Sept. 28, 2012
By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Before George Welsh arrived on Grounds in the early 1980s, the greatest football coach in University of Virginia history was, without question, Art Guepe. Under Guepe, the Cavaliers piled up victories, finishing 7-2 in 1949, 8-2 in ’50, 8-1 in ’51 and 8-2 in ’52.
Then came the crash. After the 1952 season, Vanderbilt hired Guepe away from Virginia, and what had been one of the South’s proudest programs suffered a marked decline.
Years passed — five years, 10 years, 15 years — without another winning season from the Wahoos, a streak of which Frank Quayle and his teammates were keenly aware as the 1968 opener approached.
The `Hoos had finished 5-5 in 1962, in ’64, in ’65 and again in ’67, but a winning season proved agonizingly elusive.
“That was a stigma that hung over the program and proved for us to be an enormous mountain to climb,” Quayle recalled this week.
Climb it, however, the ’68 team did, finishing 7-3.
“That was a giant step in a new direction,” recalled Andy Selfridge, who served as one of the Cavaliers’ captains as a fifth-year senior in ’71 and later played for three NFL teams.
The `68 team had “great leadership, great camaraderie,” said Selfridge, now a development officer at UVa. “Good balance between offense and defense. The offense, I think, gets more written up than the defense, but the defense was really strong.”
Quayle, a Long Island, N.Y., native who also lettered in lacrosse at UVa, led the football team in its breakthrough season. As a senior in 1968, he gained 1,213 yards rushing and 426 receiving. Quayle was named ACC player of the year and, later, the ACC’s athlete of the year.
His 24 is one of the six numbers UVa’s football program has retired, along with 12 (Shawn Moore), 35 (Bill Dudley), 48 (Joe Palumbo), 73 (Jim Dombrowski) and 97 (Gene Edmonds).
His individual accolades aside, Quayle said, “clearly the highlight of the season and my career was the accomplishment of getting the winning season that they’d gone 16 seasons without.”
The Cavaliers couldn’t sustain their success. After the ’68 season, they didn’t finish with a winning record again until 1979.
“It’s kind of embarrassing now that [the ’68 season] was an accomplishment and a highlight, particularly in light of what Coach Welsh did in making the program one of the most consistent winners in college football,” Quayle said. “But back then that wasn’t quite the case.”
Quayle made an impact at his alma mater after his playing days ended. Starting in 1983, he served as color analyst on radio broadcasts of UVa football games. He retired from that role after the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl.
“I loved what I did, but I recognized it was time,” said Quayle, an associate broker with Roy Wheeler Realty in Charlottesville.
He hasn’t been forgotten at UVa. Quayle and the ’68 team will be recognized Saturday at halftime of Virginia’s game with unbeaten Louisiana Tech at Scott Stadium. About 30 players from that team are expected back for the ceremony, and the current Cavaliers will wear throwback uniforms and helmets Saturday.
“I’m very flattered and honored that the University is doing it, so all those things are nice,” Quayle said. “For whatever reason I’ve become the face of that ’68 team, and football’s a sport where — and I think kids are getting a look at that today — I don’t care what kind of running back you are, your success is predicated on the team doing some awful good things.”
Indeed, the ’68 Cavaliers were no one-man team. George Blackburn (who died in 2006) was named ACC coach of the year that season, and four of his players made the All-ACC team: Quayle, guard Chuck Hammer, tackle Greg Shelly and linebacker Bob Paczkowski. Shelly won the ACC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy in ’68. One of his fellow offensive linemen that year, center Dan Ryczek, would win the Jacobs in 1970.
Other players on the ’68 team included co-captains Gene Arnette and Rick Brand, Jeff Anderson, Joe Hoppe, Dan Fassio, Chuck Mooser, Dave Wyncoop, Jim Carrington, Bob Bischoff, Ernie Rogers, Andy Minton, Pete Schmidt, Tom Patton, Al Sinesky and Jeff Calamos.
“I had a wonderful supporting cast,” Quayle, said, “and I feel a little bit awkward that I get the acclaim in what was a great team.”
On each of the helmets the Cavaliers (2-2) will wear against the Bulldogs (3-0) is a decal in honor of Quayle. Coach Mike London’s players have made it known all week that they love the old-school uniforms.
“It’s something different,” London said Thursday, “but at the same time we understand that a legacy of Virginia football was etched when Frank Quayle was here and playing at a very high level. It means a lot, I know, to the Quayle family, but also to those football players, the Virginia Cavalier football alums that played in that era, and those that supported the program. So it’ll be a fitting tribute and honor to a guy that was a great player here at Virginia.”
Quayle enrolled at UVa in 1965, in part because he wanted to play lacrosse for then-coach Gene Corrigan. He was anything but well-versed in the history of Virginia football.
