Archdeacon: A virtual celebration of Dayton football

For once there will be no three-putt greens, no duck hooks out of bounds and no golf balls going “kerplunk” into a pond or creek.

When the Tony Ernst Memorial Golf Outing – the annual fundraiser for the Dayton Flyers successful football coaching internship program – was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Flyers came up with a unique alternative that will take place Wednesday evening.

Thanks to a suggestion from former UD center Tony Yenicheck, the fundraiser is moving from the golf links to a computer link.

“We’re having what we’re calling A Virtual Town Hall,” said UD coach Rick Chamberlin. “Adam Trautman is going to be the main speaker. Larry Hansgen will be the moderator. And we’re going to feature our 1980 national championship team, too. It’s the 40th anniversary of their title.

“And then we’ll have a Football Happy Hour that will include Mike Kelly, myself, probably Dave Whilding and some other folks who have been with the program a long time.

“It’s a chance for everyone to join in and talk to Adam a little bit. Our alums are excited for him. When the (New Orleans) Saints took him in the third round he became the first Flyer drafted into the NFL in 43 years.

“We all be able to talk to each other too, it should be a great night. I see it as kind of a celebration of Dayton football.”

Anyone who wants to take part can buy a link to the proceedings and all the money raised goes into funding the coaching internship program, which currently has at least 16 former participants serving as coaches and administrators, most in the college ranks and two in pro football.

The most notable alum is Josh Boyer, the new defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins, who spent a decade as a positon coach with the New England Patriots.

Boyer even did a video to help UD promote Wednesday’s affair. He’s appreciative of the program that helped launch his career and he knows every coaching intern at UD owes a tip of the cap to the late Ernst, the former Flyers quarterback, whose sudden death 21 years ago stunned everyone.

Mr. Everything

“I remember the first time I talked to Tony,” Chamberlin said. “I went over to Bellbrook High School and they told me Tony and I could sit in the locker room and talk.

“I liked him the moment I met him. He had charisma, but he was even-keeled and down to earth. There was no ego about him.”

And there could have been.

Ernst was Mr. Everything when it came to sports at Bellbrook in the late 1980s and early ‘90s and today he’s in the school’s hall of fame.

He was the starting quarterback all four years of high school. As a senior he became the Miami Valley’s all-time leader in passing yards. Although that record has since been eclipsed, another designation stands out.

He was a four-year starter on the basketball team, as well, and remains one of just seven 1,000 point scorers in Bellbrook High history.

He drew interest from several colleges – especially the US Naval Academy, which he visited – but chose UD, which was still an NCAA Division III program then.

“The Ernst family was very tight knit,” Chamberlin remembered. “Tony and his dad, Jim, were very close. It was the same with is mom, Diane, and his two sisters. And I think part of it was that he wanted to stay close to home so his family could be part of his college experience.”

Ernst lettered at UD from 1992-94 and in a game against Alabama Birmingham his senior year he completed 15 straight passes, a UD record.

After graduating in 1995, he became successful in business, marred his sweetheart Angie and in September of 1999 she was about to give birth to a daughter.

“I remember he came to our game that day – he had stayed active in our program – and then that evening he went to dinner with his wife and collapsed,” Chamberlin said.

Just 26, Tony Ernst died from an undiagnosed heart condition.

The following year Chamberlin said Tony’s dad approached Kelly, who was then the Flyers head coach, with an idea. His family wanted to put on a golf tournament that would support Flyers’ football.

Kelly was hoping to build an internship program then and the connection was made.

Jim died in 2014 and the Ernst golf outing now is run more by the football program. But Tony’s presence still permeates the proceedings. This would have been the 20th year for the event. In that time over $300,000 has been raised for UD interns.

As for Tony’s daughter Lexi, who was born just after her dad passed away, she’s now a student at Bowling Green.

“One of the neatest things is that every year at the outing we have a 50-50 drawing,” Chamberlin said. “And every year the winner’s name is drawn by Lexi. Every year she represents her dad.”

‘We’ve had great success’

“Guys love being an intern at UD,” Chamberlin said. “When one of the positions comes open, I have at least 250 applicants for it.

“Every year we have two young men who are just starting in the coaching profession. They usually played somewhere and they may have been a GA (grad assistant) at a smaller school before they came to us and now they want to advance their careers.

“They may be with us two or three years and they learn and grow. They coach, recruit certain areas and are given all the other experiences so they can move on to a full-time positon at a bigger school or some other position of responsibility.

“We’ve had great success with the guys who’ve come through.”

Besides Boyer, James Stanley has coached professionally for several years in the Canadian Football League and now is with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Landon Fox is the head coach at Valparaiso now and Patrick Henry is Averett University’s head coach. Brian Tracy is the associate athletics director at Appalachian State.

When they’re at UD the interns are given a modest salary and the Ernst golf outing is the primary fundraiser for that.

“Every year we make $20,00 to $22,000 or so,” Chamberlin said,

To get involved in Wednesday night’s town hall – which begins at 7 p.m, – contact UD football director of operations Adam Szilagyi at or by phone at 614-205-5909. The deadline is Tuesday evening.

“Everyone will have the opportunity to talk to Adam (Trautman) about his career and what he expects once he reports to the Saints (July 28),” Chamberlin said. “It’s really a chance for all of us to check up on each other, remember Tony and support the program, too. I think it’s going to be fun.”

And for once there’ll be no worries about bad lies, double bogeys or a sudden case of the yips.

About the Author