PSU Coaching Legend Dies

STATE COLLEGE, Pa., August 5, 2005 -- Jim O'Hora, a member of the Penn State football coaching staff for 31 years, passed away here today at the age of 90.

A three-year letterman at center for Coach Bob Higgins, O'Hora's Penn State tenure spanned four head coaches. A member of the 1933-35 teams under Higgins, O'Hora joined the Nittany Lions' staff as a full-time assistant in 1946 for three seasons under Higgins. He then served one year with Joe Bedenk (1949), 16 seasons with Rip Engle (1950-65) and 11 with Joe Paterno (1966-76).

A native of Dunmore, Pa., O'Hora initially served as line coach, and later was defensive coordinator and assistant head coach (1974-76). He was in charge of the Nittany Lions' superlative defensive units on the unbeaten 1968 and '69 teams that capped 11-0 seasons with consecutive Orange Bowl victories.

O'Hora and Paterno coached together from 1950-76 and were close friends. Paterno lived with Jim and his wife, Elizabeth, better known as "Betts," for 11 years prior to Paterno being married in 1962.

"Jim is one of the finest people I've ever known," Paterno stated. "He was a big brother and a father to me. He was a great colleague, a wonderful football coach and a great father. Jim was one of those people you come across only once in awhile. I will miss him very much."

O'Hora earned his Penn State degree in physical education in 1936 and remained on campus as a graduate assistant coach, working with the freshman team. In 1937, he earned his master's degree in education. Later that year, he was named head football and baseball coach at Roaring Spring (Pa.) High School. In 1939, he moved to Mahanoy Township (Pa.) High School to coach football, baseball and basketball.

O'Hora served in the United States Navy during the World War II from 1942 to 1945. He earned the rank of lieutenant and commanded a landing force ship during the Luzon campaign. Jim and Elizabeth were married on November 26, 1942.

After the war he returned to Mahanoy Township for one year before joining the Penn State coaching staff in 1946. He remained at Penn State until his retirement.

O'Hora was instrumental in helping Penn State earn 29 winning seasons during his 31 years on the staff, with the other two years at .500. The Nittany Lions posted four unbeaten seasons (1947, '68, '69, '73) during his tenure.

O'Hora directed the defenses on the unbeaten 1968, '69 and '73 squads. The '68 team allowed less than 10 points in six games. The '69 unit did not allow the opposition to score in double figures in seven games, including the last four, capped by a 10-3 win over Missouri in the Orange Bowl. The '73 defense did not permit more than nine points in any of Penn State's initial six games and capped the school's first 12-0 season with a 16-9 win over LSU in the Orange Bowl.

Among the linemen coached by O'Hora were College Football Hall of Famers Mike Reid and Glenn Ressler, as well as first team All-Americans Randy Crowder and Mike Hartenstine.

In 1977, Penn State established the Jim O'Hora Award, which is annually presented to a defensive player for "exemplary conduct, loyalty, interest, attitude and improvement" during spring practice. Among the winners of the O'Hora Award are: Walker Lee Ashley (1981), Bob White (1984), Andre Collins (1988), Tony Pittman (1993), Michael Haynes (2001), Anthony Adams (2002) and current Nittany Lions Matt Rice, Tim Shaw and Jay Alford.

Jim and Elizabeth O'Hora, who passed away on August 15, 2001, had four children - Jim, Bob, Peg and Don - as well as nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

There will be a visitation from 6-9 p.m. on Monday, August 8 at Koch Funeral Home, 2401 South Atherton Street, State College.

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