“I grew up on Long Island,” Quayle said, “and college football’s almost nothing up there. It’s all about the New York Giants.
“That summer I’m reading Sports Illustrated, and Virginia’s picked to be 20th in the country [in `65], and Bob Davis is picked to be the first-team All-American quarterback.
“I had no idea that they had had the longest losing streak in the country, that they hadn’t won since such and such a time. It’s hard to imagine that today, with how much goes into recruiting, but I did not realize that then. I thought, `Here’s a team that’s picked to be 20th in the country.’ ”
Freshmen weren’t eligible to play varsity football in that era, but Quayle led the `Hoos in rushing as a sophomore in 1966. The Cavaliers opened that season with a 24-10 win at Wake Forest and a week later built a 35-17 lead on Clemson — a team they had never beaten — only to lose 40-35. The ’66 season also included a 14-13 loss to No. 5 Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
“Every practice I had under Coach Blackburn, we would finish with a drill where you’d run four plays without a huddle, and it’d be the same four plays,” Quayle said. “And only one time did we ever use it” — in the `66 game against the Yellow Jackets.
“They go ahead and score,” Quayle said, “and we get the ball back with 1:44 left, and we do this drill of the four plays without a huddle, and they work beautifully, and we get down to the 12-yard line, and there are four seconds left in the game. We line up to kick a field goal.”
Alas, the `Hoos missed the field-goal attempt, and so ended what Quayle still considers the most memorable game of his college career.
After finishing 4-6 in ’66, Virginia improved to 5-5 the next season and returned a strong nucleus in ’68.
“So there was a lot of experience on that team, and we had pretty good size,” said Selfridge, who redshirted that season. “Coach Blackie was a great offensive mind, we had a strong defense, and it all kind of came together in a good way. Like the guys that played on the ’90 team, the Shawn Moores, the Herman Moores, just kind of like the stars aligned for those guys, well the stars aligned in ’68 to get a season that [UVa] hadn’t had in 15 years.”
Virginia opened the 1968 season in West Lafayette, Ind., against Purdue, “the overwhelming pick as the No. 1 team in the country,” Quayle said. “I remember Sports Illustrated had an article that said they [could compete with] most NFL teams.
“We knew it was going to be a big mountain to climb. But I think we sort of relished the challenge and wanted to see how good we could be.”
The `Hoos got the ball first, and “we pick up first down, first down, first down,” Quayle recalled, “and we’re moving the ball and we’re getting back in the huddle and our eyes are big and we’re thinking, `Jeez, we can play with these guys.’ ”
Selfridge remembers that “a stunned stadium was quiet.” But the drive ended in disaster for Virginia. Purdue blocked UVa’s field-goal attempt and ran it back for a touchdown.
“Instead of being up 3-0, we’re down seven,” Selfridge said.
Purdue ended up winning 44-6, but a week later UVa romped 47-0 over VMI, which then had one of the state’s strongest football programs. Blowout victories over Davidson and Duke followed. The Cavaliers lost two of their next three games — falling to NC State and South Carolina and shutting out Navy — but then closed the season with three straight wins.
The streak started with a 41-6 rout of UNC in Chapel Hill. UVa did not play Virginia Tech that season.
“When I first arrived in Charlottesville, I thought Virginia Tech and VPI were two different teams,” Quayle said. “I had no sense of that being a rivalry [for UVa]. The Carolina game and Maryland game were a lot bigger games for us back then.
“It’s interesting, guys from my era have a dislike for Carolina that’s a lot stronger than for VPI.”
There was talk late in the ’68 season that Virginia was under consideration for a bowl game, Quayle said, but many of the team’s top players were fifth-year seniors.
“The NCAA had a rule then that students who graduated could not participate [in bowl games], and we would have had no team,” Quayle said.
And so the season, for UVa, ended with a 28-23 win over Maryland. In Quayle’s final game as a Cavalier, all he did was rush 29 times for 216 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner.
Quayle finished his college career with 2,695 yards rushing and 1,145 yards receiving. Selfridge still marvels at No. 24’s open-field moves.
“My memory is thankfully supplemented by seeing the films of Frank when he played that ’68 season, which just reminds me how great he was,” Selfridge said. “And I want to tell you, he had Gale Sayers-like moves, in terms of changing direction. My jaw drops today when I see those films. It was amazing.”
Quayle remains a fixture at Scott Stadium, but he now his sits with his wife, Peggy, when the ‘Hoos play at home.
“The first couple of games, it was strange,” he said. “We had kept the seats we had in the `70s, and I was pleasantly surprised what good seats they are, a lot closer to the field.
“I plan on being at every home game. I don’t think I’d do any traveling [to away games]. I’m not sure what I’d do if they were in a bowl game, but I guess we’ll find out.”