When George Welsh took over Virginia football in 1982 a lot had changed from when the College Football Hall of Fame coach started his college career thirty years earlier.
Welsh, a first team All American at the United States Naval Academy, who finished third in voting for the Heisman Trophy in 1955 was like an oasis to Cavalier football fans.
Virginia’s seemingly endless gridiron desert with just two winning seasons over a total of 29 was about to be put to rest.
Virginia football fans were about to be lead by Welsh to a long overdue cool drink of water. Welsh understood building programs that produced, endured and that which players and fans eagerly flocked to.
It started with his time at the United States Naval Academy. There he was part of a program that had a mindset that players bought into. That transpired on the field and later as he fulfilled his military service. Welsh expanded on those ideals working as an assistant at Penn State. Under the tutelage of Rip Engle and Joe Paterno from 1963 to 1972 he sharpened his coaching skills.
Welsh returned to his alma mater from 1973 to 1981. He left as the winningest coach in the history of the Midshipmen.
It was time for that next step in his coaching career and opportunity knocked at Virginia for Welsh.
In his third season as head coach Virginia football delivered a winning season. It culminated in the school’s first bowl appearance. The Cavaliers won the 1984 Peach Bowl in Atlanta with a 27-24 decision over Purdue.
Beginning in 1987 Virginia reeled off thirteen straight seasons with seven or more wins. In addition to the wins the Cavaliers shared ACC titles in 1989 and 1995. They added eleven more bowl appearances as well.
Welsh’s efforts did not go unnoticed outside Mr. Jefferson’s University. The ACC named him Coach of the Year four times. He also earned the Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year award in 1991.
Over his 28 year career Welsh amassed a 189-132-4 record with 15 bowl appearances.
The College Football Hall of Fame inducted George Welsh in 2004. Welsh became a part of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. The University of Virginia named their indoor practice facility in honor of George Welsh in 2013.
George Welsh was born in Coaldale, PA on August 26, 1933. On Wednesday, January 2 Welsh passed away surrounded by family in Charlottesville. He was 85.
Jim Quist is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. Follow him on Twitter @ACCTheQ.
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