Nice guys finish first!
Retired Westminster College football coach Dr. Joseph B. Fusco has been showered with many laurels throughout his tremendous coaching career. However, the most recent award earns a place right at the top.
Fusco is one of seven individuals (five players and two coaches) who will be inducted into the Divisional (non-NCAA Division I) Class of 2001 of the College Football Hall of Fame Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind. The 2001 class will be enshrined during ceremonies in South Bend during the weekend of Aug. 10-11.
The Class of 2001 is a star-studded one which includes: players Jim Haslett, Indiana University of Pa.; Gordie Lockbaum, Holy Cross; Bill Redell, Occidental; Freddie Scott, Amherst; and Doug Williams, Grambling State; and coaches Arnett Mumford (Jarvis Christian, Bishop, Texas College; and Southern) and Fusco.
Began in 1996: The Divisional Hall of Fame program was implemented in 1996, and 43 of college football's best players and 17 of the most celebrated coaches have been selected.
Fusco served as football coach at Westminster from 1972-90, and posted an overall record of 154-34-3, leading the Titans to four NAIA Division II national championships. When he retired, his career winning percentage ranked second in the nation among all NAIA coaches with at least 10 years of experience.
Fusco is just the third person in Westminster history to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
His predecessor as Titan coach, Dr. Harold Burry, was inducted into the inaugural divisional class in 1996. Former Titan lineman Larry Pugh was inducted in 1998.
Background: A 1960 Westminster alumnus who was an all-state selection and two-time all-district honoree as offensive guard playing for Burry, Fusco began his football coaching career as at Wilmington and Grove City high schools, posting a combined record of 55-14-3.
He then joined Burry's staff as offensive line coach in 1968. As head coach, his resume included nine NAIA national playoff appearances and 15 NAIA Division II top 20 finishes. It was the national championship seasons, however, that left Fusco with an undeniable legacy of success.
Fusco led the Titans to a combined 21-1 record while capturing the 1976 and 1977 national crowns. His 1977 team finished 11-0 and also won the Lambert Bowl trophy as the top small college football team in the eastern United States. Fusco led the Titans to back-to-back titles in 1988 (14-0) and 1989 (13-0), compiling a 27-game winning streak that at the time was the longest of any college team in the nation at any level.
Memorable: One of the most memorable games in that streak was the 1988 title game, when Joe Micchia fired a 33-yard scoring strike to Dave Foley with only seconds remaining, a TD pass that lifted the Titans to a spine-tingling 21-14 championship.
I was in the press box that day covering the contest, and I must say it was one of the most dramatic finishes I ever have witnessed. Micchia was flat on his back after throwing the pass, and it was doubtful he even saw the scoring strike.
Fusco was named NAIA National Coach of the Year in 1988, while earning NAIA District/Area Coach of the Year laurels on seven occasions. In 1994 he joined Burry in the NAIA Hall of Fame.
In addition to his football coaching accomplishments, Fusco also served as athletic director at Westminster from 1985 until his retirement in 1999.