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The Telegram
  • Colgate's Biddle: Focused on task at hand

  • My enduring image of Dick Biddle is of him standing on the sideline in a near blizzard at Andy Kerr Stadium as his Colgate University football team battled Massachusetts and the brutally angry elements in the first round of the 2003 NCAA I-AA playoffs.
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  • My enduring image of Dick Biddle is of him standing on the sideline in a near blizzard at Andy Kerr Stadium as his Colgate University football team battled Massachusetts and the brutally angry elements in the first round of the 2003 NCAA I-AA playoffs.
    Hatless and coatless in the snow, cold and wind – I think he did put on a cap and maybe a sweatshirt in the second half – he ignored it all as he tried to get his Raiders another win.
    Here is the lead of the story that appeared in the Observer-Dispatch the next day:
    The Massachusetts players huddled around a gas heater on the sideline.
    The Colgate guys just went out and played football.
    That they did, no doubt inspired by their coach. They were as focused on the task at hand as he was, mindless of anything but winning that game – which is what they did. Then they added a couple more victories before being outmanned by powerful Delaware in the championship game. But that win over UMass was as memorable an effort as you'll ever see on a football field.
    That season might have been the greatest in Colgate history, even if you consider the famed "unbeaten, untied, unscored-upon and uninvited" 1932 team, the 13 seasons of "The Hoodoo," when the Raiders never lost to nearby rival Syracuse in what for decades was the most important sporting event every year in Central New York, or some of the great seasons Fred Dunlap had when he returned to his alma mater and invigorated what had become a perennial .500 program.
    For a non-scholarship school regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in America to claw its way to the national championship game? That's something Biddle is very proud of, with good reason.
    Biddle is the winningest football coach in Colgate history (137), with a stack of seven league championships, and a dominant way in the Patriot League (81-27) and an even more dominant way against Ivy League opponents (39-10). His teams played exciting football – more exciting than a coach might want at times; some years it seemed every game was 41-38 – and were just plain fun to watch.
    More than that, Biddle brought Colgate back from the lowest point in its football history. The Raiders had gone 0-11 in 1995 – an unbearable thing at a school where football had been king for a century – with most of those losses being very one-sided.
    Biddle was an intimidating presence to some. He was a big, tough guy who had been a great player himself, and he was pretty quiet until he got to know you. He wasn't a joke teller, and he didn't get off many funny lines that I remember, but he wasn't humorless. He made me laugh a few times, and maybe a few comments meant to be funny went right over my head. And he was more than amiable and very engaging if you wanted to discuss his team or just talk football.
    Page 2 of 2 - He could get animated. I asked him once if he worried that he worked his running backs too hard, giving them the ball 35 or more times a game sometimes.
    "Why does everyone say that?" he snapped, maybe for the only time in my experience. "These kids are 20 years old! They're not going to get tired!"
    That blew me back and made me laugh at the same time.
    As proud as he was and is of what he accomplished as a coach – and he should also be proud of his influence on his players and the positive image he helped create for the school – he went out of his way to give credit to his staff and he was extremely generous and heart-felt in praising his players.
    Another thing that just occurred to me is that I talked to Dick Biddle many times, in good times and in bad, in confidence and otherwise, and I can't recall him ever saying a bad thing about a player. Maybe he did in meetings with his staff, or maybe he said something to a kid at practice, but in public? He'd say the team had to get better, or this unit had to improve, or whatever, and he always seemed confident that they would.
    They usually did, and because of that he'll walk away leaving one of the great coaching legacies. We'll miss him.
    Follow @OD_Pitarresi on |Twitter or call him at 792-5032.
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