Three-sport standout Robinson to be inducted into Quaker Valley Hall of Fame
While he found success in three sports, Ernie Robinson used what he learned in football and track to succeed in his top sport — basketball.
“Football made you tough, and I was a sprinter in track,” Robinson said. “It was a combination of speed and strength. I was lucky enough to be blessed with those abilities.”
Robinson's success in the three sports will be recognized when he is inducted into the Quaker Valley Sports Hall of Fame in September.
Robinson was entering his junior year when Leetsdale and Sewickley high schools combined to form Quaker Valley. While the transition was hard for some of the students, Robinson had attended both school districts growing up for various reasons.
“It wasn't too difficult for me,” Robinson said. “For others, it was pretty hard. The Sewickley students were mad because rather than walk to school, they had to get up early and get on the bus.”
The district was brought together thanks to the success of the 1956 football team — which will also be inducted in the 2013 Hall of Fame Class. Once the animosity ended between former rivals teams, the Quakers went on to finish the season 7-0.
“Once we understood what the coaches wanted, we were successful,” Robinson said. “We had to understand the idea of playing together. We started to do that around the fifth game. We started scoring 30 points a game and not letting the other team score.”
The Quakers carried the success of the 1956 season into the next year. The Quakers finished with a 6-1 mark. The squad missed an undefeated season due to a 7-6 loss to Beaver when Mike Casp scored in the final second for the Bobcats.
Robinson threw the pass for Quaker Valley's lone touchdown in the setback.
“Only one other team kept within 10 points of us that season,” Robinson said. “The Beaver game was one tough game.”
When the season ended on the gridiron, Robinson began focusing on the hardwood. Robinson found some of his greatest athletic success in basketball, thanks in part to preparation.
“During my sixth, seventh and eighth-grade school years, I lived across from the elementary school in Leetsdale,” Robinson said. “I would play basketball two hours a day, six days a week in preparation for ninth-grade.”
The Quakers — whose starting five also included Jim Mayer, Tucker Johns, Denny O'Neil and Joe Coronado — finished with a 7-14 record during Robinson's senior year, but he finished with high-scoring honors and was selected as a Section IX all-star.
“I had great teammates who set me up with passes,” Robinson said. “My good buddy Denny O'Neil and I fed each other with getting shots.”
Robinson also competed in track and field, where he ran the 100- and 220-yard dash and in the 880 relay. He finished fourth in scoring (75 points) behind only Bill Sadd (142), Sonny Steele (113) and Dave Guilot (88). The Quakers finished with a 7-2 record in 1958, reversing a 1-8 finish in 1957.
Robinson continued his athletic career after he joined the U.S. Army on three recreation teams — flag football, basketball and softball. He was named all-Army in all the sports.
“We won a championship in football,” Robinson said. “In basketball, I was the second-leading scorer with 25 points per game. There was no track so I played softball.”
Along with serving in the Army, Robinson earned a bachelor's degree from Findlay University and a master's degree from Xavier University.
Robinson taught physical education for 31 years while coaching girls basketball. He led Columbus (Ohio) South to eight city titles and five district championships. His best year in coaching may have been 1986 when he led the Bulldogs to a state title. During his time as a coach, he was selected as City Coach of the Year four times and Ohio Coach of the Year after the state-title winning season.
“I have been blessed,” Robinson said. “I was selected school teacher of the month twice. My team took several city titles. I was state coach of the year and I coached five All-Americans. It has been a great life.”
Being selected to the Quaker Valley Hall of Fame is just another blessing for which Robinson is thankful.
“I am very honored to be selected,” Robinson said. “So many great athletes have come through Quaker Valley, and it is an honor to be selected along with them. It gives you a lot of confidence that they felt your abilities and accomplishments were good enough for this honor.
“I was only there a couple of years, and I loved every bit of it.”