great that guys get to train to become All-Conference or All-American athletes. But what’s important to me is that a guy feels that if he has something going on in his life, he can call me. I’ll go around and ask that question of the guys at practice and I’ll look them in the eye and make sure I believe them when they say yes.”
The life-coach role that Morgan cherishes shows in the slogans and sayings he’s plastered on the walls of the Knowling Field House. The 8½ x 11 sheets of paper with these phrases are available for anyone to see and take to heart:
Talent is nothing without toughness.
Attitudes are contagious…is yours worth catching?
Luck is what you have left over after you give 100 percent.
JOHNSON SINGS THE PRAISES of his replacement to anyone who will listen: “Wabash College is lucky to have Clyde Morgan. He came in and hit the ground running. He looks like Ray Lewis from the Baltimore Ravens, but he cares for his athletes like Mike Tomlin from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I came out of a high-school situation, so it took me a couple of years to get adjusted to both Wabash and to coaching college athletes. Clyde was a very successful college coach at Thiel College. He came in and upgraded the program; he’s bringing in big numbers of quality kids who are good students, good people, and good athletes.”
WABASH WAS FORTUNATE TO LAND MORGAN. It took a phone call from a fellow coach to set the wheels in motion.
Morgan, who was recently inducted into the Thiel Athletics Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a student-athlete and coach, was ready to move on in 2009. He ran every head coaching position by his friend and mentor, Bill Ross, who was then track and field coach at NCAC cross country and track powerhouse Allegheny College. And every time, Ross replied the choice was not the right fit.
Then came the Wabash job.
“When I first mentioned Wabash to Bill, he told me ‘No, you don’t want to go there,’ but he chuckled after he said it,” Morgan says. “I asked him what the deal with Wabash was. His answer was simple: ‘I don’t want to deal with you at another conference school.’ Then he got serious and said, ‘I’ve been telling you what to do since 1995. I’m telling you now to go after this one. It’s the right place for you.’ When your mentor tells you that, you have to go after it hard.”
Morgan did just that. A few weeks after applying for the position he was on campus interviewing. Midway through the day, he felt the match was ideal.
“I snuck away just before lunch to eat an energy bar and get ready for the rest of the process,” Morgan says. “While I did that I called [my wife] Jen and told her ‘You’d better be ready to move, because if they offer me the job, we’re coming here. This is the right fit.”
THE MOMENT THE MORGAN FAMILY arrived in Crawfordsville, the new coach’s predecessor became one of his biggest supporters.
“I had a lot of people telling me, ‘You have some big shoes to fill,’” Morgan says. “Coach Johnson was the first person defending me, telling everyone ‘This is the right guy.’
“I already knew I had huge shoes to fill. I was excited by the idea Johnson would still be around. He’s a springboard. Johnson will help anyone, and that’s the kind of person I strive to be. And if need be, he’ll be that guy who puts his foot down and pushes someone to be better, to do the right thing.”
Morgan dovetailed his style and philosophy to the previous success of Johnson. One of the things that came out of that merger was the now-familiar slogan that guides the program—Men of Wabash, Nothing Breaks Us (MOWNBU).
“I loved the phrase Coach Johnson always used—‘I am a Wabash Man!’” Morgan explains. “The ‘nothing breaks us’ portion was actually created around 2004 at Thiel. Things come to me when I run, and that phrase popped into my head during a run at a time when so many people I was around were going through struggles and adversity in their lives. I cut the workout short, ran back to the office, and wrote it down.
“When I got to Wabash, I really thought the two ideals fit perfectly, so our team combined them to create MOWNBU. The two phrases matched up so well; my mom tells me it’s just another sign that says this was meant to be.
“Those six letters go beyond this program. Other people on campus—students, men and women on the staff, faculty, administration, parents, alumni—it works for anyone.
“We made up cards with NBU on one side and a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King on the other—‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’ I pass those cards out to people I meet who may be going through challenges in life.
“It really hits home when I get a letter from someone who talks about MOWNBU getting them through their problems. They’re using that simple program philosophy on other levels.”
Johnson believes Wabash is in a golden age of track and field, with much of the credit going to its current stable of coaches.
“Wabash is fortunate,” Johnson says. “It has what I refer to as the Dynamic Duo in Coach Morgan and Coach Roger Busch. Those two are great—I don’t mean good, I mean great—young coaches. J. Owen Huntsman was a very good coach, I think I was a pretty good coach, but Morgan and Busch are great coaches.”