Gary Vogt Will Enter the Massillon Tiger Football Hall of Fame

For nearly fifty years Gary Vogt has been a mainstay in the Massillon Tiger Football Booster Club, never shy in lending a helping hand, regardless of the endeavor.  This summer he will be deservedly honored as an inductee into the Massillon Tiger Football Hall of Fame.

Vogt graduated from WHS in 1966 and was a member of the varsity basketball team.  In 1976, after receiving his college degree from Kent State University and serving four years in the U.S. Air Force, he returned to Massillon and joined the Football Booster Club, an organization that has been around since the time of Paul Brown.  Now, some 47 years later, he can look back at a career during which he held several major club positions and was involved in many significant activities.

In 1986 Vogt was appointed Chairman of the Tiger Sideliners, which is a group of Massillon supporters that act as “Big Brothers” for the varsity football players.  In that role, the members become accessible to the players throughout the season for help in resolving any personal problems that they might have.  In many cases, these associations evolved into long-term relationships.  Under Vogt, fellow Sideliner Rollie Layfield was instrumental in founding the Reverse Raffle, a major fund-raising event for the Booster Club.

Two years later Gary was selected as a Booster Club Vice President and then the following year he was elected President.  In that position, he was instrumental in leading several major stadium projects, including installation of:

  • Omni Sand turf, replacing the grass playing surface
  • A sports cluster lighting system
  • A new state of the art sound system
  • A rubberized running track

The Sand Turf project was the most intriguing of all.  After the grass surface became nearly unplayable toward the end of previous season, Head Coach Lee Owens, in conjunction with the Booster Club, presented to the school board the idea of replacing the grass with an artificial surface with the goals of (1) having a dedicated practice field, with consideration that the new high school was overtaking the existing field, (2) providing a consistently safe playing surface for the team, and (3) securing the state finals playoff games.  The proposal was accepted, provided that no school funds were involved.  Fortunately, the Massillon community, led by the Booster Club, provided generous contributions amounting to over $400,000.

Various designs were explored and the “Turf Committee,” led by Vogt, settled on Omni Sand Turf, which was considered state-of-the-art at the time.  “The driving force was to select a player friendly surface,” said Vogt.  “At the time the prominent artificial surface was Astro Turf which was not a very forgiving surface to play on.  Lee Owens checked with our team Orthopedic Doctor, Bob Erichson, as to the safety of the Sand Turf product.  Dr. Erichson gave his okay, so Coach Owens selected the Sand Turf surface.”

Installation involved laying a 1-inch thick rubber shock pad, followed by the ½”-high grass-like turf.  Then a 1-inch layer of sand was infused between the grass fibers to produce a generally beach-like surface with strands of artificial grass protruding through the sand to provide traction for the players.

But before all that, the existing grass needed to be removed.  Never one to lose a fundraising opportunity, the committee offered strips of grass to the general public for a modest fee.  So, several hundred feet of turf found its way to memorable spots in the lawns and gardens of various Tiger fans.  Some even went to a cemetery in Chicago.  But the most interesting purchase was a hundred feet going to former Massillon head coach Augie Morningstar.  After leading Massillon in 1945, he left to become the head coach of the Mansfield Tygers.  In 1949 he brought his team to Massillon and upset the Tigers 16-12.  So, he took a sizeable amount of turf, extracted from the end zone where the winning Tyger touchdown was scored, back to Mansfield and distributed it among the players involved in that game.

Now it was time to get down to work.  First, a new drainage system was installed, compatible with sand turf, which drained any rain through the porous turf as opposed to flowing to the sidelines.  Then the field was graded relatively flat.  Finally, the turf was installed, with the local fire department hosing in the sand.  In the end, it was one of the first artificial surfaces to be installed in any Ohio school stadium.  And just in time to host the state All-Star game.  And it met the goals of having a practice field, improving safety for the players and hosting the 1989 state finals games.

Another committee Vogt chaired was quite unique.  After losing to Cincinnati Moeller in 1989, several members felt that something was needed to get the fans re-energized and more involved in the game.  So, a group was formed to develop several cheers to try out during the next contest.  But the first trial came off so well that the others were not needed.  It was simple, rather elementary, in fact.  But highly effective.  And it is still in use today.  The fans on the stadium’s east side yelled “TIG.”  Then the fans on the west side responded with “ERS.”  And back and forth it went, louder and louder.  Surely, a form of intimidation directed at the opponent.  Interestingly, at the time when the cheer was first introduced, the Tigers were behind Austintown Fitch at the end of the first quarter, 6-3.  After that, Massillon outscored the Falcons 20-7 and won going away.  Credit the cheer?  Who knows.  But it makes for a great story.

In 1994 Gary spent a year as the Touchdown Club Chairman.  This group meets weekly for lunch to rub elbows with other fans and hear the coach review the past game.

Currently, Vogt is the Booster Club Historian, an officer position he has held for the past fourteen years.  In that role, he is primarily responsible for maintaining the long history of Massillon football by continuing the collection of related documents originally assembled by Junie Studer.  Currently, the collection resides at the Massillon Museum.  Gary regularly searches the media for stories involving Massillon football or past players and chronicles them in indexed binders for quick reference, focusing on both current and historical information.  Of course, Gary still remains active in many fundraising activities.

Congratulations to Gary Vogt on his induction into the Massillon Football Hall of Fame.