Coach Huydic enjoys his role as 'Professor Ed'
Published 5:20 pm, Thursday, August 18, 2011
It was 10 minutes before 9 p.m. Tuesday night Aug. 9 at Fairfield's Bear & Grill restaurant, and the bar and main dining room area were filling up like a football stadium moments before kickoff.
For a majority of the crowd this is a weekly pilgrimage, and the host of the evening's festivities headed over to table 71, picked up a microphone and in a gravelly voice uttered the four words that serve as his familiar opening:
"Welcome to Trivia Night."
To most, Ed Huydic is best known for his exemplary work the past 32 years as the girls basketball coach at Staples High School, where he has won one state and four league titles, and qualified for the CIAC playoffs 26 straight seasons.
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But for two hours each Tuesday, Huydic has drawn a fanatical following hosting Trivia Night and morphs into his alter egos: Professor Ed, or, as he has dubbed himself after a character from the television show "Lost in Space," the Doctor of Intergalactic Environmental Psychology.
If you know Huydic, he is only half kidding.
"This has turned into an event for many, and for me," said Huydic, who enjoys occasionally slipping into the third person when discussing his avocation.
"The Professor gets into it. It's just as much fun for me as it is the crowd."
What started as a Wally Pipp moment, with Huydic pinch-hitting three years ago when the original trivia hosts got delayed in traffic, has evolved into one of the Bear & Grill's most lucrative nights, with the bar area usually full and often overflowing.
"It has definitely grown," said Lucy Olschan, the Bear & Grill's manager. "Ed's definitely a great entertainer. He certainly has a flair about him that keeps people coming back. People enjoy the trivia and enjoy him."
Huydic quickly assumed the role of solo anchor, and has come well prepared for the job. A former teacher who is now a guidance counselor at Staples, Huydic said he usually spends about two hours the day before researching the 30 questions that will be asked.
"There are many different websites that I frequent, sports websites, trivia, music," he said. "The key is coming up with categories that speak to the crowd."
Prizes range from drinks to gift certificates for the winners.
Those coming to play would be well advised to brush up on their knowledge of sports, music, movies, politics and one of Huydic's personal passions, wildlife. One of the subjects last Tuesday night was elephant facts.
Huydic also tries to emphasize current topics of interest. Another category last week was Harry Potter mania. During the Stanley Cup playoffs, a steady diet of hockey questions can be expected.
"This has come a long way from when I first started, was asked to play on a team and came in second place three weeks in a row," Huydic said.
"The size of the crowd varies from week to week. The rule was you had to have at least five teams to play, and it almost died. Over time it turned into a happening."
Teams can range anywhere from one to six players. Last week there were 21 teams of nearly 100 people. The nights usually attract a wide range of ages.
Trivia Night is popular with students from Fairfield University and Sacred Heart, as well as those in their 70s.
Chris Rose and Howard Coling, along with four co-workers, have been coming every week dating back to Huydic's start.
"I love it," Rose said. "It's fun, it's a challenge and The Professor is great. He's the whole thing. I'm probably here 50 Tuesdays. The only way I ever miss it is if I'm on vacation."
Added Coling, "We enjoy it. Everyone has their own area of expertise. We talk each other out of the right answers sometimes. And we love when (Huydic) makes a mistake. Every so often he drops the ball."
Huydic admits to the occasional fumble, with a humorous and oft-repeated warning he gives his audience.
"The Professor has made some mistakes," he said. "But there is no storming The Bastille. He takes everything under review."
Anyone seen using a cellphone during the question rounds, even for texting, is subject to a verbal flogging.
It is a labor of love for Huydic and his outsized personality. It is also a test during basketball season, when many games are played on Tuesday nights.
"I've had to miss a few nights," Huydic said. "I have hustled off a bus from Danbury and Ridgefield, win or lose, and somehow got the show going. It is very hard after a loss. On those nights I grudgingly get here. But once I get seated and the microphone is on, the game is done."
Just as opponents scout his strategies, Huydic said managers from other restaurants have come to watch his act, and he has refused "lucrative offers" to take his show elsewhere."
"He's good for business," Olschan said. "It's always a good night because you enjoy seeing people have a good time. That's what this business is all about."
While Huydic concedes that his coaching career is nearing a conclusion, his alter ego has no plans to retire.
"The Professor will be doing this for the foreseeable future," he said. "The bottom line is this is all about fun."