Long-time coach Tepper finds second calling at Buffalo

Jerry DiPaola
| Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

For the first time in his adult life, Lou Tepper was out of a job. And he didn't like his odds of finding one.

“Most of the people on my résumé are dead or retired,” said Tepper, a football coach since he was a graduate assistant at Pitt in 1967. “When you send out a résumé and it says you are 66 years old, there just aren't a lot of takers.”

He did have offers from small colleges — one as a head coach, another as an offensive coordinator — but he rejected both.

“It would have been too far from my grandchildren,” he said. “It's a bad combination, being 66 and picky.”

Finally, while attending a coaches' convention last year, he met Bill Inge, who was leaving the University at Buffalo to become an assistant with the NFL's Bills. They sat down and did what they do best — talk football.

Tepper had tried and failed to recruit Inge to the University of Illinois, where he had coached for nine years, six as head coach. Inge, however, successfully recruited Tepper to replace him at Buffalo.

“Sit there, I'm going to make a phone call,” Inge told Tepper.

Inge got Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn on the phone, and it wasn't long before Tepper was the Bulls' defensive coordinator, a job that will match him Saturday against Pitt — his first employer — at Buffalo's UB Stadium.

Quinn didn't ask Tepper's age until after the deal was done.

“But I told him, ‘I'll play you a game of racquetball and spot you 10 points,' ” Tepper said.

“He still goes as hard as anybody in this business,” Quinn said. “He's up early in the morning.”

Tepper, a graduate of Derry Area High School, left Pitt after one season. His life's journey sent him to New Hampshire (where his annual salary to coach freshmen was $5,900), William & Mary, Virginia Tech, Colorado, Illinois, LSU, Edinboro and Indiana (Pa.). IUP decided in 2010 not to renew his contract.

He was head coach at Edinboro, IUP and Illinois, where he coached linebackers Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice, the second and third choices in the 1996 NFL draft. Tepper also coached Butkus Award winners Dana Howard, Hardy and Colorado's Alfred Williams.

Along the way, he authored the book, “Complete Linebacking,” in 1997.

“It's still selling,” he said. “But you don't get into it for the money.”

He especially liked his days at Edinboro from 2000-2005, rebuilding a program that was plagued by academic and behavioral issues before he arrived.

“It was a real family unit,” he said. “I could have stayed there the rest of my career. Maybe I should have.”

Tepper remembers his days under coach Dave Hart at Pitt, where the team practiced at Trees Field with 60-watt light bulbs hanging from wires to light the night.

“I don't even know if it was 100 yards long,” he said.

Tepper said practice was filmed with a 16mm camera once or twice a week.

“Now, everything from the stretch is on film from three or four cameras,” he said.

Tepper is struggling at Buffalo, which has lost five of its first six games. But he still loves coaching.

“Thank God, I still have my health and my passion,” he said.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can reached at jdipaola@tribweb.com or 412-320-7997.

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