Former Henning football, basketball coach pens new book on coaching career
By Chad Koenen
It’s a long way from the streets of Henning to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., but that never deterred longtime college football coach Merle “Skip” Hall. After starting his coaching career as the head football and basketball coach of the Henning Hornets from 1966-68, Hall quickly found himself among the top football programs at the college level in a career that spanned nearly 30 years. ¶ “In a 10-year stretch I went from Henning to the Rose Bowl,” said Hall with a slight laugh. ¶ Hall recently detailed his life and coaching career in a new book entitled “Coach ‘Em Up.” ¶ “The message is about the power of influence and encouragement and how that can change lives. It’s about coaching people up and not down,” he said. “I’m really pleased with the finished product.”
Hall dedicated several pages of his book to his time in Henning. He was the head football and boys basketball coach in Henning from 1966-68. During that time the Henning football team went 23-1 thanks to some out of the box thinking and several talented players like Bob Bjorklund, Gerald Brutlag, Stan Eckhoff and Randy Guse.
“They had a great work ethic and they were teachable. They wanted to learn, they were all ears and they wanted to win.”Merle “Skip” Hall on coaching the Henning Hornets
Even today, Hall speaks highly of his time in Henning and the people his wife Virginia, who was a teacher at the Deer Creek School, and he met.
“A lot of great people. We really enjoyed our time there,” he said. “The time in Henning was a delightful time. A meaningful time.”
In addition to his time on the football field, Hall shared several stories of being in the classroom at Henning School. One moment he shared about in his book was in his eighth grade science class in which a Bunsen burner was leaking. When he went to light the burner the gas ignited and resulted in some lost eyebrows and mayhem in the classroom.
During his third year at Henning High School, Hall felt a tug to get his master’s degree and coach college football. He applied to the master’s program at four universities including Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Colorado State. When he was accepted into the master’s program at the University of Colorado, Hall decided to make the jump to the Pac 8 Conference in college and the family moved from Henning to Boulder, Colo.
“After our time in Henning, I wanted to see what the college scheme was like in football and I was hooked.”Merle “Skip” Hall on his time at the University of Colorado
Following his three year stint at Henning School, Hall coached Division I football at the University of Colorado and then at Kent State.
He went on to serve as the assistant head coach to legendary coach Don James at the University of Washington for 12 years, before becoming the head coach at Boise State University from 1987-92. He finished his coaching career as an associate head coach at the University of Missouri.
One of his most memorable moments of coaching was in 1978 when the University of Washington Huskies defeated the Michigan Wolverines in the Rose Bowl. The Huskies were big underdogs, but the Pac 8 Conference champions defeated the heavily favored Big Ten Champions that were led by legendary coach Bo Schembechler by a score of 27-20. There were over 105,000 people in attendance at the football game that day and the Huskies were led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon.
During his football coaching career, Hall was part of 12 bowl games. His teams won seven of those games, including three Rose Bowls.
He also had the opportunity to coach or mentor some of the biggest names in professional and college coaching today including Nick Saban, Gary Pinkel, Jim Mora Jr., Jim Zorn, Chuck Pagano, Jim Fleming and Jay Mills.
“We had a lot of good people that we worked with and a lot of great players along the way for sure,” said Hall of his coaching career.
Following his college coaching career, Hall became a recruiter and regional manager for Aflac. He also began a financial services company, Hall and Associates with his son Chris, and was named as an Idaho Icon in 2019.
Hall’s book was officially released in September and he is pleased by the end result. The idea of writing a book came from a person in Boise, Idaho who had heard the longtime coach speak. The writer was inspired by his message and encouraged Hall to share his message of hope and inspiration with others.
“She heard me speak several times and she grabbed me one day and said you really need to write a book. You need to put some of this stuff on paper,” said Hall. “When the pandemic hit that was the opportunity to sit down and really dive into writing this book.”
A foreword in the book was written by current University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban and shares a story about how the power of influence and encouragement changes lives.
“I think it is a very enjoyable book. It is easy to read and it is real life,” he said. “It is speaking from the heart.”
Hall currently resides in Boise where he lives near family and grandchildren. His book is available on Amazon, as well as www.coachemupbook.com