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A century of football at WSU

Really old football photo
First football team in Weber State history.

In 1919, Woodrow Wilson was the President of the United States, a gallon of gas was $0.25, Prohibition began, Babe Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees and the Weber Normal College football team took the field for the first time.

Weber Normal College, which later became Weber State University, played its first game on Oct. 8, 1919, falling to Box Elder High School 20–0 in Brigham City.

Weber’s first win came a few weeks later when they defeated Davis High 6–0 on Oct 31, 1919 in Ogden, before Halloween and trick-or-treating was even a thing.

Not much is known about the Wildcats before they competed as a Division 1 program. In 1919, Weber competed as a church school before becoming a junior college in 1933 and became Weber College.

In 1962, Weber became a 4-year college, Weber State College, for the next 28 years before gaining university status and becoming Weber State University.

WSU played one year before joining the Big Sky Conference and went 5-4 in their first year as a four year program.

In the following year of 1963, WSU became a charter member of the Big Sky joining the University of Idaho, Idaho State University, the University of Montana and Montana State University as football playing schools.

WSU’s first head coach at the Division 1 level was Wally Nalder. Nalder led the Wildcats in their first three seasons and the first two seasons as part of the Big Sky.

Under Nalder the ’Cats went 13-13 with two fourth place finishes in the Big Sky.

For the next eight years, Wildcat great, Sark Arslanian led the Wildcats from 1965-1972 including two first place finishes in 1965 and 1968. While under Sark Arslanian, WSU went 50-26-2.

Between 1973-1980, Dick Gwinn and Pete Riechlman coached the Wildcats to mediocre seasons with a combined record of 25-61-1.

Inside linebacker Danny Rich played football between 1978-81 before playing three seasons for the Los Angeles Express of the Unites States Football League. When asked about a memory at WSU, he talked about the 1978 Utah State week.

“The second to the last game the year, in the linebacker meeting, the starting linebacker was late,” Rich said. “I was named the starting linebacker, but when I walked back into the room, I heard the coach telling the original starting linebacker that I would just play for a few series. So I knew I had to do something great.”

Rich remembers walking out on the field and the USU fans throwing snowballs.

In the game against Utah State, Rich made a diving tackle in the -24 degree weather and WSU beat the Aggies for the one and only time. Rich started the rest of his games at Weber State.

Mike Price took over in 1981 and was the head coach till 1988. During Price’s era, WSU went 46-44, but the 1987 ’Cats went 10-3 and 7-1 in the Big Sky, capturing the conference title for the first time since 1968.

Price’s 1987 team was the first Wildcat team to play in the FCS Playoffs, beating Idaho in the first round but falling at Marshall in the second round.

After Price’s time came to an end, Sark Arslanian’s son Dave Arslanian took the ball till 1997.

Dave Arslanian was a part of the Wildcats for a quarter of the time. Between the time of his dad coaching, him playing and then coaching the Wildcats, Dave Arslanian spent 25 years of his life as part of the WSU football program.

Dave Arslanian led the ’Cats to a 53-47 record and a first round FCS playoff loss to the University of Northern Iowa in 1991.

“As I thought about a memory at Weber State, something that always came back to my mind was the people,” Dave Arslanian said. “The fans, the players, the supporters, donors and everything involved with Weber State football.”

Jerry Graybeal took over for the Wildcats in 1998-2004. WSU posted a 32-46 record under Graybeal before the Ron McBride era.

“The inaugural event and the ribbon cutting at Elizabeth Dee Shaw Stewart Stadium sky suites complex,” Graybeal said on his memory. “We paid tribute to Elizabeth and Stewart, and their legacy still lives on today.”

McBride coached the ’Cats from 2005-2011 posting a 43-38 record and leading WSU to two FCS Playoffs.

“My fondest memory is probably the game at home against Montana, it was such a huge win for us,” McBride said. “Going up to Wyoming and Colorado State, back-to-back weeks. It was two games we should have won … and taking that bus trip up there watching them play the way they played was a thrill.”

Defensive end Brady Fosmark played during 2002-05 for the Wildcats and was one of just four players named to the Big Sky Defensive MVP in WSU history. Fosmark was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2018.

“In 2003, against Idaho State … I missed a defensive stunt,” Fosmark said. “But when they called it again, the ISU quarterback threw me the ball, and I ran it in for a four yard touchdown.”

In 2008, WSU beat Cal Poly in the first round before falling to Montana in the second round. Weber State went back to the playoffs in 2009. For the first time in their 90-year history, the ’Cats went to the playoffs on back-to-back years.

WSU lost in the 2009 first round to William and Mary.

The next two years for Weber State was forgetful. Jody Sears took over leading Weber State to just four wins and 19 losses.

In 2014, former athletic director Jerry Bovee found Jay Hill, and the Hill era has been everything but a National Championship.

Hill has led WSU to a 37-28 record, three consecutive FCS Playoff berths, two consecutive quarterfinals, WSU home playoff games and back-to-back Big Sky Championships.

Throughout the years of WSU Football, the Wildcats have captured six total Big Sky Conference titles and 38 players have been drafted into the NFL.

WSU has had one first round draft pick in 1968 when Lee White was drafted 17 overall to the New York Jets. There has been two Mr. Irrelevant draft picks, last pick of the draft, in WSU’s history. 1998’s Cam Quayle went to the Baltimore Ravens and Tim Toone in 2010 went to the Detroit Lions.

Wildcat greats have taken the field at Stewart Stadium every week, such as Wallace F. Morris in the 1920s, who was known as “Wildcat” Morris before the team was even called the Wildcats and Jamie Martin who won the Walter Payton Award in 1991 as the Nation’s top player. In 2018 Josh Davis was awarded the Jerry Rice Award as the National Freshman of the Year.

WSU will celebrate the 100 years of football Sept. 28 against the University of Northern Iowa at 6 p.m. Both teams are entering the matchup ranked in the top 10, and former players and coaches are invited to come and will be in attendance.

The 100 team at WSU will take the field on Sept. 28 wearing all purple with the “Flying W” logo on their helmet.

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