Tom Amstutz either played or coached football at the University of Toledo for 32 years, including eight seasons (2001-2008) as head coach. He led the Rockets to a58-41 record that included two Mid-American Conference championships, four MAC divisional titles, and four appearances in bowl games. Amstutz, who left his hometown just once for a three-year stint (1987-89) as an assistant coach at Navy, is in his first season as the color commentator on UT's radio broadcasts.
Are you enjoying the radio work?
“It's a lot of fun working with [play-by-play man] Mark Beier and [sideline reporter] Jim Heller, who are both very professional and are making this easy for me. They're good guys to hang with on the weekends and it has gone pretty smoothly so far.”
Did you have any concerns, such as whether your successor, Tim Beckman, would be comfortable with you as the color man?
“I did. When I was approached about doing color commentary on the radio the first thing I did was talk to Tim. I wanted to make sure he understood I would be a positive voice. He was very enthusiastic and welcomed me and gave me access to his program.”
Is there still a special excitement on Saturdays in the fall?
“There sure is. The last few weeks, I wake up on game days and walk through the hotel and the players come up and say, ‘Hi coach.' It gives me a little taste of the old days. I love going to the stadium with a job to do.”
Do you miss coaching? Do you regret giving it up after so many seasons?
“I miss the relationships with the players and coaching staff. I had such a great experience as a coach. But 30-plus years were probably enough and I enjoy what I'm doing now.”
Are you still involved with the UT alumni office?
“Yes, I'm heading up some fishing and hunting trips with members of the alumni association. I'll be working with them until the end of December, at which time I'll be able to take my state of Ohio retirement. Then I'll be a free agent and I'll figure out what I'm going to do with the next phase of my life.”
Could coaching football be a part of that next phase?
“It's possible. I have a lot of friends and connections in the business and I have been asked about it more than a few times. This is still an adjustment period for me and I decided I would not commit to anything until after December.”
You've always been proud of your daughters, even though you joke that one came over to the dark side as a media member. And the younger one is a coach now?
“They're both doing well. Lauren is a news reporter at a station in Traverse City, Mich., and that's a great place for me to visit because of the hunting and fishing up there. Brooke finished her college basketball career at Indiana Wesleyan and now she's married and is the head varsity girls' basketball coach at a high school in Clearwater, Fla. This will be her second season. I give her mild critiques and lots of encouragement.”
You've mentioned fishing and hunting a couple times. How is that beautiful yellow lab Marley doing?
“You mean the cowardly hunting dog? She's from great stock and the first time I took her out I was so proud. She was out with the other dogs and running patterns and looking so well trained. Then they kicked up a pheasant and shots rang out and she looked at me like, ‘What the heck was that?' She sprinted back to the car and hid. I think she tried to hitchhike home. But she's doing a little better now.”
As you look back on your UT coaching days, is there a favorite memory?
“I guess I would call it a group of favorite moments. The 2001 MAC championship game, when we beat Marshall at home, was an outstanding moment for the program and the university. There was the 2004 championship game at Ford Field. And there was the 2005 GMAC Bowl in Alabama where we had such a solid victory over Texas-El Paso.”
Um, did you miss one, like the 13-10 win at Michigan in 2008?
“Oh, yeah. How could I forget Michigan? It was about as quiet as 107,000 people can be. And there was just pure joy on the faces of our players. That's what made it such a tremendous moment for me. I was so happy for them.”
— Dave Hackenberg