Hope football alumni have honored their coach Al Vanderbush with a plaque at the American Football Coaches Hall of Fame in Waco, Texas.
Coach Vanderbush is a 1929 Hope alumnus who taught history and political science while coaching the football team from 1946-54. He also served as director of athletics from 1954-60. He retired from the faculty in 1972. At age 97, coach Vanderbush resides in Ramsey, Minn.
The plaque reads: "Coach Al Vanderbush refused to let us settle for less than our best. He taught us to play with intensity but never without respect for the rules, for our opponents and for ourselves. In his daily life, he modeled the man of Christian character, discipline, intellect and integrity. As effectively then as it continues in our hearts to this day. We honor him for what he did for us. Football players of Hope College, 1946-54."
In nine seasons coach Vanderbush guided the Flying Dutchmen to two Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) championships (1951 and 1953). The 1953 title was Hope's first outright championship. His teams posted an overall 46-28-2 record and were 30-15-2 against MIAA opponents. He also coached track and field at Hope.
Vanderbush was a Hope football lineman as an undergraduate during the late 1920s, achieving All-MIAA honors and serving as captain his senior season. Vanderbush was a successful high school coach (Grandville and Grand Rapids South). Serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he took over a Hope football program that had been suspended for three seasons because of the war.
The 1953 championship was Hope's first outright title since joining the MIAA in 1926. It was accomplished with a team that had just 39 players on the roster. An injury at quarterback early-on put a freshman at the position who was left to execute a new offense known as the "Belly" series which had been a feature of the Georgia Tech football team. The series afford unusual deception as the quarterback would place the ball in the fullback's belly, "ride" with him, then either give him the ball or retain it to a halfback swinging wide. The Dutchmen posted a 7-2 overall and 5-1 MIAA`record.
Professor and coach emeritus Gordon Brewer, in his book, "...But How You Played the Game," noted that " players soon found him (Vanderbush) to be knowledgeable, sensitive, firm and fair. These hallmarks of good coaching produced high morale and a cooperative spirit."
Faced with growing teaching and administrative responsibilities, Vanderbush hand-picked his successor, Russ DeVette, who would go one to his own distinguished coaching career.
"Coaches of course, come and go in the ever changing world of sports, but Vanderbush left a mark that would not soon be erased. Team candidates learned quickly that their best effort was demanded at all times. He had little patience with those who feigned injuries or "coasted" in practice. At the same time he had a warm spot for the industrious "underdog" who might be plagued with limited ability. Those who played knew they had earned the right and it became an unusual badge of honor. Vandebush was capable of harsh words in moments of high emotion, but equally capable of remorse if the words were unjust. This quality of contrition endeared him to players and increased his stature among them. Always knowledgeable in his sport, he sought out the best clinics and stayed abreast of the latest trends. A hallmark of successful coaching is the ability to bring a team back from a discouraging loss, and Vanderbush was especially adept in this area. Behind a sterm exterior he was known as a deeply caring person whose concern extended well beyond the playing field."