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Watch now: Normal Community football field named for longtime coach

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The football field at Normal Community High School will be dedicated to long-time coach and teacher Dick Tharp, following a school board vote Wednesday.

NORMAL — The football field at Normal Community High School will be dedicated to longtime coach and teacher Dick Tharp.

The McLean County Unit 5 school board has approved the name "Dick Tharp Field."

Tharp, who’s now 90 and living in Louisiana, is the winningest coach in the school’s history, having served as coach from 1966 to 1988.

Dick Tharp from 1975

Normal Community High School football coach Dick Tharp, left, talks with three Intercity players prior to the first Illinois Coaches Shrine All-Star Football Game at Hancock Stadium in 1975. Joining Tharp from left were NCHS lineman Mike Priebe, NCHS defensive back/quarterback Kurt Swearingen and Central Catholic end Loren Underhill.

He took teams to eight playoffs, including a Class 4A state runner-up finish in 1974, with a cumulative record of 158-50-5 in his 22 years.

Former players and others associated with the football program spearheaded the effort to honor the coach.

Mike Goodwin, who played under Tharp in 1985 and ’86, told Pantagraph columnist and former sports editor Randy Kindred that the former coach said he would try to attend the field dedication that will likely occur at the first home game this fall, on Sept. 3 when the Ironmen face Peoria Manual on their home field, which did not previously have a name.

Dick Tharp


"NCHS has one of the most successful programs in state history and much of it's due to him," Goodwin said Wednesday. "His influence was second to none."

Ken Frost, Tharp's grandson, thanked the board for considering this name recognition.

"His teachings and philosophies really trickled down into so many of the young men that he coached, and those philosophies really carried on in these men for the rest of their lives and had a positive impact on not only them, but their families, and people who interacted with them, jobs that they were in, and the community as a whole, no matter where they went," he said.

No district funds will be used for this change, and any costs will be covered by private donations, district spokeswoman Dayna Brown said.

The vote was part of the consent agenda after a public hearing at the start of Wednesday’s school board meeting.

Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.


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