University Of Vermont played football from 1896 through the 1974 season, and few
football fans might be aware of that fact. Possessed with a beauty that is
breathtaking, Vermont could rank among the most pleasant places to live, a
fantastic vacation spot, and a wonderful state to raise one’s children.
Unfortunately, its success in the sport of football has never quite matched its
other very positive attributes. Though it is not the smallest state in the U.S.
relative to population, Vermont has only fielded approximately thirty to
thirty-six high school football teams in any single season within the past five
years. The tradition of the home state university sending gridiron heroes on to
professional football is close to nil, with a total of six University of Vermont
players actually seeing game action in the National Football League and one, its
most recent professional player, was actually a two year performer in the All
American Football Conference of the late 1940’s. The Catamounts of UVM
(“everyone knows,” or at least everyone in Vermont knows that the abbreviation
is not “UVT” but instead, one that stems from the translation from Latin,
Universitas Virdis Montis, to the University Of The Green Mountains), was an
original 1946 member of the Yankee Conference. In football, they usually slogged
along with two to four wins per season, no more than a middle-of-the-pack
program, with what might be considered a high water mark during the 1966 through
’68 seasons where the overall 24 – 7 record came under the tutelage of head
coach Bob Clifford.
The seasons of the mid to late 1960’s were among the better ones for the Catamounts under Head Coach Bob Clifford
If one scans the UVM Athletic Hall Of Fame, there seems to be a disproportionate number of football players from the Clifford years that spanned 1962 through 1969. Joe Scannella took over the program in 1970. He had been an outstanding high school coach on Long Island, the head coach at C.W. Post College, and the offensive coach for the Montreal Alouettes in 1969.
Clifford, the Vermont gridders had worn a white shell with a stalking
catamount on each side, and green flanking stripes. Scannella, perhaps
influenced by his stay at C.W. Post College who shared a Green Bay gold and
green color scheme with Vermont, changed the uniform, utilizing a Green Bay
gold shell with the VTM dark green V decal on each side, a clean, simple,
but stylish look.
Record setting quarterback Earl Olson
The Vermont program took a serious hit when Scannella accepted an assistant’s position with the Oakland Raiders in mid-June, prior to the start of 1972’s pre-season practice, forcing offensive line coach Carl Falivene to move into the head coaching chair. Falivene had been an outstanding running back at Albany’s Christian Brothers Academy and when injuries curtailed his University Of Notre Dame career, he transferred to and graduated from Syracuse. He returned to Christian Brothers as head football coach, had success as an Ohio high school coach, including years at Cleveland’s Holy Name High School where he coached future Nebraska great and long time college coach Frank Solich, and was well acquainted with the New England area after serving as an assistant at Williams College and Vermont.
Vermont’s Steve Coon on the receiving end of a 1972 pass from Earl Olson
Falivene’s first entry surprised with a 4-5 record that included three
conference victories. Earl Olson continued to set school records, often
hooking up with Bill Looker, and was complemented by a rushing attack
featuring a committee of Gary Vandecar, Barry Visen, Mike McAllister, and
Steve Coon. Linebacker Rich Rostowsky’s thirty-one tackles against
Northeastern went a long way towards earning him All Yankee and All New
England honors and a two year stay with the Ottawa Roughriders.
As players, staff, and fans looked forward to the 1973 season, the spirited
play and understated “old school” Vermont helmet and jersey style had gained
many new followers.