George Welsh Selected to College Football Hall of Fame
April 6, 2004
South Bend, Ind. – Former University of Virginia football coach George Welsh has been selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. His selection was announced along with one other former coach and 12 Division I-A players.
Welsh was responsible for returning two struggling programs-Navy and Virginia-to national prominence during his 28 years as a head coach.
He got his first taste of rebuilding as the head coach at his alma mater, Navy, where he guided the Midshipmen from 1973-81. While there he led his squads to a 55-46-1 record and three bowl appearances before leaving as the school’s all-time winningest coach (a distinction he still holds).
Hired by then UVa Athletic Director Dick Schultz, Welsh came to Charlottesville in 1982 to revive the school’s sagging football fortunes. Prior to his arrival, UVa managed just two winning seasons in 29 years and won just 33 ACC games since joining the league in 1954.
Displaying the ability to get the most out of what he had to work with, Welsh quickly turned the Cavaliers into consistent winners. Following a 2-9 initial campaign in 1982, Welsh’s 1983 squad finished with a 6-5 mark, assuring themselves of a winning record with a 17-14 upset of conference rival North Carolina.
In his third year at the helm, Welsh directed the Cavaliers to the first bowl game in school history-the 1984 Peach Bowl-where a 27-24 win over Purdue closed out a joyous 8-2-2 season.
Following a 3-8 season in 1986, Welsh’s squads proved to be a model of consistency. The Cavaliers won at least seven games every season from 1987-99, a run of success that was rivaled by only Florida State, Michigan and Nebraska.
The 1989 season marked several prominent firsts in school history-an ACC championship, a 10-win season and a berth in a New Year’s Day bowl game.
The following season, with one of the nation’s most high-powered offenses, Welsh placed the Cavaliers in a position many never thought possible-the number-one team in the nation. They stayed there for three weeks before falling to eventual national champion Georgia Tech 41-38 in early November in one of the classic games in college football history.
The Cavaliers claimed their second ACC title in 1995, a season that included another classic game-a 33-28 win over perennial power Florida State in a game that went down to the last play. UVa finished with a 9-4 overall record that season and was ranked 16th in the final Associated Press poll.
Welsh’s final season at UVa in 2000 marked the program’s 10th bowl game since 1989, not a bad record for a school that had never been to a bowl game before his arrival.
Fourteen of the 20 first-team All-Americans produced by UVa played under Welsh, who also had eight players selected in the first round of the NFL draft.
Welsh completed his career 24th in Division I-A history in wins with a 189-131-4 record (.590). He was the winningest coach in ACC history at the time of his 2000 retirement and became the first coach in conference history to win 100 games. His Virginia teams posted a 134-86-3 record (.608) in 19 seasons. His 85 ACC wins and 36 conference road victories were also league records at the time of his retirement.
In addition to earning National Coach of the Year recognition in 1989, 1991 and 1998, Welsh was named ACC Coach of the Year a record five times at UVa (1983-84-89-91-95).
A native of Coaldale, Pa., he graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1956. He played quarterback on the Navy football team and finished third in the 1955 Heisman Trophy balloting after leading the nation in passing and total offense as a senior. He led Navy to a 21-0 upset over heavily favored Mississippi in the 1955 Sugar Bowl. He served as an assistant coach at Penn State under Rip Engle and Joe Paterno for 10 seasons before being named head coach at Navy in 1973.
Former Brigham Young coach LaVell Edwards joins Welsh as the coaches selected to the Hall of Fame. The players include: Bob P. Anderson (Army), Tony Casillas (Oklahoma), Frank Emanuel (Tennessee), Ray Guy (Southern Mississippi), Wayne Harris (Arkansas), Joe Kapp (California), James Mandich (Michigan), Lydell Mitchell (Penn State), Tracy Rocker (Auburn), Jack Tatum (Ohio State), Andre Ware (Houston), and Charles Young (Southern California).
Welsh is the third former UVa coach selected to College Hall fo Fame, joining Frank Murray and Earle “Greasy” Neale. Three former players are enshrined-Bill Dudley, Joe Palumbo and Tom Scott.
The 2004 College Football Hall of Fame class will be inducted at the 47th Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 7, 2004, at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. They will be officially enshrined at the Hall in South Bend during ceremonies in August of 2005.