Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Interview with Ed Quinn

Dad Ed, mom Jean, and Drew Quinn at his final high school game (CREDIT: Quinn family)

During the season, it's all about the players. But I've been lucky enough to establish some relationships with a number of the players' parents via the magic of email this summer.

One parent I was especially happy to hear from was Edward Quinn, father of rising junior co-captain Drew Quinn. In addition to raising a number of very athletic kids, Ed was once a Major League Baseball umpire. I had a number of different topics I wanted to discuss with Ed and he obliged me at every turn.

Jake: You live in the Cincinnati area now, are you from there originally?

Ed Quinn: I was born in Philadelphia, PA. My father was offered a job with what is now Macy's in Cincinnati in 1950 and we moved here when I was three years old, so I am a Cincy native at heart. However, my father insisted on vacationing at the family cottage in Sea Isle City on the Jersey shore every year for 15 straight years and I have forced my children to spend a couple of summer vacations there and in Philly just to introduce them to their relatives.

J: Tell us a little about the Quinn family. How many children do you have and what kind of work do you and your wife do?

EQ: My wife Jean and I live about 24 miles northeast of downtown Cincinnati near Kings Island amusement park. Our two youngest children Sean and Drew are both in college. Three other siblings, (who arrived much earlier), Tracey age 37, Scott age 35, and Christine age 30 are all married and each have two children. Jean works for a national upscale restaurant chain and I am the business manager for a Nissan auto dealership near our home. Jean and I have been fortunate enough to have remained in our respective professions for over thirty years.

J: Did any of your other children play sports?

EQ: Our oldest three children were excellent athletes growing up. The two girls excelled in softball and soccer and my oldest son Scott was a three sport athlete in high school and was recruited to play football and baseball in college. He attended the University of Cincinnati but elected not to play sports in college. Year-round sports got the family on a first name basis with everyone at our local hospital emergency room while the oldest three were growing up. Sean, until his sophomore year and Drew, until his junior year were three sport athletes at St. Xavier High. Sean was a starting pitcher for the varsity all four years and played Division I baseball for Longwood University in Virginia until 2006.

Aerial view of the impressive St. Xavier campus

J: Tell us a little about high school football in Cincinnati, how competitive is it and would you say it's better than the rest of Ohio?

EQ: The word that best describes the Cincinnati football scene is “fanatical”. Drew was invited to join the St.X varsity near the end of his freshman season and here are the attendance records and the venues of the five playoff games that ended with a state runner-up title for the team:

At St X, 8,800; at Paul Brown Stadium, 47,700; at Univ. of Cincinnati, 40,000 (they couldn’t announce the 45,000 really there because of a fire law that said they can only seat 40,000); at Columbus Crew Stadium, 15, 600; and at Canton Stadium 18,900.

The Cleveland and Cincinnati areas have high school football legacies that go back sixty years involving teams like Massilon, Canton McKinley, Roger Bacon, Princeton, and Moeller. These national powerhouses forced the rest of the high schools in their communities with the enrollment and the financial means to do so, to step up their football programs to the point that teams like St. X, Moeller, Elder, Colerain and LaSalle in Cincinnati and Lakewood St. Eds and St. Ignatius in northern Ohio have to go to out of state and play nationally ranked teams to fill their schedules.

Ohio uses a point system based on wins and losses to determine its playoff contenders so the above teams can’t find any local takers. They end up playing each other and big name schools from across the country. DeLasalle Ca. has verbally committed to play in two big “classics” over the last four years and has backed out of both after finding out their opponent was one of the above teams. So yes Jake, forget Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, or California. Ohio is the place for high school football and southwestern Ohio is the most competitive with the Northern Ohio area a close second! So when Coach Shoop mentioned to the freshmen in 2005 not to be nervous about playing in big Wien Stadium in front of four to five thousand fans, Drew just smiled.

Drew in the 4th grade... you have to start early! (CREDIT: Quinn family)

J: There's been some talk in the media recently about the "wussification of America," with kids being barred from playing all kinds of games from dodge ball to baseball because of safety concerns. Were there ever any worries in your household about Drew playing football and the chances of him getting a serious injury?

EQ: Based on the media reports and what I am hearing from my oldest daughter in Colorado, whose two children both play high school sports and have witnessed the “wussification program” first hand, that trend is currently a factor west of the Mississippi and in the northern East Coast.

