NCAA Division III Championship Season of 1978
(Excerpted from "...And We Must Excel" by Bill Nichols)
The New York Yankees won their 22nd World Series when they defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers. Closer to home, Baldwin Wallace University won its first national football crown when Coach Lee Tressel and the Yellow Jackets defeated arch-rival Wittenberg, 24-10, in the Stagg Bowl.
This was not only the longest season in BW history, playing 12 games, but the most successful as well with the Jackets compiling an unbeaten, but once tied mark of 11-0-1. In fact, the Brown and Gold had a 19-1--1 record, for the best back-to-back record in school history.
Tressel and his players had their sights set on winning the Stagg Bowl when pre-season practice began in late August. "If we have a good record and win the Ohio Athletic Conference title, we can get in the national title game," Tressel said when he greeted 90 players on the first day of practice.
Tressel had to replace 20 graduated seniors, but he welcomed six returning starters on both offense and defense. Quarterback Joe Surniak and fullback Roger Andrachik would lead the Yellow offense in 1978. Wide receiver Jose Tirado also returned, but fellow split end Danny Craine broke his arm and Tim Kolp suffered a broken leg.
The Yellow Jackets were second in the nation in rushing among Division III schools in 1977 and much of the credit went to the offensive line. Leading the brigade of returning linemen was guard Tim McMahon. Others who played important roles on the forward wall were tackles Jeff Jenkins, Scott Collart and Jeff Liggett. In addition to McMahon, the other guards were Bill Nees and Mike Kelly and Phil Quick handled the center spot.
Back on the defensive line were Duke Flaherty and Paul Petrella along with Bill Davis, Dan Delfino, Bill Liuzzo and Bruce Brown. Key linebackers were Bill Rickert, Gary Monda and Ray Hradek. In the secondary, the leaders were Gary Stetler, Bill Baker, Mark Cassese and Chuck Paschke. The place-kicker was Tim Robinson and punter was Doug Schiefer.
"This team has good potential," said Tressel, who was embarking on his 21st year as the BW head coach. "We have to improve the passing game and in the spots where we lost first and second team players at wingback and safety. We don't have great speed, but we are working on team speed a lot. We hope to be pretty balanced as far as running and passing are concerned. Also, we have pretty decent depth."
Baldwin Wallace opened the Ohio Athletic Conference's 75th football season at Ashland, which had become a regular adversary on the Yellow Jackets grid schedule. A swarming defense led the Yellow Jackets to a 31-12 victory over the Eagles. The BW defenders blocked three punts in the second quarter alone that led to a safety and two short-yardage touchdowns.
Read more about the Championship season, and all of BW football history. Own a copy of "...And We Must Excel" by Bill Nichols.