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Manlove Is Big Winner at Small School

October 11, 1987|TED DUNCOMBE | Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Widener's Bill Manlove says he doesn't dwell much on milestones like his 150th career coaching victory, or having the fourth best winning percentage among active NCAA coaches.

"It's nice, don't misunderstand me," said the coach of the 17th-ranked Division III school. "We're just always looking ahead."

Manlove, 54, came to Widener, formerly Pennsylvania Military College, in 1969, when it was still called PMC Colleges.

The Pioneers went 2-7 that year, though Manlove insists it could have been a winning season with some breaks. "We lost three games that year that were winnable," he said.

PMC considered dropping football after that season, but gave the Pioneers a reprieve.

None of Manlove's teams has had a losing season since. The 1981 team was unbeaten. Nine teams had just one loss.

Heading into the 1987 season, Manlove's winning percentage of .795 was fourth among active NCAA coaches with 10 years experience or more. The only ones higher were Oklahoma's Barry Switzer (.837), Penn State's Joe Paterno (.816) and Nebraska's Tom Osborne (.807).

The record includes NCAA Division III national championships in 1977 and 1981, six Division III playoff invitations and eight Middle Atlantic Conference championships.

Since 1981, the Pioneers have not dominated their rivals as much, going 9-2 in 1982, 7-3 in 1983, 8-3 in 1984, 7-3 in 1985 and 7-4 in 1986.

Rocco Salvo, athletic director and former coach at MAC rival Moravian, said part of that decline reflects on Manlove's earlier success.

"People have had to come up to his level of competition," Salvo said. "There are teams now that do beat Widener."

In fact, Moravian handed Widener its only loss this year, 24-19.

"We had a bad day," Manlove said. "We were sky-high to play a rough-tough game with a rough-tough opponent, and we may have overdone that part of it."

Manlove acknowledges his success may have prompted other teams to ask what they could do to duplicate it.

"For the most part in the MAC today, there are no weak sisters," he said. "Everybody cares about their program."

The 150th career win came after a lightning bolt struck near the field during the third quarter last Saturday against Juniata. When play resumed, the Pioneers held on for a 27-16 win, giving Manlove a 150-39 career record.

Since the NCAA created Division III in 1973, Manlove's Widener teams are 128-24.

Like all Division III schools, Widener has to build a team without the enticements of athletic scholarships. What aid athletes receive is purely on the basis of need.

At times, Widener has lucked out, as with the arrival of Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, now with the Atlanta Falcons.

"His dad's a local policeman, and they wanted him to go to school locally," Manlove said. "He wasn't knocked down by the Division I schools to get in, because he was a 150-pound quarterback in high school. He was a great athlete when he came -- that's no secret. But he developed into a better player."

Widener has also profited from the transfer of athletes who found they weren't playing much in Division I, I-AA or II schools.

"I had a laugh about an article in the paper the other day where one of our athletes said, 'We take anybody,"' Manlove said. "If they want to play football, they're welcome. We do not chase a soul. We do not cut anyone."

And out of that grab bag of athletes, Manlove thinks he has a team with a lot of potential to regain its dominance in the MAC.

"We're young," he said. "We're on our way back. We feel we're going to be competitive the rest of this year. Our future's ahead of us."

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