Widener legend Bill Manlove entering College Football Hall of Fame

Bill Manlove won two national championships at Division III Widener, in 1977 and 1981. He later coached at Delaware Valley and La Salle.
Bill Manlove won two national championships at Division III Widener, in 1977 and 1981. He later coached at Delaware Valley and La Salle. (SARAH J. GLOVER / Staff photographer)
Posted: July 14, 2011

BILL MANLOVE had no clue he was getting into the College Football Hall of Fame until a box arrived at his door. And even then, he didn't know.

"It's a strange story," Manlove recalled. "It said something about being from Texas. When I opened it up, there was a football in there, with the brown side up. I thought someone was trying to push a new football. The white side was facing down. When I turned it over it had my name on there, saying that I was being inducted. And I went, 'Well, I'll be darned.'

"There was a letter explaining it all, but that was a shocker. I thought, 'This is pretty nice.' It's some honor. I just figured people had kind of forgotten about me. And that would have been OK, too. My wife [Edna] had a hunch. But, really, it hadn't crossed my mind."

Manlove had a 212-110-1 record in 32 seasons at Widener, Delaware Valley and La Salle. His Widener teams won Division III national championships in 1977 and '81. From 1972 to 1981, the Pioneers were 95-9, never losing more than once in a season.

When he took over in 1969, the school was still called Pennsylvania Military College.

"We went 2-7 that first year," Manlove said. "The next year, we were 5-4, which broke a losing streak [of seven consecutive sub-.500 seasons]. Then we went 7-3. And I thought, 'I'd better go job hunting, because that's about as good as it's going to get.' The next year, we became Widener. Well, we didn't become anything. Billy Johnson made me look very good the next 2 years. After he left, I figured maybe that's it. But we just kept winning."

Manlove, who was born in Barrington, N.J., graduated from Haddon Heights High School in 1951. After serving in the Army, he got his undergraduate degree (1958) and master's (1960) from Temple. He was an assistant at Gloucester City (N.J.) High from 1957-59, and the head coach from 1960-65. He then was briefly the head coach at Oakcrest (N.J.) before becoming an assistant at Lafayette for 2 years.

The rest . . .

"Our organization was good, no question," Manlove said. "Our coaches stayed with us for years. That's so important. If you look at programs that are successful, that's what happens. We tried to be like Delaware."

Two of his players, "White Shoes" Johnson (class of 1996) and Tom Deery ('98), already have been enshrined. The ceremonies are tomorrow and Saturday in South Bend, Ind. Many of his former players plan to be there. As will most of his family, which includes three daughters and nine grandchildren. One daughter is a swimming coach and can't get the time off.

"Being a first-year coach, I don't think she'd better try it," Manlove joked.

As with most people in his position, it's mostly about the faces and moments.

"It was a lot of good players, I know that much," said the 78-year-old Manlove, who still serves as a consultant/assistant to Del Val head coach Jim Clements, one of his former Widener players. "If I had a strength, it was probably recruiting and the placement of personnel. We did a lot of that over the years. [Deery] was an offensive player, primarily, and we made him a safety. Things like that, we were able to do . . .

"The No. 1 thing is relationships. You live with those guys every day, so that's vital. In '77, that was very unexpected. I put us down as being, like, 5-4. We were pretty young, but we just kind of jelled. We had three freshmen starting in the secondary. [Running back] Chip Zawoiski, a senior, just had a phenomenal year. We were lucky to get in the playoffs.''

The 1980 team might have been his best. It had 24 seniors, but lost in the national semifinals at home to Dayton. After leading, 24-0.

"We thought ['81] was going to be tough," Manlove said. "But they just wouldn't lose. I mean, if you look back at the scores, the last four games, I think we were either tied or behind and came back to win them all. They were just going to make it happen. That's the way they were. They had that look like, 'Don't worry about it, coach. We got this.'

"But there were other years. The '90 team [which finished 7-2-1], to me, was amazing. We only scored, like, 16 touchdowns offensively. But we had maybe eight on special teams. We didn't have the great talent that we'd had in the past, but what an accomplishment. But the championships always stand out in everyone's mind."

Manlove says he just didn't get "the job done" at Del Val. But he helped bring back the sport at La Salle, and even had a winning record in his fourth season. He left a year later. The progam no longer exists.

"I look at that as a better accomplishment," he said. "They had nothing, and we made it something. Then look what happened."

He still loves doing what he does best, which is work with young people.

"I just enjoy being around," Manlove said. "And for once in my life, the players love me. I don't have anything nasty to say to them. I'm not making the decisions. I just cheer them up."

Knowing that he finally is where he should be, included among the elite of his profession. Even if that was never the goal.

"I didn't get into coaching with the idea of making the Hall of Fame or anything," he said. "To me, [my plaque] should say: 'Hey, here's a guy who wanted to be a high school coach and ended up in here.' What more could I ask? My wife always said I was meant to be a Division III coach. It's just that your ego sometimes, when I had one, gets in the way. But those days are long gone. I was lucky."

CLASS OF 2011

 Sixteen players and four coaches will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., this weekend during the annual Enshrinement Festival.

Players:

 * Dennis Byrd, DT, North Carolina State (1965-67)

Ronnie Caveness, LB, Arkansas (1962-64)

Ray Childress, DL, Texas A&M (1981-84)

Dexter Coakley, LB, Appalachian State (1993-96)

Randy Cross, OG, UCLA (1973-75)

Sam Cunningham, RB, Southern Cal, (1970-72)

Michael Favor, C, North Dakota State (1985-88)

Charles Haley, DE, James Madison (1982-85)

Mark Herrmann, QB, Purdue (1977-80)

Clarkston Hines, WR, Duke (1986-89)

Desmond Howard, WR, Michigan (1989-91)

* Mickey Kobrosky, Back, Trinity College (1933-36)

Chet Moeller, DB, Navy (1973-75)

Jerry Stovall, HB, LSU (1960-62)

* Pat Tillman, LB, Arizona State (1994-97)

Alfred Williams, LB, Colorado (1987-90)

* Deceased

Coaches

Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin, 118-73-4

Mike Kelly, Dayton, 246-54-1

Bill Manlove, Widener, Delaware Valley, La Salle, 212-110-1

Gene Stallings, Texas A&M, Alabama, 89-70-1

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