Eastern Kentucky University 1977 graduate Ernest Matt House grew up around EKU football and after a standout football career at Laurel County High School he found himself suiting up for the Colonels as the starting quarterback for three seasons.
“I’ve been going to Eastern games when the stadium used to sit about where the Powell building is now,” he said.
House was sought after by several schools, but it came down to Western Kentucky University and EKU. House said EKU was the best fit for him.
“I can remember being recruited and I found out later how competitive they were, but there was a coach named Jimmy Fox at Western [Kentucky University] and he were at my house and he was recruiting and coach Kidd and his wife was having to sit out in the driveway and wait and I don’t know what they said to each other as they passed but I had the best opportunity to play the quickest at Eastern and it was all about the playing.”
House said that during the recruiting process Kidd’s wife, Susan, stood out to him because of her dominance in the recruiting process to get him to play football at EKU.
“I really liked back then that coach Kidd was so quiet that his wife did all the recruiting. She had a big personality and I remember my mom hit it off with her. It worked out well,” he said.
House said that Kidd would give him a chance to play quarterback where as other schools that recruited him wanted him to move to a different position.
University of Tennessee football head coach Bill Battle was one of those coaches that tried to recruit House to play at a different position.
“I went down there for a recruiting trip and he said you can redshirt your first year and I can project you in as a starting safety as a redshirt freshman, but they wouldn’t even think about letting me play quarterback.”
His career at EKU spanned from 1974 through 1977. House finished his career with the Colonels with 4,011 yards passing and 28 touchdown passes, and added another 571 rushing yards with 14 touchdowns.
“Well 4,000 yards is a good accomplishment considering that coach Kidd hated to pass,” House said. “When he would pass my grandmother would know we were passing. He wouldn’t dare throw on first down. It had to be third and seven or third and 10 and everybody knew it.”
House was named the Ohio Valley Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Year in 1976. During his junior year, he set a new EKU record for most total offense with 1,685 yards and led the team to the OVC title with an 8-3 record.
Looking back on his time playing for coach Kidd, House said while he played he thought Kidd was old, but looking back, he was actually young and coached for 39 years at EKU.
“We had such respect for him,” House said. “Coach Kidd had a way about him of putting together a great staff, assistant coaches and he let them coach. He didn’t micromanage, he didn’t try to get down in your business… He was masterful at that which led to years and years of success, but I hold, for me personally, next to my own father and grandfather, coach Kidd is probably the most important adult man in my life. The influence he had on me as a young kid… You appreciate him more as you get older.”
House finished his collegiate career with two OVC championships in 1974 and 1976.
“We were helping to lay the foundation of tradition, winning, of being hard nosed and tough,” House said about the ‘74 and ‘76 teams. “There was a time there if people were coming into Richmond to play, they came in thinking they’re beat, but they didn’t know how bad. It was that kind of a fear factor.”
House set records his sophomore season as he tied an EKU school record for touchdown passes in a single game when he threw for four touchdowns in a 49-0 win over Austin Peay. That record stood until 2011 when T.J. Pryor threw for five touchdowns against Jacksonville State.
“I also tell people that I was really good at that moment. I was what we needed at that time and I look at the quarterbacks that played after me and I prepared two or three really good quarterbacks that played behind me that went on and did really well.”
For two seasons he was co-captain of the Colonels, and was voted offensive MVP by his teammates in 1976 and 1977.
Looking back, House said his favorite memory was the Eastern and Western rivalry games.
“We would win at our place and lose at their place,” he said. “We could never shake that off, but I think the last time we played them we had one of the records for the highest crowds. I think it was like 25,000.”
House still stays in contact with his former teammates and coaches along with helping the university whenever he can. He said he’s given many talks to EKU players and enjoys staying involved and around the program.
House was inducted into the EKU athletic Hall of Fame in 2011.
His name was also added to the “Matter of Pride” dedication wall that was unveiled on Saturday at Roy Kidd Stadium to celebrate coach Kidd’s coaching career and all the players he coached during his 39 year caeer at EKU. House represented the players during the 70s.