Former Eastern football coach Spoo dead at 80

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Picuted here in 2011 is former Eastern head football coach Bob Spoo who died today at the age of 80. Spoo was coach from 1986 to 2011 and finished his career with Eastern’s all-time mark of 144 wins.

JJ Bullock and Dillan Schorfheide, Sports Editors

Former Eastern head football coach Bob Spoo died Monday at the age of 80 in Rockford, Il. 

Spoo coached at Eastern from 1986 to 2011 and is Eastern’s all-time leader with 144 wins as a head coach, and he was inducted into Eastern’s hall of fame in 2015. 

Those who knew Spoo remember him fondly not just as a football coach, but also as the type of person he was off of the field. 

Tim Carver, a middle linebacker under Spoo between 1992 and 1995, also Eastern’s all-time tackler said Spoo was a man of “great morals” on and off the field. 

“He was loyal to his coaches and his players, he held everyone to a really high standard and held himself to a really high standard as well in all that he did,” Carver said. “He expected great things from people both on and off of the field. When I went to Eastern there just wasn’t a question that you had to have success in the classroom as well as on the field and you did it the right way.”

Carver said that many of Spoo’s values included being early, working hard and lifting up teammates.

“He was just a tremendously hard worker and a real caring individual,” Carver said. 

Carver had no other Division I football offers before Spoo gave him a chance to play. Carver said that without Spoo, he would not have had the opportunity to play at the scholarship level. Carver was undersized for a linebacker, but it was Spoo that maintained confidence in him, guiding him to become Eastern’s all-time leader in tackles. 

Carver is just one of many people to come through Eastern’s football program under Spoo and go on to do great things. People like Tony Romo, Jimmy Garoppolo, Dino Babers, Ryan Pace and Chris Wilkerson all were helped in their careers by Spoo.

“All of us have stories like that I think, where its like ‘man I would not literally be where I am at had he not seen something and taken a chance and ran the great program that he ran,” Carver said. 

Charleston native Austin Heise first met Spoo when he was nine-years-old through his mother’s job as the football secretary. Heise said Spoo always took the time, no matter how busy he was with the team, or despite if his team won or lost, to check in with others. 

“He literally took time out of his day no matter what,” Heise said. He made sure to talk to you.  He wanted to make sure everything in your life was fine.”

The impact Spoo made on the Eastern community is one that will be felt for a very long time, specifically in the football program. During Spoo’s time at Eastern, specifically time spent with Tony Romo at quarterback, Heise described as being the “high point” of Eastern football. He says those days with Spoo and Romo are what really put Eastern football on the map. 

“(Spoo) put everything into the heart and soul of the school,” Heise said. “I think throughout the community he touched someone no matter what. I know there is a way he inspired someone in some way.”

Spoo’s longevity and success as a head coach at Eastern was also something that brought comfort to those in the community. 

“Twenty-five years here is pretty impressive,” Heise said. “It was pretty impressive no matter what season it was, just knowing he was staying on campus.”

Eastern athletic director Tom Michael said that although Spoo had stopped coaching by the time he got to Eastern, he met Spoo a couple times and said Spoo was a man of great integrity and that he was well respected.

“I was on a regional call with some (athletic directors Monday), when we talk about FCS football schools in our region, and guys on the call had heard that coach Spoo had passed away and offered their condolences,” Michael said. “There’s an impact when guys from schools, not in Charleston or not at Eastern, are aware of who coach Spoo was, and that’s because he did it the right way.”

Michael said the thing for him and his staff, now, is that they honor Spoo in an appropriate way.

Certainly, Michael said, there will be a moment of silence, and he added that the athletic department may put something on Spoo’s banner on O’Brien Field. He added that another possibility could be to put stickers on the football team’s helmets to remember Spoo.

JJ Bullock and Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]