Russo to Step Down After Lafayette-Lehigh Game
Nov. 16, 1999
EASTON, PA - Lafayette College's Bill Russo announced today that this week's Lafayette - Lehigh football game will be his final contest as the Leopards' head football coach. The all-time winningest football coach in Lafayette history, Russo is stepping down after 19 seasons at the College with a record of 103-97-4 with the Leopards and a career record of 118-112-4.
The "Dean" of Patriot League gridiron mentors, Russo guided the Lafayette football program's return to prominence, leading the Leopards to a Colonial League title in 1988 and Patriot League Championships in 1992 and 1994. His success earned him the 1988 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award as the top mentor in NCAA Division I-AA, as well as Patriot League Coach of the Year honors in 1988, 1992 and 1994.
"The College is grateful to Bill Russo for his exceptional service to Lafayette and its student body during the past 19 years," said Lafayette President Arthur J. Rothkopf '55.
"Russo's legacy speaks for itself," added Rothkopf. "He has positively affected the lives of so many young men, who have learned from one of the best coaches in the nation."
"I believe that announcing (that I am stepping down) at this time gives our football program the opportunity to move forward quickly and garner the support we need to ensure future success," explained Russo.
When Lafayette defeated Dartmouth 20-10 earlier this season, Russo recorded his 100th victory at Lafayette.
"I am sure I will recall our exciting wins," continued Russo. "I know I will wear our three Championship rings proudly. But, what I will most remember from my tenure at Lafayette College are the many outstanding young men it has been my privilege to coach. They are now out in society raising their families and doing their life's work and I am certain they have benefited from the lessons taught by this great game of football. I am as proud as anyone could be of the fine adults they have become. I hope they will remember me as a coach that always fought his hardest for his players and our program."
Russo burst onto the coaching scene at Lafayette with a 9-2 record in 1981 after the Leopards stumbled through a 3-7 season prior to his arrival. Through the 1991 season, the five and one-half win improvement turned in by Russo's 1981 team was the fourth-best turnaround on the NCAA Division I-AA record books. In his first game at Lafayette, Central Connecticut fell victim to a 51-0 shutout at the hands of Russo's Leopards, a stark contrast to a club which went six games without scoring a touchdown the year before.
In 1986, Russo achieved what no other Lafayette football coach had been able to do in 105 years. His string of six straight non-losing seasons was a school record, and a mark that, at the time, was unequalled by any Division I-AA team in the Northeast.
Russo's 1988 team won the Colonial League title with a perfect 5-0 record and was the highest-scoring Division I-AA program in the country, averaging more than 38 points per game and reaching the 50-point mark four times. The 1988 squad broke 15 offensive school records, en route to a glittering 8-2-1 record as Russo received the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award as the top mentor in NCAA Division I-AA. He also was the Colonial League's Coach of the Year, and the winner of the Scotty Whitelaw Award from the New York Sportswriters as the Northeast Region's best I-AA coach.
The Leopards were ranked as high as fifth in the I-AA national polls in 1988. The previous best any Lafayette team had been ranked was eighth in 1981, Russo's first season in Easton.
After his 9-2 season of 1981, Russo earned District 2 Coach of the Year laurels from a vote of his peers in the American Football Coaches Association.
His most recent success came in 1994 as he guided the Leopards to the Patriot League crown with a perfect 5-0 mark. The squad won its last five contests, defeating league opponents by an average score of 35-11. A total of 14 Leopards earned All-League honors, while Russo was rewarded with his third Patriot League Coach of the Year award.
In 1992, the Leopards were also 5-0 in league play and turned in an overall ledger of 8-3. Only a slim two-point loss to Division I-A Army kept the Leopards from claiming the last seven games of the season.
In 1993, the Leopards were picked to finish in third place but Russo led Lafayette to within one win of the Patriot League title as the Leopards wound up 3-1-1 in league play.
In the 1995 season opener, Russo became the 11th active Division I-AA football coach to amass 100 career wins.
Counting three years at Wagner College, a then-Division III program in Staten Island, NY, Russo has been a collegiate head football coach for 22 seasons. After going 2-8 in his first season in 1978, Russo hit the road recruiting heavily in the New York area and improved from 2-8 to 5-5.
His final season at Wagner brought an 8-2 record and a No. 7-national ranking, as the Seahawks advanced to postseason play for the first time in their 50-year history and set 10 offensive records. For his efforts that season, Russo was awarded the 1980 Stan Lomax-Irving T. Marsh Award, presented annually by the New York Football Writers Association to the Coach of the Year.
A national search for Russo's replacement will begin following the