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Treadwell comes back home, joins 'Cradle of Coaches'

Don Treadwell boasted a different hairstyle when he played Miami football  from 1978 to 1981.
Don Treadwell boasted a different hairstyle when he played Miami football from 1978 to 1981.

Kevin McCune, For The Miami Student

Don Treadwell boasted a different hairstyle when he played Miami football from 1978 to 1981. (Retrieved from


Imagine being named a starting wide receiver in just the third game of your freshman year. It's a road contest at Chapel Hill, N.C., against the mighty University of North Carolina Tar Heels. Your team is a heavy underdog and not given much of a chance to win by the media.

You step onto the field in front of over 60,000 screaming fans in Carolina Blue; you have never played in front of any more than 2,000 in your entire life. To everyone's surprise your team's defense battles all day long and in the fourth quarter you're only trailing 3-0. You were a starting quarterback in high school, your coach knows this and decides to utilize your abilities throwing the football. The ball snaps, taking the reverse from the quarterback you heave the winning touchdown pass to the end zone. Miami University upsets North Carolina on the road 7-3 … this is the legend of Don Treadwell.

A Miami Man through and through, that's how one could describe the new Miami University RedHawks head football coach. A wide receiver for the then Miami Redskins from 1978-81, Treadwell at one time dominated on the field for Miami.

For Treadwell, that third game of his freshman season was one of his best memories of his playing days here in Oxford, the other being beating arch-rival Cincinnati in the last game of his senior season in the Battle for the Victory Bell. Humble in nature, Treadwell gives all the credit to his defensive teammates for that upset win in Carolina, saying if they hadn't played such great defense, he never would have had the opportunity to make that pass.

According to, Treadwell was a four-year starter in Oxford averaging a school record 21.1 yards per catch during his playing days. He was a first-team All-Mid-American-Conference selection as a junior and was named team captain his senior season.

Treadwell remembers his playing days fondly. With a grin on his face and nostalgic look in his eyes, Treadwell described the long jog he made from the Withrow Hall locker rooms down to the practice field where Yager Stadium now stands. Back then, Treadwell explained, there was nothing down there but cow pastures and grass. It was a chance to get away from campus and all the student traffic that constantly surrounded the Cook Field practices. The players would essentially jog down Talawanda and continue jogging down to the lined fields for practice. Can you imagine having to run back up those hills after a football practice?

Treadwell said even though he's the new football coach here in Oxford, he sometimes still expects to see the old Miami Field on the right when he drives in from State Route 73. Instead, newer buildings have taken its place like the Farmer School of Business and Pearson Hall.

After Miami, it was on to a brief stint in the NFL for Treadwell, but after being cut by the Cleveland Browns he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at North Carolina State University under his former Miami coach, Tom Reed. Reed is the man Treadwell credits for being the reason he is a coach today.

Miami's newest addition to the Cradle of Coaches, Treadwell has a personal cradle of coaching mentors of his own. His position coach at Miami was a young Jim Tressel. Treadwell grew very close to his wide receivers coach while at Miami, and said Tressel was the first person that modeled what a player-coach relationship really can evolve into, especially from a philosophical standpoint. Treadwell would go on to be an offensive assistant under Tressel at Youngstown State University (YSU) from 1986-91. In 1991, Treadwell served as Tressel's offensive coordinator at YSU as the two worked together to capture the NCAA 1-AA National Championship.

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After his time at YSU, Treadwell had his first homecoming, returning to Miami as the running backs coach for Randy Walker in 1992. It was during his time under Walker that Treadwell really started to think about one day being the headman at Miami.

"Randy was the first one who really opened my eyes to sitting in the seat I'm sitting in today. He really showed me the privilege and responsibility of coaching at Miami," Treadwell said.

Another big-name coach Treadwell worked under was Tyrone Willingham. Treadwell said that Willingham impacted him in a big way and the two have maintained a close relationship to this day.

Perhaps the coach Treadwell is closest with is his friend Mark Dantonio, the head coach at Michigan State University. Treadwell met Dantonio when the two were young assistants under Tressel at Youngstown State. Dantonio was the defensive backs coach and Treadwell was the wide receivers coach. How close are they? Treadwell's oldest son is Dantonio's godson.

Treadwell feels he has much indebted to Dantonio. He was Dantonio's offensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati from 2005-06 and then followed him to Michigan State where he served as offensive coordinator from 2007-10. This past season when Dantonio had to miss games because of heart problems, Treadwell was asked to step in and be the headman. The Spartans won both games including an upset victory over an undefeated University of Wisconsin team. With that victory over Wisconsin, Treadwell was named the National Coordinator of the Week.

Treadwell wants it known he credits those victories to Dantonio.

"When I stepped in for him and we went forward and won those games, that was a direct reflection of his leadership," Treadwell said.

That long coaching road has brought Treadwell back to State Route 73 and back to his alma mater, Miami University. Treadwell still remembers running the hills to and from practice and all the great experiences he had here at Miami, which are something he wants his players to experience now.

"Because of my tremendous experience I believe every man that wears a red and white helmet should have an experience that captures his heart," Treadwell said.

He believes in Miami, not only as a football team, but as a community.

"Miami is special for so many reasons, but mostly because of the people here," he said.

For Treadwell, one of those people is Dr. Susan Lipnickey. Lipnickey was Treadwell's academic advisor back in the early 1980s and is still a Kinesiology and Health professor at Miami. Treadwell commented on how Lipnickey was so influential and helpful towards him, impacting and touching his life, and now 30 years later as he returns to Miami, Lipnickey is still here helping and touching the lives of students to an even greater capacity.

Treadwell is proud to be here and carry on the great tradition and legacy of Miami coaches.

"Miami is the jewel of the Mid-American Conference because we provide what our competitors wish they could – academic excellence with athletic accomplishment," he said.