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Gaddis’ success measured off field

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Betty Gaddis’ son, Bob, returned from junior high one day to explain that the school had issued a test aimed at determining his future profession.

“He tested out to be a dentist,” said Betty Gaddis, who owned a flower shop in Muncie at the time. “He told me, ‘I don’t want to look into somebody’s mouth.”

The dentist thing never got off the ground, but Betty wasn’t worried that her son was going to have a hard time finding his calling.

“I knew he was going to be something,” Betty Gaddis said. “He had one teacher who told me he was brilliant. I told her, ‘Well, he’s my son.’”

Thirty-six years after Bob Gaddis started his career as a high school football coach, his success was not being measured in wins and losses, but with friendship and respect.

On Saturday night at the Harrison Lake Country Club, a sign in front of the clubhouse said it all: “Bob Gaddis event ... sold out. No more available seating.”

The event was Gaddis’ official induction into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame. His wife, Karen, planned the festivities and she never had to worry about throwing a party to which no one showed up.

This was standing room only. Friends, family, former coaches and players all set aside a Saturday night in July to honor someone near and dear to them.

In the dining and lounge areas, three tables held memorabilia from Gaddis’ 36 seasons. One senior couple was glancing through “Gaddis ... the early days” and laughing. “Two of our sons played for him,” they said, and off they went to another table that held the 2013 state championship quilt.

Plaques, game balls and photos were on display to commemorate Gaddis’ accomplishments, including a plaque for coaching 30 years and another for working the U.S. Army All-American Bowl game. Awards for 100 wins at Columbus East, 200 wins overall and 250 wins overall were on display.

Gaddis’ 2013 Dave Land Coach of the Year award was being admired as was his state championship watch from the Indiana Football Coaches Association.

It all made for great fun, but I’m sure also made Gaddis a little uneasy.

You see, for 36 years and all his accomplishments, there really wasn’t all that much on display in terms of hardware. Gaddis is not a collector of bling. It doesn’t really suit him anyway.

He probably would rather have lined up all the students he has influenced, but Indianapolis Motor Speedway wasn’t available on Saturday night.

It’s the way of the world, though, that people who achieve great things but don’t want recognition usually get it.

After East won the 4A state title last season, Gaddis must have felt like the guy who carries around the Stanley Cup until its time to turn it over to the next champion. The laid-back guy in the background was in the spotlight.

It’s a burden that Gaddis hasn’t had to carry often. His tremendous teams in the past often were eliminated by other teams that won state championships. It was the kind of fate that might wreck some coaches, but Gaddis was able to concentrate on celebrating his team’s ability to live up to expectations, first, second or third be darned.

It never bothered Gaddis, but it did irk his dad.

“My husband (Max Gaddis) passed away four years ago,” Betty Gaddis said. “He wanted (a state championship) so much for him.”

Tiny, white-haired Betty Gaddis sat in the stands at Lucas Oil Stadium on Nov. 30 and watched her non-dentist son reach the promised land with a 28-27 victory again Bishop Dwenger. Yes, her son had, indeed, become something.

What was she thinking?

“I was hoping ... hoping ... hoping that this was it,” she said.

It was, for people other than Bob Gaddis, who never wanted to measure his coaching career with state titles.

Gaddis knows that tomorrow he is the same old coach who started in 1978, only now with a 0-0 record for the 2014 season just like all the other coaches. He will have a different cast of students who will offer a different set of challenges.

He knows when all the celebration ended on Saturday night, that he had to follow his own advice, advice he has given his players thousands of times.

“Do what champions do.”

The journey continues.

Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at or 379-5632.

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