Amherst College Emeritus Professor
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—James E. Ostendarp, who was the football coach and professor of physical education at Amherst College for 32 years until his retirement in 1992, died on Thursday, Dec. 15 at the Solidiers' Home in Holyoke, Mass., in the company of his wife and children. He was 82 years old. Calling hours will be held from 2 p.m to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 18 at the Wrisley Funeral Home, 90A Sugarloaf St., South Deerfield, Mass. Funeral mass will take place at 10 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 19, at St. James Church, North Main St., South Deerfield, Mass. After the mass on Monday, mourners are invited to a reception in the Founders' Room in the Alumni Gymnasium at Amherst College.
The winningest coach in Amherst’s history, with a record of 169 wins, 91 losses and 5 ties, the legendary Ostendarp is remembered for his devotion to his students. He offered this brusque denial when ESPN wanted to televise the Amherst-Williams game in 1985. “We’re in education,” he said, “we aren’t in the entertainment business.” Yet his teams won 13 “Little Three” championships, had two undefeated seasons and nine with a single loss, and sent four young men into the National Football League.
Born in Baltimore in 1923, “The Darp,” as he was known affectionately to generations of Amherst footballers, knew in grade school that he wanted to make a life in football, but was told he was too small to play in high school. He proved himself playing semi-pro ball on Sundays, made the team as a senior—and earned All-State honors. After high school Ostendarp received a scholarship to the University of Maryland, but he joined the 82nd Airborne as a paratrooper and saw action in Europe in the Second World War. After the war he returned to Bucknell University, where he received a B.S. degree in 1952, then played professional football for two years with the New York Giants—while earning an M.A teaching degree at Columbia University (1956)—and a year with the Montréal Alouettes.
His first coaching jobs were at Bucknell, then Cornell University and Williams College. He came to Amherst in 1959 and never left. A reporter once asked “The Darp” if he didn’t want to coach at a bigger school. “Where,” he replied incredulously, “would you go after Amherst?”