Courtesy of USTFCCCA
Irv “Moon” Mondschein has packed a lot of living into his 83 years.
He served in World War II. He competed in the decathlon at the 1948 Olympics. The Brooklyn native won a pair of NCAA titles in the high jump and earned All-East honors in football while attending New York University. He coached the Israeli Olympic team in 1952 and was an assistant coach on the 1988 U.S. Olympic team.
He coached track for 23 years at the University of Pennsylvania, later serving as an assistant at Kutztown (Pa.) University past his 80th birthday. His son, Brian, was a national-class decathlete and longtime head coach at Kutztown. Irv’s grandson, also named Brian, was an All-American pole vaulter at Virginia Tech.
Mondschein’s remarkable career will receive its due when he is inducted into the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Dec. 18 in Phoenix, Ariz. Mondschein will be joined in the Hall of Fame Class of 2007 by Lew Hartzog, Cyrus Jones, Tom Jones, Beverly Kearney, John Mitchell, Jim Sackett and Karl Schlademan.
“The thrill for me is to be in the company of these other people,” Mondschein said. “I don’t know that I’m worthy.”
The record says otherwise. Mondschein was one of the nation’s best all-around athletes in the late 1940s, starring in football and track for NYU. He still holds NYU’s school record in the high jump at 6 feet, 7¾ inches.
Mondschein finished eighth in the decathlon at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. His 17-year-old teammate, Bob Mathias, won the gold medal.
Mondschein’s first coaching job was at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he coached football, basketball and track and served as the athletic director. He quit in a huff when the administration dropped football without consulting him.
Unable to find another college job, Mondschein coached at New Jersey and Pennsylvania high schools for 13 years before joining Jim Tuppeny’s track staff at the University of Pennsylvania. Mondschein was a Penn assistant from 1965-79 and was head coach from 1980-87. One of Mondschein’s prized pupils was Fred Samara, a 1976 U.S. Olympian in the decathlon who is currently the head track coach at Princeton.
Mondschein came out of retirement in his late 70s to assist his son Brian at Kutztown. He tried to steer his grandson toward the decathlon.
“He’d be a hell of a decathlete, but he’s goofy about the pole vault,” Mondschein said. “It’s very unique, to have three generations in the sport like we do. We’re all track junkies.”
For more information on the inductees in this year’s USTFCCCA Hall of Fame class, see www.ustfccca.org.