Dr. Edward J. Coughlin ’27 -- The Coughlin Award

Eph Legends
Eph Legends

According to former Eph football coach Frank Navarro (1956-68), team doctor Edward J. Coughlin '27 (aka "Ebbie") and trainer Joe Altott were ahead of their time with a safety precaution for early season practices that might have changed the face of sports drinks in the nation.

"Long before there was Gatorade, Joe and Ebbie came up with the idea of combining Kool Aid and salt for the players to drink during breaks in practices," said Navarro. "Joe and Ebbie were a great team, just outstanding in their efforts to make the game safer for our players." If Coughlin and Altott had marketed that drink, maybe Ephade would've become a household name. 

"Back in the '60s many coaches considered it a sign of weakness to have their players drink water during practice, and taking a break, well, that was considered a waste of time," Navarro added.  "We saw right away that the breaks and drinking that drink really helped our kids get more out of practice because they were refreshed.

"There were also concerns back then about the number of head and neck injuries in football," recalled Navarro. "So Joe and Ebbie made mouthpieces for our players out of a mold that Joe and two local dentists created, and that helped our team lower the number of injuries."

"After every home game we made the kids get right on the bus and go directly back to Cole Field House so we could gather them all for a brief chat about the game, allowing Joe and Ebbie to circulate throughout the room checking on the players," Navarro said. "Those who needed more attention would be seen after the meeting, the next day, and I would be given an injury report each Monday afternoon."

Dr. Edward J. Coughlin

"Ebbie had a very soft spoken demeanor, which mirrored his quiet sense of confidence," said Navarro. "He was just outstanding with parents of injured players." Ebbie was the team doctor when Mike Reily '64 was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease as a junior and he handled that exceptionally well with Mike, his family, and the team," Navarro recalled.

"Whenever Ebbie came up to me during a game and said that a particular player should not continue playing, I never questioned his judgment because I trusted him implicitly," he said.

Jim Parkinson, himself a long-time Eph team doctor and often the one presenting the Coughlin Award, said "Ebbie's daily routine was to come down to Cole Field with a folding chair and the paper, sit under the big oak tree, and see players as needed."

A native of Passaic, N.J., Edward Coughlin first arrived in Williamstown in the fall of 1923 as a member of the Class of 1927. He graduated from the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons (CCPS) in 1931. After a two-year intern opportunity at CCPS, Coughlin took an additional two-year residency in fractures and orthopedics before returning to Williamstown in 1935 to open a general practice.

Two years later, Coughlin began to concentrate on orthopedics, and in 1941 was named to the American College of Surgeons.

In 1942 Coughlin joined the Army and was transferred to its 5th Auxiliary Surgical Group. Swerving in France and Germany he earned four battle stars during World War II. Coughlin left the Army as a major in 1945.

In 1949 Coughlin was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, and in 1954 he was sent to Germany for a month to serve as a civilian consultant to the Army surgeon general. In 1963 Coughlin was promoted to colonel.

Joining forces with Dr. Arthur Ellison '47, Coughlin created an orthopedics practice in Williamstown that culminated in the construction of an office building on Adams Road. The pair was often asked to speak on ski and sports injury clinics around the nation by the American Medical Association. Coughlin also served as a consultant to the Automotive Crash Research Program at Cornell University.

For more than 20 years Coughlin served on the staff of the Williams College infirmary and as the football team doctor, as well as the chief of surgery at North Adams Regional Hospital.

Coughlin died on March 2, 1974, and was laid to rest three days later in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Presented annually, The Coughlin Award was established in 1981 by the Williams Sideline Quarterback Club, the booster club for Eph football. The Coughlin Award goes to the member of the Williams football team who, in spite of injury or adversity, has made an outstanding contribution to the team.

The first recipient of the Coughlin Award was Thomas Lee '73, who was honored for his contributions during the 1972 season.

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