Alumni Game a chance to recognize 1980, ’91 Dayton football teams after spotlight moment on MNF soured by Gruden fallout

Gruden during his playing days as a backup quarterback at UD (left), and present-day as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. Left photo courtesy of CBS Sports via ESPN MNF twitter, right photo courtesy of Ethan Miller, Getty Images.

Peter Burtnett | Sports Editor

On Monday Night Football Oct. 4, the Los Angeles Chargers defeated the Las Vegas Raiders 28-14, but the bigger story in Dayton was the match-up of two head coaches who once played quarterback at the University of Dayton.

Now former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden graduated from the University of Dayton in 1986 after spending three years playing as a backup quarterback for the football team. Meanwhile, Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley graduated from UD in 2005 after playing quarterback for the Flyers in 2003-04.

However, since the game Oct. 4, Gruden faced backlash in the past week first for insensitive and racist remarks made towards NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith in 2011, and was then fired Monday after more scathing information was published by The New York Times about further emails from Gruden that contained misogynistic and homophobic language, denouncement of women referees, the drafting of a gay player and the tolerance of protests during the national anthem

Flyer News is currently working to get an interview with Gruden and Staley, but Gruden has released a statement, published by ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter on Twitter.

The Las Vegas Raiders twitter has posted the same statement, along with a boilerplate message from team owner Mark Davis. Outside of the statement by Gruden, the NFL has only tweeted a graphic about Gruden resigning, while NFLPA has remained silent on the matter.

Before the information about Gruden was released, Flyers head coach Rick Chamberlin recognized Gruden and Staley for the type of men they were while at Dayton.

“You’re so proud of them, because you know how they were here,” Chamberlin said Oct. 6. “They were the type of young men that we have in our program called quality individuals that are very good football players. And when you see young men succeed in life, reach their goal, which Jon and Brandon have, I’m sure they want to go even higher, as far as success… The way I liken it is as a proud parent, you love to see your children succeed, and to see those two on Monday Night Football, national spotlight, and seeing the University of Dayton being mentioned throughout the telecast, that was fun.”

Chamberlin told Flyer News Tuesday that from his personal experience, Gruden and Staley were “quality young men when they were here.”

“I’ve had more interaction with Jon than Brandon since they left here, and I haven’t seen anything out of Jon that would cause concern from my point of view.”

However, Chamberlin said the comments made by Gruden were “not appropriate at all.”

“Jon said that (his comments) were wrong, and I would agree with him. What the comments were was not appropriate at all. It’s something that I know the university and our football program would not accept at all.”

Chamberlin added that as an event, Monday Night Football on Oct. 4 was “really special” and that the words of Gruden do not take away from the night when Dayton football was celebrated.

Freshman wide receiver Joey Swanson, who currently leads the Flyers in receiving yards (258) through five games, said it was “really cool” as a player to see Dayton football represented. 

“It was nice to see them on Monday night because I’ve always been an NFL fan growing up,” Swanson said. “(Watching) Monday Night Football and you see Dayton football, where you’re going to school, seeing them on TV, seeing the two guys head coaching against each other, it’s pretty cool to see.” 

Graduate linebacker Ben Schmiesing, who transferred to Dayton from Ohio State, added that it was “awesome.” 

“For me as a player, for this team, for the whole university, it’s great just to see Dayton at that next level, especially when it comes to primetime in the NFL, there’s no bigger level than that in football.”

UD Athletic Director Neil Sullivan, who attended the game in Los Angeles with fellow Flyers, told Dayton Daily News that it was a “great night for Dayton football.”

The recent comments from Gruden have cast a new and difficult light on the continuing theme of Flyer football alumni with this Saturday’s (Oct. 16, noon kickoff) Alumni Game at Welcome Stadium against Marist. During the game, the Flyers will recognize the 1980 national champions and the 1991 national runners-up. 

“We got a game to play this week against a very good opponent in Marist, and it adds a little bonus because of our alumni being here, and two outstanding teams,” Chamberlin said. “The national champion was 14-0 and the runner up was 13-1. So you get two teams that won 27 games altogether. So that’s what’ll be, I feel, is the focus this week. First of all is to beat Marist, and then also to have a good time with the alumni when they come back to see the 2021 Flyers in action.”

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