June 29, 2011
University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on different topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All of his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page, mgoblue.com/brandon, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.
In Michigan athletic lore, certain names are immediately identifiable with the sport. Red Berenson is hockey, Cazzie Russell is basketball, Matt Mann is swimming, Cliff Keen is wrestling, Carol Hutchins is softball and in football, there are Bo, Fritz, Fielding, etc.
In men's gymnastics, it is Newt Loken. This morning, we learned that Newt passed away in Eugene, Ore., at the age of 92.
His accomplishments in the sport were amazing. He was truly one of the great athletes at the University of Minnesota, winning Big Ten and NCAA titles. In 1942, Life Magazine featured Loken in its publication.
As a coach, he was even better. He revived our men's gymnastics program and became its head coach in 1948. Again, his honors were many -- 12 Big Ten titles, four national championships (two in gymnastics and two in trampoline), a 240-71-1 record (.771), 20 individual national champions, Michigan Hall of Honor inductee, Helm Award honoree and the list goes on.
It wasn't just his coaching and athletic success that made Newt the iconic figure of the sport; it was Newt Loken the man.
He was the cheerleading coach, an author, an entertainer, a public speaker and an educator. After receiving his master's degree at Michigan, he went to get his doctorate in education and became a kinesiology professor and taught at U-M until his retirement in 1983.
Until his family brought Newt to Eugene a little more than one year ago, Loken always made his way to the gym on Monday during the season to say 'hi,' ask the team how they did during the past weekend in competition and always to tell a few stories. It didn't matter what the weather was like, Newt made it every Monday!
As a coach and then as a fan, Newt attended every home men's gymnastics meet for 61 years! That's right; he didn't miss a home meet for more than 60 years!
I don't know if gymnastics or trampoline was his favorite sport, but I do know he loved both.
Yes, his accomplishments in sports were amazing, but today when I heard Newt Loken passed away, I thought of Detroit's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The picture in my mind of Newt (along with Dick Kimball) bouncing down Woodward in a faded yellow 'M' cheerleading sweater gave me pause and a little smile. The fun he portrayed was real and infectious.
He absolutely lived Michigan. His kindness, energy, pep and spirit were amazing. Newt Loken made you feel good. Today, his memory made me smile once more.
Thank you Newt Loken for being such a great Michigan Man. May you rest in peace.