Dave Hart Jr. oversees one of the most high-profile athletic programs in college football – the University of Alabama.
In his second year at his current post as executive director of athletics at Alabama, Hart has shared in the Crimson Tide football team’s BCS national championship last season.
Prior to joining the Tide, Hart led Florida State, another one of the top programs in the country, and East Carolina.
He’s had major roles in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The foundation to such a successful administrative career was set in Johnstown, where Hart didn’t have to look very far for an ideal role model.
His father, the late Dave Hart Sr., was one of the most revered coaches in Greater Johnstown High School football history. Hart Sr. coached the Trojans eight seasons, with his 1958 team winning the WPIAL Class AA crown in the midst of a 27-game undefeated streak that stretched over several seasons.
“I have a lot of very fond memories of growing up in Johnstown,” said Hart Jr., who will return to Trojan Stadium on July 12 to accept the John P. Murtha Friend in Education Award on behalf of his father.
“I remember a great Little League program in Geistown. Back then my brother and I were 18 months apart and we were on different teams. St. Benedict’s is where we went to school.
“My father would take me to practices and games. I was around the locker rooms. We were at the baseball field on Saturday morning. I have a lot of great memories of growing up in Johnstown. It really shaped what turned out to be a really great childhood.”
The Hart family made the area home during Hart Sr.’s eight-year stay at Johnstown High. The coach was a fixture at the school, on the football field and in the community.
From 1954 through 1961 Hart’s Trojans went 63-12-3.
The 1958 team went 11-0 and the 1959 squad was 10-0. Johnstown had 25 straight wins and went 27 games without a loss at one stretch.
More importantly, Hart Sr. was an educator who molded young lives as a teacher at Johnstown. Those were the credentials that made Dave Hart Sr. a worthy recipient of the Murtha Award, which has been presented since 2001 to individuals who are dedicated to the education of young people.
“Whether you sat in his classroom or played for him, his memory and the influence will always be with you, and it’s still alive today,” said former Trojans player Woody Barnette, who was on the 1958 championship team. “He was a great encourager of young people.”
Coach Hart will be honored posthumously during a community event at Trojan Stadium at 5 p.m. on July 12. Proceeds from the $10 tickets will benefit the Trojan College Access Center, which provides scholarships to Johnstown High students. A cookout will be held as well as other activities and entertainment.
Hart Jr. said plans for such a warm reception don’t surprise him. He learned long ago of Johnstown’s friendly people and blue-collar work ethic.
The Trojans football players made Hart Jr. feel much better when they surprised him during a hospital stay.
“I had two surgeries when I was young, and I remember Bob Bambino, George Azar and a bunch of players visited me with comic books and bubble gum,” Hart said. “That made a lasting impression. At that age we were just in awe of those players. They had such great teams. They set the standard.”
The younger Hart was among 11,000 fans at Pitt Stadium the day Johnstown stunned Clairton 3-0 via George Azar’s field goal in the 1958 WPIAL championship.
“I was at that game,” Hart said. “I remember Jerry Davitch making a big play in that game, chasing down a kid who was on his way to the end zone. Azar kicked a field goal. My brother and I were only 7 or 8, maybe 8 or 9 years old, yet I still have a mental image of being at that game.”
The Hart family moved away from Johnstown when Dave Sr. accepted a position as a backfield coach at the University of Kentucky in 1962. Later, he spent three seasons as head coach at the University of Pittsburgh. Eventually he was an athletic director at the University of Louisville and University of Missouri before becoming commissioner of the Southern Conference. Dave Hart Sr. was inducted into the Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.
Dave Hart Jr. said he immediately cleared a spot on his busy schedule when he learned Johnstown High was going to honor his father. The fact that the affair also will raise scholarship money for Johnstown students will make the long trek even more special.
“It’s simply outstanding,” Hart Jr. said.
“Anytime you can recognize someone with a scholarship, it’s the ultimate honor.”
If you go
What: John P. Murtha Friend in Education Award.
Recipient: Dave Hart Sr. (posthumously), former Johns-
town High football coach.
When: 5 p.m. July 12.
Where: Trojan Stadium.
Featured speaker: Dave Hart Jr., executive director of athletics at the University of Alabama, will accept the award on behalf of his late father.
Tickets: $10 to benefit the Trojan College Access Center, which provides scholarships to Johnstown High School students.