Hale Finds Home At West Chester

Posted: November 13, 1986

With all due respect to Thomas Wolfe, West Chester football coach Dan Hale has made it all the way home.

Not that the return was planned. Actually, he took a roundabout route to get there.

"My whole career seemed like it was something that just sort of happened," said Hale, who originally wanted to get into sales. "I could have been a lot richer, I guess, but just about every coach can make that claim."

Hale, an All-Pennsylvania Conference offensive lineman, was a member of the West Chester teams that went to the Tangerine Bowl in 1966 and '67.

After graduation, he played one season with the Pottstown Firebirds of the Atlantic Coast League. Then, after receiving his draft notice, he enlisted and spent the next three years playing for the Quantico Marines.

"That's probably where the (coaching) bug first hit me," he said. "I met a lot of good people while I was there. And it's definitely true what they say about where you go; it has a lot to do with who you know. Of course, being in the right place at the right time doesn't hurt, either."

Hale came back to West Chester while he earned a master's degree in education, and served as a part-time assistant. Then it was on to a full-time position at the University of New Hampshire. When that school dropped football after enjoying one of its best seasons in 1974, Hale quickly landed another job as the offensive line coach at Bucknell. He remained there until 1981, when he left to become the defensive coordinator at Colgate. Then, in 1984, he succeeded Otto Kneidinger at his alma mater.

"I never once looked upon it as working my way up," Hale said. "Every time I moved, I thought I was going to stay at that place for a very long time.

"I've had mixed emotions every time I've left a school. As far as I'm concerned, coaching is coaching. I was always content just trying to be good, no matter where I was or what I was doing. I'm not the kind of guy who puts out resumes.

"As a player, I took the attitude that there was somebody right behind me, after my spot. And that's the same way I've approached coaching. Maybe it's made me work a bit harder, gave me a little more incentive."

It has not taken Hale long to make his mark with the Rams. In his first season they went 7-3, losing the PSAC Eastern Division title to Bloomsburg on a 65-yard TD pass on the last play of the final game. Last fall they compiled the same record, once again losing the championship to Bloomsburg in the finale, 8-6, in a game played in cold, muddy conditions.

West Chester is 7-2 this year, with both losses coming against I-AA opponents, and is ranked 14th in Division II. The Rams were seventh last week before losing at Lehigh, 18-13.

Saturday afternoon, they close out the regular season at No. 6 Millersville (9-0), and the PSAC Eastern title is on the line one more time. The winner travels to No. 9 Indiana (8-1) next week to decide the conference crown.

Because just eight teams advance to the Division II playoffs, even two victories will not guarantee the Rams a postseason invitation. No. 13 Towson State (Md.) also is in the Mid-Atlantic region that, based largely on geographical considerations, might only be granted one representative.

"Two years ago, I don't think we were ready to win it all," Hale said. ''The talent was there, but I'm not sure we wanted it enough. Last year, even though I felt we could have won that (Bloomsburg) game, we'd gone about as far as our personnel was going to take us. And this year, I really thought we were too young. I figured we were still a year away. But now that we're here, we want it badly. I don't think anybody will be satisfied with merely coming close.

"I think I caught this at a good time. Administratively, the people here want to win. And a lot of folks are trying to help me in that direction. I've been at other places where, if there'd been a little more commitment, I'd have probably stayed forever.

"It's a funny business, but I really hope this is my last stop."

Because of his father's occupation, Hale was forced to move often while he was growing up. He lived in Georgia, Ohio and Virginia before coming to this area (hence the hint of a Southern accent). In fact, he lived in a friend's house for six months so he could finish high school at Upper Darby after his family was uprooted again.

"I have two teenagers, so I don't really want to put them through that if I don't have to," said Hale, who is working on the final year of a three-year contract. "I'm sure I'll always keep an open ear, which is a dilemma of being a head coach, but I want to establish a solid foundation, for the program and myself."

EXTRA POINTS: In other local small-college finales Saturday, Swarthmore (4-4, 4-3 Centennial Conference) plays a non-league game at Georgetown (3-4); Ursinus (2-5-1, 2-3-1) hosts Dickinson (3-6, 2-4) in the Centennial;

and Delaware Valley (3-5-1, 3-4-1) hosts Wilkes College (6-3, 4-3) in the Middle Atlantic Conference.

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