1-on-1: Bill Wagner set to retire from Penn’s sprint football program

Matt Leon
October 25, 2019 - 5:16 pm
Bill Wagner

Tom Rickert/KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A remarkable career is coming to a close for one coach at the University of Pennsylvania. 

After 50 years at the helm of the sprint football — also known as lightweight football — program, Bill Wagner is set to retire at the current season's end.

Wagner arrived on campus in 1970, and he is truly an institution at Penn. His coaching career started at the high school level before he came on board with the Quakers.

"I was coaching at Cherry Hill East at the time, and I had a center fielder named Alan Ginter, who was also a soccer player. Bob Seddon, who just got the head baseball job and the soccer job (at Penn), was a Cherry Hill resident. He knew me, came to the school, and wanted to talk about getting this youngster to come to Penn. 

“At the same time, he was looking for a freshman assistant baseball coach, and he said that Bob Murray had retired from the baseball job and also the 150-pound lightweight football job. ‘Would you be interested?’ 

“At the time, I thought I wanted to be a high school coach, but then I saw this opportunity to move on to the collegiate level, and I took the opportunity and went over. Fred Shabel hired me. I think he got a good bargain for $3,500 for two sports. And I commuted back and forth from Cherry Hill to Penn all the way up until 1996 when I retired teaching."

In five decades as the head coach of the sprint football team, Wagner won five Collegiate Sprint Football League titles.

Wagner celebrated his 80th birthday in August, but it was one of his assistants who put his decades-long career in perspective for him.

“One of my assistants, Chuck Hitschler, who played for me in 1970, ‘71, ‘72 — he's a math guy — he said, ‘You know coach, when you figure this out, you've been working at Penn, in this room, for 62% of your life.’ My wife and I finally felt like it was time to move forward."

You can listen to the entire interview with Wagner below, or subscribe to the KYW Newsradio original podcast 1-on-1 with Matt Leon.

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