Popular Sterling coach dies

Bill Stoudt , who liked to challenge his players on the field and in the classroom, retired to Montana in 1993.
Bill Stoudt , who liked to challenge his players on the field and in the classroom, retired to Montana in 1993.

Bill Stoudt, 74, had a lasting impact on many of his players.

Posted: July 07, 2012

Bill Stoudt was so popular as an assistant football coach that after he retired from Sterling High School and moved to Montana, it wasn't unusual for his former players to make the long trek and visit him and his wife, Linda.

Three of his former players - Charlie Mitchell, Bill Masciulli, and Dave Paulson - traveled to Montana last month to be with him during his final days. Stoudt, 74, died after a short battle with leukemia.

He left hundreds of admirers.

"Bill Stoudt was a great man," said Mitchell, who played football for Stoudt and was by his side in his final hours. "I loved him like a father."

Stoudt was a little man with a gruff exterior and a fondness for wearing cowboy hats. He was an old-school coach who worked his players hard on the practice field, then cooked pancake breakfasts for them at his house. Long after he retired, when he heard one of his ex-players or former students was in a family or personal crisis, he was quick to send an e-mail and offer his support from Montana.

Stoudt, a Pottstown native who captained the football and basketball teams at Spring City High, was on head coach Jim Combs' staff, and they helped Sterling - in Somerdale, Camden County - put together one of the most dominating stretches in South Jersey history. The Silver Knights went 40-2-1 in a championship-filled four-season period (1974-77).

Combs, a South Jersey legend, died about 21 months ago at age 82.

"It's like a one-two punch in the rib cage," former Sterling player Mike Sheridan said about the two deaths.

Stoudt was fondly nicknamed "Wild Bill" because of his hard-driving personality. Sheridan recalled how his freshman team, which had Stoudt as one of its coaches, kept the players on the practice field - without lights - until 9 on the night after a humiliating defeat.

When Sheridan complained to his mother about the long practice, she didn't feel sorry for her son or his teammates.

"She told me, 'You shouldn't have lost,' " said Sheridan, 55, an assistant principal at Collingswood High School. "He had the parents brainwashed, too! Could you imagine that happening today?"

Added Sheridan: "For all of us, he was a mentor and a father figure, unrelenting in his demand for excellence, and he had a lasting impact on all the students he taught."

"He used to have a saying - 'We love you, win or win,' " Masciulli said, smiling fondly at the memory.

Masciulli, 56, an investment adviser in Northfield, N.J., said Stoudt was "somewhat of a wild man with the stunts" he used - for instance, giving them extra drills if he didn't like the way they performed after a victory - as a football and wrestling coach.

"But he really pushed academics and culture on us as students," he said. "He was the first one to get us to the Philadelphia Art Museum. He took me to South Street and Little Italy in Philadelphia just to show what's out there. They're the type of things he did for lots of students."

Added Masciulli: "As hard as he was on us on the football field and in wrestling, you found out after you graduated that he would speak highly about things you accomplished to the next kids in school. He would rough you up when you were there - and then put you on a pedestal after you left and use you as an example."

Mitchell, 55, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who now resides in Dallas, said Stoudt was the hidden weapon behind Sterling's remarkable success.

"He kept kids in school by challenging them in the classroom to get the most out of themselves, and he was the same way" on the football field, said Mitchell, a general manager for an HVAC company. "He will live on through a lot of people. He would always say, 'Live life with no regrets.'. . . And that's what he did."

In 1993, after he retired and ended a 30-year career as a Spanish teacher, Stoudt and his wife moved from Camden to Stevensville, Mont., a small town near the Idaho border.

They lived simply. They raised dogs, a horse, guinea hens, and ducks - his wife cultivates six organic vegetable gardens - and resided in a log cabin, situated on a 10-acre plot that overlooks the Bitterroot Mountains. In Montana, Stoudt volunteered at the local library and taught English as a second language to children.

"He was always giving," Mitchell said.

Stoudt's former players have created a Sterling scholarship fund in his memory. Checks should be made to the Bill Stoudt Scholarship Fund and sent to P.O. Box 112, Stratford, N.J. 08084.


Contact Sam Carchidi

at scarchidi@phillynews.com,

or on Twitter @BroadStBull

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