Posted - November 7, 2011
Son of legendary coach Ralph McKinzie to perform coin toss at Eureka College football game Nov. 12
Coin features image of McKinzie player Ronald Reagan
The son of legendary Eureka College football coach the late Ralph McKinzie will perform the coin toss at the Red Devils’ football game Nov. 12 at McKinzie Field.
Jim McKinzie, 80, of Sterling will toss a coin that was issued for Ronald Reagan’s centennial year by the Reagan Presidential Foundation and features the image of Reagan, who was Ralph McKinzie’s former player and longtime friend.
Jim McKinzie and his wife, Lenore, were invited to attend the Red Devils’ final game of the season by Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Michael Murtagh, who said the college will present the coin to the McKinzies to keep. The college has several of the centennial coins and uses one at every home game.
Jim McKinzie, a retired educator and coach, said he hopes to cheer the Red Devils to a victory, meet Eureka College personnel and see some longtime friends during his visit to campus. The return “prompts feelings of pride and wistfulness as so many thoughts of my parents return to me,” he said. He was 6 when his parents moved from Eureka, but he remembers shooting baskets during halftimes at his dad’s basketball games and his parents providing housing for Eureka College students during the Depression.
Among those Depression-era students was Ronald Reagan, who played football for “Coach Mac” from 1928 to 1932.
“My dad had a special relationship with Ronald Reagan that lasted through the years,” McKinzie said. “Reagan gave my dad much credit for helping him become the man that he became.”
When Ralph McKinzie retired from coaching in 1963, Reagan was the keynote speaker at the banquet. Members of the McKinzie family visited Reagan at his ranch, attended his first inauguration and had lunch with him in the White House Rose Garden. Many phone calls and letters passed between the two men as they shared with each other life’s joys and sorrows, McKinzie said.
Ralph McKinzie became a student at Eureka College in 1916, served in World War I and graduated from the college in 1923. He coached football and basketball beginning in 1921 and was athletic director from 1923 to 1938. He was instrumental in the construction of the Eureka College football field, which later was named for him. The first game played on the field was in 1930. Ronald Reagan played right guard.
Ralph McKinzie later coached at Northern Illinois University, where the baseball field is named for him.
After retiring, Ralph McKinzie returned to Eureka and assisted with the Red Devil football program for many years. He died in 1990 at age 96.
Jim McKinzie's coin toss will take place at noon as Eureka College faces St. Scholastica, Duluth, Minn., in an Upper Midwest Athletic Conference game.
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