WILKES-BARRE, PA. (July 15, 2011) – Wilkes University has announced that it will name its stadium in honor of Rollie Schmidt, the retired football coach who led the legendary Golden Horde football teams and coached the Colonels for 20 seasons. The stadium will be dedicated as Schmidt Stadium at the Ralston Athletic Complex in a 12:30 p.m. ceremony preceding the Sept. 24 Homecoming football game against Widener University. The public is invited to attend.
Schmidt engineered the third-longest winning streak in collegiate football history by winning 32 games in a row during his tenure as head coach. This streak put Wilkes in the national spotlight for many years, significantly boosting the school’s reputation and prominence.
Former players formed a Stadium Committee, chaired by Bill Hanbury and Anthony M. Cardinale, both members of Wilkes’ Class of 1972. The committee raised funds from alumni and friends to recognize their former coach by naming the stadium in his honor.
“I’m sure I speak for anyone who was privileged to have had Roland Schmidt as a coach and mentor when I say he is one of the most important influences in my life. I am proud to have played a part in obtaining for him this long overdue and richly deserved recognition,” said Cardinale, an attorney in Boston, Mass.
Improvements at the Ralston Athletic Complex unveiled at the start of the 2010-2011 football season totaled $1.6 million and included artificial turf, a field lighting system, plus new goalposts, scoreboard and fencing. This year, a new press box and new home bleachers have been added at the stadium.
Paul Adams, Wilkes vice president for student affairs, said that the new stadium name reflects the close relationship between student athletes and coaches. “The fundraising done on behalf of Coach Schmidt is a tangible example of the esteem in which he is held by his student athletes,” Adams said. “With the naming of Schmidt Stadium at the Ralston Athletic Complex, the University honors two legends of its athletic history.”
The Ralston Athletic Complex is named in honor of George Ralston, former Wilkes dean of students and the University’s first football coach.
Schmidt’s contributions to Wilkes athletics went beyond the gridiron. He influenced young athletes on baseball diamonds and golf courses as well as in the college classroom. As the baseball coach, he guided the Colonels to their first MAC title in 1968. His 11 wins that season was first time in a decade the baseball team reached double figures in wins. For 26 seasons Schmidt coached the golf team leading the Colonels to 214-179-3 record and three MAC championships. The 1976 team finished 16-0 and had a 14th place finish in NCAA Division III national championships.
Schmidt was inducted into the Wilkes’ Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994 and retired after 32 years of coaching, earning Emeritus Faculty status.