Jean and I have the same concerns as all other parents every time our kids walk on the field or into the weight room. I guess we have learned to live with the broken bones and sprains that have come with Drew's 12 years of “reckless abandon” style football, but the concerns grow deeper as the competition gets bigger and tougher. Drew has stinger and concussion problems occasionally, as do most D1 linebackers and the recent hype about concussion problems in the NFL and NCAA brought about by HBO and ESPN don’t help parents sleep any better. You learn to put your faith in God and the school’s coaching and training staff and then you go out and root for your kid to kick the snot out of somebody!

J: You were a Major League Baseball umpire in the late 1960's, what was that experience like and how do you think umpiring has changed since then?

EQ: Let’s not make more out of my umpiring career than it was. I was fortunate that my family had contacts at the National League office, which was located in Cincinnati at the time and I went to umpire school in 1967 with the help of Warren Giles and others in his office.

I moved through the minors quickly, and what I learned about surviving during those years has served me well to this day. While I worked some major league spring training games and a few regular games as a fill-in, my career was cut short when the National League discovered I had hidden my medical problems from them, (two degenerative discs). I still umpire amateur ball and teach umpiring every spring.

Big league umpiring today has mirrored the metamorphosis that has affected all of pro Baseball. TOO MANY TEAMS-NOT ENOUGH TALENT! The biggest issue is finding good ball and strike umpires. Calling the plate is like hitting. Good mechanics and a rhythm are required and more games are decided by inconsistent ball and strike umpiring than by errors in the field.

One of the postcards sent to Drew by former CU coach John DeFilippo... if only he had sent some of those to Randy Moss! (CREDIT: Quinn family)

J: Walk us through Drew's recruitment process. How involved were you and did the prospect of having to pay Ivy League tuition make a lump in your throat?

EQ: One aspect of Drew’s whole recruiting process that, in retrospect, turned out to be a blessing was that we kept him out of the spotlight until the end of his junior year. Once we allowed him and his coach to send out tapes and once he attended the big summer camps all heck broke loose. The phone calls, visits, and letters became a bit overwhelming, especially after Drew was listed 33rd on the linebacker list.

But the fact that we had only six months to visit schools forced Drew to focus on a smaller number of colleges that offered the excellent engineering college experience he was looking for. That number included: Univ. of Cincinnati, Purdue, Navy, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt, Northwestern and several Ivies including Columbia. We were fortunate that the recruiter from Columbia was a guy named John DeFilippo.

My first impression of John came from the two post cards a day he was sending Drew. Even our mail lady, who knew something was going on based on the excess mail we were receiving, commented on the “words to live by” that were on those post cards. When I asked John, on his first visit to our home, why Drew should consider a 1AA school with big tuition rather than a 1A school with a full ride, he didn’t start promoting CU right away but offered us some insight into how to work the process to Drew’s benefit regardless of what school he attended. This concern for Drew’s well being made us Coach Flip fans.

The tuition at the Ivies, it turns out, is not the monster you made it out to be in a few of your past blogs. While the “need based” grant program is as hypocritical as the D1 scholarship programs (a subject for future blogs), it provided Drew the opportunity he is currently enjoying while keeping the out-of-pocket expense for our family at a level close to what it was for his high school tuition.

We waited until Drew had narrowed down his choices to Navy or the best Ivy school before scheduling Ivy visits. We visited Columbia with only two weeks left in the recruiting period. It appeared that Navy was going to be the choice until we encountered two remarkable spokeswomen for CU. An Associate Athletic Director named Jackie Blackett spoke with us in a classroom setting. Her passion for Columbia and NYC in general was mesmerizing and her ability to remember names and involve you in the conversation was equally astounding. She made you believe “this is the place”. After listening to her and a few others we had lunch and spent some time talking with Dr. Diane Murphy the A. D. Seeing her straightforward, no-nonsense approach in dealing with administrators and coaches now makes me understand what I liked about her at that first meeting. These women and the positive impressions made by Dennis Polian, and Coach DeFilippo, in conjunction with the promise of what the future might hold for an Engineering Grad/footballer from Columbia led Drew to commit to Coach Shoop before we left Columbia that weekend. I think Drew received five calls from the Navy recruiter while we were on the Columbia campus. He didn’t want to tell him the bad news so he kept telling him to call him back on Tuesday.

J: What did you know about Columbia before the recruitment process began?

EQ: Only it was an Ivy school of some prominence and offered no athletic scholarships.

J: Drew has won a rare honor by being named a team captain as a junior. I'm sure you're a very proud dad, but was this a surprise to you at all?

EQ: The only discussions between Drew and I concerned his desire to fill the leadership shoes of departing Adam Brekke and whether being captain was even required to fulfill that goal. I know Drew did seek input from his coaches on that subject. Jean and I were very surprised when some parents came up to us at the spring game and said, “congratulations!” We said, “for what?” Our son had forgotten to mention that he had received this honor!!!

