Rollie Schmidt was not one to give rousing halftime lectures to his football teams.
“He didn’t have a lot to say,” remembers former Wilkes guard Bill Hanbury ’72, now President and CEO of The United Way, National Capital Area Washington, D.C., where he lives. “We were so well prepared that by the time the game started, everybody knew what they had to do”.
Schmidt, who coached the team from 1962 to 1981, amassed a record of 92-73, including
a stretch in which the “Golden Horde” won 32 games in a row over five seasons. For
three consecutive seasons, the team was 8-0. His teams won five conference championships
and two Lambert Bowls. Schmidt also coached baseball and golf until he retired in
1994. He was then given Emeritus Faculty status by The Board of Trustees.
“The two catch phrases he had all over the locker room were “pride” and “poise,’” says Garfield Jones ’72, vice president of sales for REACH Call Inc., a telemedicine company. “If you’re prepared, you’re never out of it,” says the Shavertown, PA., resident. He adds that many games were won in the last quarter or last few plays.
A case in point stands out at Schmidt’s most memorable game. In 1966, Lebanon Valley and Wilkes were tied 7-7. LV scored and then missed the extra point, and Wilkes recovered the ball on the 20-yard line. Just one second remained, with 80 yards to go. Quarterback Joe Zakowski ’70 threw a Hail Mary pass. The intended receiver fumbled, but the ball bounced off the shoulder of Paul Purta ’67, who caught it and made the touchdown.
Schmidt spent 34 years at Wilkes teaching, coaching and inspiring his students to go on to live productive adult lives. To name the stadium for him is a fitting tribute to him and his legacy that carries on to this day and into the future.