It will be the end of an era at Beloit College this fall.
Ed DeGeorge, the only head football coach the college has known since 1977, told his team Monday that he is retiring following the 2005 season.
"I'm very proud of what we have done here both with the football program and as the athletic director, but it's time for a change," said DeGeorge, who has led Beloit to 130 football victories, easily the most in Beloit College history. "It was time for a change at the athletic director position and it's time for a change in football, too."
DeGeorge, 63, said he was announcing his retirement now so that the college will be able to hire his successor in time for him to recruit for next season.
"This is a bittersweet day for the Beloit College intercollegiate athletics program and for the entire BC family," Athletics Director Kim Chandler stated in a release. "Since 1977, Ed DeGeorge has set a high standard of excellence as a coach and administrator who has reminded us what is best about college sports and the NCAA Division III philosophy.
"His victories, championships and honors offer an initial opportunity to reflect on the impact that he has had on the college and the Beloit community. But long after these honors have been accumulated, it is his players, and their successes, who offer the best testament to Ed's unique ability to help young men make the most of their time at Beloit College, and in their lives beyond this campus."
DeGeorge will enter his 29th season with more than twice as many wins as any coach in the 114-year history of the Beloit College football. When the Butte, Mont., native took over the program in 1977 it had posted only three winning seasons in its previous 20 and had a string of nine straight losing seasons.
The team didn't win a game his first season, but the following season the Bucs were 4-4 using a predominantly freshmen lineup.
"My first year here was the only easy year I had recruiting," DeGeorge said. "I did it all myself and I got 35 freshmen. I think there were two factors involved. I could say to these kids that you're going to come in here and play because I don't have anyone else. Secondly, I think the school was so excited to have me here the admissions office really helped me get that done."
Since then, recruiting has become more and more difficult in recent years.
"The academic standards are higher now," DeGeorge said. "It's very competitive. Any good football player is going to be aggressively recruited by a bunch of schools. Some of the places have a lot more coaches than we do. Some do things with financial aid that we don't do."
DeGeorge hopes his successor can give recruiting a boost.
"I'm hoping a change here will somehow create a new spirit that will attract more kids," he said. "I love this program. In some ways this is the ideal time because our junior class which will be seniors next year is a big class. I want the new coach to have success."
DeGeorge's squads won six North Division Midwest Conference championships. His best teams played a bruising style and utilized the Wing-T offense. He has coached nine 1,000-yard rushers, paced by 1994 graduate and Hall of Honor inductee Steve Dixon. He is among 222 all-conference athletes and 126 first-team performers who played for DeGeorge at Beloit.
"My greatest moments were spent with the student-athletes," DeGeorge said. "I always enjoyed spending time with them and helping them with whatever they needed. We have had many memorable wins. But it has been all about the student-athletes for me."
The Bucs were particularly good in close games. From 1988-2004, Beloit is 40-22, a .645 winning percentage, in games decided by nine points or less.
DeGeorge also served as the athletic director from 1985 through the end of the 2003-04 academic year.
"I took over a program that was in very bad shape, and we created a highly competitive program," said DeGeorge, looking back over his career at Beloit. "We've had some very good teams here and many quality players. We didn't win as many games as I would have liked, but we worked as hard as anyone. I gave it my best and did it all within rules and with the best interests of the student-athletes in mind."
In 1984, DeGeorge led his Buccaneers to their first North Division title. Beloit was particularly strong in the 1990s, going 40-18 (69 percent) in MWC play. The Bucs captured the North again in 1990, clinching the title with a dramatic come-from-behind victory in overtime at St. Norbert.
The following season, Beloit pulled out four games in the final seconds, including a 19-14 win at Ripon and a 7-0 blanking of St. Norbert to win the North crown again. The Bucs made it three for three in the 1990s when they went 4-1 to win the division in 1992. In 1994, Beloit bounced back from deficits in every MWC victory to claim the North title at 4-1. The Bucs then added their fifth crown in six years as they shared the 1995 MWC North title with Ripon. Overall, Beloit was 58-38 during the decade.
"Ed has done it all," Beloit College President John Burris said. "He has led his football team to the most victories in Beloit College history, he has served with grace and distinction as the director of athletics, and he has had a positive impact on the lives of countless Beloit College student-athletes. Ed epitomizes all that is right in college athletics - the scholar is first, then the athlete. Victory is the goal and is to be savored, but not at all costs. He has made an enormous positive difference at this beloved college and he will be missed."
DeGeorge came to Beloit from Colorado College where he played both offensive and defensive end. After graduating in 1964, he served two years in the U.S. Army (including one in Vietnam where he was wounded) and coached in high school for one year. He then began coaching at his alma mater, serving as the defensive coordinator and linebacker coach. He came to Beloit 10 years later.
"I have so many great moments here and have coached so many terrific players," DeGeorge said. "I want to say thank you to everyone who played for me, coached with me, worked with me, and supported me throughout the years. You can't coach a football team alone. It takes a lot of help and support, and I have received that and more from so many individuals in so many ways. It takes a campus and a community to make a program successful, and I will never forget what has been done for me at Beloit College."
DeGeorge and wife, Nancy, have three sons: Joe, Dave and Mike. All three have been NCAA Division III coaches. Dave is the head baseball coach at Beloit College as well as an assistant football coach. Mike is the head basketball coach at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. Joe, an all-conference player at Beloit and a football coach for nearly two decades, has entered the business world. Ed and Nancy have six grandchildren.