Captain Drew rallies his high school team (CREDIT: Quinn family)

J: Drew really made a jump as an impact player as a sophomore, and he played in all 10 games as a freshmen, but do you think Coach Wilson's staff put more faith in Drew than the previous staff did or would have?

EQ: No, unless it was just recruitment hype, Drew was told he was #1 on their linebacker prospect board and he would have been very disappointed had he not made the two deep list his freshman year. Drew and Lou Miller have had the advantage of playing for a defensive genius in high school who runs the same West Virginia defense currently being run by the Lions. I believe the weekly changes in their playbooks were even more extensive in high school than they are now. I’m sure this has helped them both look good in the coaches’ eyes.

J: How many of Drew's games to you typically get to and is coming to New York from Cincinnati difficult?

EQ: My business requires me to work most Saturdays but we do manage to make four or five games per year. Jean and I usually fly to three games and drive to two games and try to see some Philadelphia relatives on at least one of those trips. We can drive out in about nine and one-half hours from Cincinnati.

J: Is there something that you think the University or alumni could do to make the "Columbia parenting process" easier or better?

EQ: The biggest problems encountered so far revolve around class scheduling and notification of out-of-the-ordinary expenses required by athletes. If you read the online explanation of what summer housing will cost, (including the one week needed before and after the summer housing period), and when the bills are due, you won’t ever come close to the actual amount billed. Then you are only given three weeks notice about that amount before late fees are imposed.

The bigger issue is the refusal of the administration to allow “ghost seats” to be set aside in each class so that athletes can have a schedule that suits their training without sticking them with all the tough, grouchy professors or meaningless courses that no one wants. While the overall attitude by both administrators and students toward athletics at CU is still in need of a big change for the program to be listed as successful, let’s give kudos to Coach Wilson, Dr. Murphy, and the administration for finding ways to raise the money needed to make both the evident changes and the not-so-evident changes we have seen in the last two years. Just the addition of team lockers at Dodge and laundry service for their practice clothing means so much to the athletes. Small things like those not only save time in their very hectic schedules but they say to the boys “we care”.

J: What have been the best experiences you've had since Drew came to Columbia and what have been the worst?

EQ: Our best experiences have revolved around the people we have met through Lions Football. Freshman year I contacted most of the freshman and sophomore parents from the Ohio and Indiana area and we coordinated a few get- togethers in NYC. Sharing the successes and failures of your son’s college career with others going through the same process is a great experience. Everyone we have met from parents to coaches make the trip worthwhile.

Our worst experience was our very first regular season trip to Fordham in 2005. I am driving a vehicle equipped with navigation and have a map and a copy of Mapquest directions to Fordham University in the Bronx. It still took numerous stops and over an hour to get from Columbia to Fordham arriving just at game time. Game is delayed two hours due to lightning and then we got lost getting out of the Bronx after telling our son we would meet him back at Wien Stadium. Waited at the field for over an hour for the team bus which never showed because the coaches thought the late finish required them to get the guys right back to campus. Son falls asleep on bus and doesn’t call his parents to let them know! Arrive back at hotel at 2am not happy. So please place detailed Fordham directions on the blog this season!

J: What's a typical day in the Quinn household like now and what was it like when Drew was in high school?

EQ: The car business and the restaurant business require some strange schedules so Jean and I have fluctuating work schedules that don't adhere to the normal Monday through Friday routine. Our biggest lifestyle change involves not being able to go watch our two youngest play sports on a year round basis any more. After watching five children play sports for more than 30 years, we now find ourselves going to Reds, Bengals and St. Xavier sporting events just to placate our desire to go watch our kids play. So we look at the countdown clock on-line every day!!

J: What would you think if Drew decided to stay in New York City after graduation and pursue a career and a life here?

EQ: It looks like that may happen and I think it would be great. During last year's fall semester, Drew heard about the degree in Engineering Management Systems offered by Columbia. This degree includes studies in the engineering, computer, and finance fields and can lead to a career on Wall Street in the field of risk management. Drew is now on that degree path and is spending the summer in New York working as an intern with the William D. Whitter investment firm. He seems to love the work but not the schedule. He runs and lifts with his teammates from 6 until 8am and then works from 9am until as late as 9 pm some days. I can tell you that his reports from the weight room indicate that some of you will be surprised at the team that takes the field on September 15th.

J: Anything you'd like to add?

