What Is MCS?

Holy Cross coach an inspiration to the game


Knight Ridder Newspapers
October 22, 2003

MIAMI - (KRT) - Get to Florida International University Stadium early enough for Saturday's 10 a.m. matinee against Holy Cross and you might glimpse a couple of Crusaders assistants lifting a small, frail man into place in the coaches' box.

That man is the Holy Cross head coach.

Dan Allen cannot walk, dress or feed himself, his body ravaged by a neurological disorder that has left him essentially paralyzed from the neck down.

Allen can, however, still coach football.

"When you see Danny and how strong and how positive and how productive he is, you gain strength," Leo Fanning, Allen's defensive coordinator and assistant head coach, told ESPN recently.

Allen, 47, is battling multiple chemical sensitivity, a condition many in the medical field can't fully agree on.

Triggered by exposure to chemicals in the environment, the disorder manifests itself in various ways, from severe headaches to dizziness to nausea. In Allen's case, it attacked his muscles.

Two summers ago, Allen began having persistent headaches and was hampered by a bothersome hip. He soon began walking with a limp and before long needed the aid of a cane.

He took a four-week leave of absence at midseason to seek a diagnosis and treatment. He returned to coach Holy Cross' final four games, but his mobility continued to deteriorate.

"Other people with MCS are affected maybe to the point where they get sick for two or three days," Allen told the network. "Maybe they can't function because they smell perfume or pesticides. In my case, it's more severe because it's affected my neuromuscular system."

Allen won't discuss possible causes, citing possible legal issues.

These days, Allen can move his left hand slightly to maneuver a motorized wheelchair. His right hand has no apparent function. Though he's learning to stand again, assistant coaches drive him around in a golf cart.

Nonetheless, Allen still participates fully in coaching. He helps break down film, sits in on meetings and directs practices from the cart.

At home games, he coaches from a wooden platform built into the stands, directly behind the Holy Cross team bench.

"I wanted to be closer to the team, to talk to them face-to-face," he said.

On the road, Allen, who is 1-6 this season and 26-58 in his 7-1/2-year tenure, works from the coaches' box.

"Coach Allen does everything he can to be there for us," senior defensive back Ben Koller told USA Today.

"Seeing him work, seeing him push and fight to get better, it puts everything in perspective."



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