This year marks the University at Albany's 50th anniversary of varsity football competition. To celebrate, we went into the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives to revisit the 1973 season.
In their inaugural varsity campaign, the Great Danes compiled an impressive 7-2 record. That success, however, was not guaranteed. "The team only had two full-time coaches," explains Brian Keough, Head of Special Collections and Archives. "Coach Bob Ford and an assistant coach."
Nevertheless, Coach Ford felt confident in his squad. After weeks of two-a-day practices, he told the Albany Student Press on September 7: "This is the strongest team ever."
While a cartoon in the September 11 edition of the ASP saw Coach Ford holding a four-leaf clover and crossing his fingers, the team required no luck on the field. In their first ever varsity competition, the Great Danes routed Stony Brook by a score of 69 - 6.
Cartoon of Coach Bob Ford appearing in the September 11, 1973 edition of the Albany Student Press
UAlbany dropped their next game to Nichols by a score of 14-7, but rebounded with three wins in a row, including massive victories over Niagara (75-9) and Siena (71-8).
What made the Great Danes so formidable? Keough attributes their success to "...running a powerful wishbone offense, led by John Bertuzzi, Glen Sowalski, Marvin Perry, and Thomas DeBlois." On the other side of the ball, he cites the defensive contributions of Rudy Vido, Frank Villanova, Ken Schoen, Don Mion, and Jeff O'Donnell.
Albany fell to Brockport on October 27, their second—and final—loss of the season. The Great Danes rounded out the 1973 campaign with three victories in a row against RIT, Plattsburgh, and RPI.
George Hollie rushes for 130 yards and two touchdowns in 75-9 romp of Niagara
Keough echoed the Student Press headline by calling the 28-3 win against RPI a "sweet victory." Billed as a battle of cross-river rivals, Coach Ford noted the Engineers possessed "...maybe the best front five we've seen all year."
The November 20 edition of the paper revealed another reason for this victory being especially satisfying. RPI Head Coach Dave White, unimpressed by UAlbany's blowout wins, reportedly said: "Why don't you schedule Lansingburgh's JV team? I hear they have an open game."
It's hard to find a better way to respond than with a decisive victory to head into the offseason.
In addition to records of the season preserved in the Albany Student Press, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives also has video footage of the 1973 team. Mark Wolfe, Curator of Digital Collections, processed the film and uploaded it to YouTube.
"While digitizing the archival football film, I was stuck by how much the sports program has grown," says Wolfe. "Many of the games, especially away games, were played on fields with no stands, and in one game a dog ran onto the field. College football was desperately trying to use the passing game with little success. It was clearly a simpler time."
The University Libraries and Coach Gattuso are in discussions to get archival footage on the screen at Casey Stadium this season.
In the meantime, we congratulate the Great Danes on 50 terrific years of varsity competition. We look forward to supporting you on the field and in the libraries in 2023!