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Obituary: Joe Moore / Heralded as football's 'greatest line coach'

Saturday, July 05, 2003

From wire and local dispatches

Joe Moore, a former University of Pittsburgh offensive line coach who later won an age discrimination suit against Notre Dame, died Thursday at his home in Mt. Lebanon. He was 71 and had been fighting lung cancer for nearly a year.

Mr. Moore coached the best offensive lines at Pitt from 1977-85, developing football All-Americans and Hall of Fame linemen Bill Fralic, Mark May, Russ Grimm and Jimbo Covert before moving on to coach at Notre Dame. He earned a reputation as one of the best line coaches in NCAA history.

"He was such a great recruiter in Pennsylvania and then he shifted to offensive line and he was such a tremendous coach. He was such an innovator in terms of technique," said Foge Fazio, who coached with Mr. Moore for nine years at Pitt.

A graduate of Schenley High School and Penn State, Mr. Moore was named head football coach at Upper St. Clair High School on May 24, 1972. He was credited with turning the team from a powderpuff to a powerhouse, winning back-to-back WPIAL co-championships and the last 26 games he coached in 1975 and 1976.

In his 17 years as a high school coach, 12 in Erie and five in Upper St. Clair, he compiled a 119-32-4 record.

When he left Upper St. Clair in June 1976, he said, "There's no question about it, I'm going to miss it. I'm going to miss looking at a ninth-grader and trying to project what he'll be as a senior. I'm going to miss trying to get the most out of every player on the squad. I'm going to miss those championship games. I'm going to miss coaching."

But he didn't miss it for long, taking a job as an assistant coach at Pitt in 1977. After three years of instructing running backs, he moved to the offensive line.

Upon being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this past March, Covert credited Mr. Moore with his development.

"I was fortunate to play with a lot of great players, and I was also associated with a lot of great coaches like Joe Moore, who is the greatest line coach of all time," said Covert, who played for the Panthers from 1978-82.

"Coach Moore, who I owe everything to, told me after my first practice at tackle that I would be an All-American some day," said Covert, who twice won the designation. "Looking back, he knew what he was talking about."

In a 1983 profile, Pittsburgh Press sports writer Tom Wheatley described Mr. Moore thusly:

"At 51, Joe Moore is a man among men in a man's game. He has a leathery face, leathery ears and even leathery-looking hair. Above all, there is that matchless leathery voice."

A 1984 Sports Illustrated article called Mr. Moore "the best line coach in college football."

In a November 1984 interview with the Post-Gazette, Mr. Moore said, "If there's one thing I instill in players, it's to never be satisfied and to always try to do better in anything you do. They have to realize how good they can be first, then I try to help them. They are the ones who become workaholics, not me."

But between the 1984 and 1985 seasons at Pitt he was demoted. He had been assistant head coach and offensive coordinator but only kept his job as offensive line coach.

Mr. Moore was fired when Pitt purged the Fazio regime in November 1985. He was subsequently named offensive line coach at Temple on July 31, 1986. He worked at Pitt under head coaches Johnny Majors, Jackie Sherrill and Fazio.

In February 1988, Lou Holtz picked Mr. Moore to coach Notre Dame's tight ends and tackles. He was part of the Fighting Irish team that won the 1988 national championship.

He took Notre Dame to court for age discrimination after being fired at age 64 in 1996. A jury sided with Mr. Moore and he returned to Pennsylvania.

"I knew I wasn't too old to coach, but I decided it was time to return to my roots," he said.

William Slater II Funeral Services in Scott is handling arrangements.

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