EQ: Jake, the snowball that is Columbia Athletics is waiting for that one big push that gets it rolling down the hill fed by its own momentum. Football and basketball especially, have supporters just waiting to help in a big way if they see that ball start to roll. So whether or not the Ivy League ever smartens up enough to remove the obstacles that keep some top notch athletes from attending its schools, let's hope that Columbia University continues its quest to be a first class institution in all areas of the "University Experience".

Jake, Jean and I would like to use this venue to thank you and Columbia University administration, staff, coaches and supporters for what they do for families like ours on a daily basis. I dare say that very few of our students could have told you while in high school that they would walk the path they are currently walking or have the advantages they will soon encounter accorded them by a Columbia University degree.



At Thu Jul 26, 03:33:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please explain "ghost seats."

At Thu Jul 26, 03:37:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

I believe that refers to setting aside a certain number of seats in key classes for athletes who have extremely tight schedules and much fewer options than regular students.

At Thu Jul 26, 03:47:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you mr. and Mrs. Quinn for being so supportive of the program. There is a huge latent fan base just beneath the surface which will emerge this Fall as the Lions stun the rest of the Ivies! And thanks Jake for another great piece.

At Thu Jul 26, 05:34:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another good interview, Jake. Great questions and answers. I'm glad Columbia is working out for Drew Quinn after the interest he had from other fine schools, and it was impressive to hear what a great recruiting experience he had.

On another topic: when you noted in an earlier post that the Ivy League had an all-time record against the SEC of 13-12, I said I knew Columbia had defeated Georgia in 1940 and asked for details. I ended up finding the details myself in the NY Times on-line archive.

Columbia played Georgia in a two game series in 1940 and 1941. Both games were played at Baker Field. Columbia won the 1940 game 19-13. There were five lead changes and a great goal line stand by Columbia, plus the exciting final TD run by Phil Bayer on a lateral five yards past the line of scrimmage.

In 1941 Georgia won 7-3. They dominated the game statistically, but Columbia almost stole it. Frank Sinkwich, Georgia's star running back, played with his jaw wired--when there were no facemasks. The Times article for this game has an remarkable photograph of Sinkwich running through the Columbia line wearing a huge padded chin strap that starts at the top of his helmet.

Great footnote: the 1941 Columbia Georgia game featured the two top college football players of 1942. Sinkwich won the Heisman Trophy while Columbia's quaterback, Paul Governali, was first runner-up. Governali however won the Maxwell Award, which at that time was also an award for the top college football player, so they split the two top awards.

The account of the 1940 game by Arthur J. Daley is particularly exciting for anyone who wants to search for it in the NY Times archive. This game would have to make anybody's list of most exciting Columbia football games.


At Thu Jul 26, 08:42:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a quick note to thank you for another great story about a very nice Columbia Football Family. Your articles on Columbia Football set the standard for excellence in sportswriting of this type.

At Thu Jul 26, 09:16:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...


Thanks so much for those details on the Georgia games. Great stuff!

And thanks to everyone for your compliments about this article. It was a pleasure.

At Fri Jul 27, 03:43:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Alex said...

Speaking of the Georgia game - they have a football on display at the athletics offices, near the football office, that has the teams and the score on it.

At Fri Jul 27, 04:23:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe I remember that Georgia game ball now--I think it was around when I was on campus. Now that I have read the account of the game, I know why they kept it.

Speaking of game balls, the Rose Bowl game ball used to be kept in the Columbia College alumni office in the basement of Hamilton (yes, that's where the alumni office was located before it moved to the Interchurch Center) when Al Barabas worked for the Columbia College alumni office. Al retired around 1976. The athletic department claimed the football after that. I presume the Rose Bowl game ball is still on display in the athletic department.

By the way, Georgia, a historically strong program, was a team on the way up in 1940 and 1941 under new coach Wally Butts.

In 1940, when Columbia defeated Georgia 19-13, Georgia went 5-4-1.

In 1941, when Columbia lost to them 7-3, Georgia finished 9-1-1 and defeated TCU in the Orange Bowl.

In 1942, Georgia was 12-1 and defeated UCLA in the Rose Bowl (the year Frank Sinkwich won the Heisman and Governali was first runner-up and won the Maxwell).

In 1946 they finally went undefeated and won the Sugar Bowl.


At Fri Feb 26, 02:09:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous college sports recruiting services said...

Based on the media reports and what I am hearing from my oldest daughter in Colorado, whose two children both play high school sports and have witnessed the “wussification program” first hand, that trend is currently a factor west of the Mississippi and in the northern East Coast.


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