Tag: Banta Bowl

Aker: It’s time to re-establish Lawrence’s football presence in Wisconsin

Tony Aker poses for a photo outside the fence at a snow-covered Banta Bowl.
Tony Aker, Lawrence’s new football coach, is looking to bring excitement back to the Banta Bowl on Saturday afternoons. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

“Don’t flinch.”

It’s a message Tony Aker delivers frequently.

You’ll hear Lawrence University’s new head football coach say it when imploring his players to embrace the academic and athletic rigors that come with being a scholar athlete. You’ll hear it when he talks with his coaches about the challenges of rebuilding a winning tradition in a football program that was once among the nation’s Division III elite but hasn’t won consistently in years. And you’ll hear it when he talks about re-establishing the Fox Valley, the state of Wisconsin, and the upper Midwest as essential recruiting territory for Lawrence football.

“We talk about not flinching, coming in and accepting the challenge,” Aker said as he settled into his office in the lower level of Alexander Gymnasium in mid-January, a month into his first foray as a collegiate head coach. “It’s about these guys knowing they have to go and attack it, never backing down from any challenge. … When you have setbacks on the field or classes start to pick up and it gets a little tougher, we tell them, that’s what we signed up for. We tell our scholar athletes we want them to be excited about studying for an exam. I want them to walk up and slam that exam down and feel really, really good that they put the work in and they’ve done everything they could to put themselves in a position to be successful.

“And as coaches, we have to live it out. We have to have that don’t flinch mentality. We’re going to go in and attack everything, and that’s the same way we’re going to play football.”

A conference first

Aker, 32, makes a bit of history upon his arrival at Lawrence. He is the first African American head football coach in the Midwest Conference, the second among all Wisconsin colleges. The first African American head football coach at the collegiate level in Wisconsin was Fred Reese at Lakeland University in the early 1990s.

Aker said he counts a number of talented African American head coaches at the high school level in Wisconsin as mentors. He points in particular to Dennis Thompson, who became the first African American high school coach to win a state football championship at Racine Park High School in 2005.

“It’s an honor, it’s something I’m proud of,” Aker said of crossing that barrier in the Midwest Conference. “But I don’t really think about it. I’m proud of it but I definitely don’t want it to define me. At the end of the day, I’m a football coach and an educator and I take great pride in developing my scholar athletes. I’m just excited about the opportunity to be a head football coach.”

With challenges come opportunities

If enthusiasm alone was the ticket to success, Aker would already have the Lawrence program turned around. He knows the challenges are many. The Vikings are coming off a 1-8 season. The Banta Bowl, as beautiful a setting as you’ll find in Division III football, has failed to draw sizable crowds. Lawrence football has mostly fallen off the Appleton community’s radar. High school coaches in Wisconsin haven’t regularly looked to Lawrence as a landing spot for their players.

Aker isn’t flinching. Challenge accepted, he said.

Earlier in January, he attended the annual Red Smith Sports Award Banquet in Appleton, an annual event that brings together coaches, athletics administrators, and sports fans from around the state. It was a chance to introduce himself, to shake some hands, to begin the process of building positive relations here in the Fox Valley and across the state.

Aker, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s 2005 Wisconsin High School Athlete of the Year while at Brown Deer High School and later an all-conference selection as a wide receiver at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, had been working the past four years as an assistant coach at Carroll University. He knew Lawrence well, its proud football history and its recent struggles.

“It was very, very intriguing,” he said of the coaching opportunity. “And quite frankly, we have some work to do, and that appeals to me as well. I’m a firm believer in nothing that’s worth having comes easy. I wanted to come here and have the opportunity to help us get back to some of those past successes that we’ve had in the football program.”

From December: Lawrence names new football coach

Staying true to Wisconsin

“First and foremost, I’m a Wisconsin guy,” Aker said.

Originally from southern Indiana, he and his family moved to Milwaukee as he was entering eighth grade. He excelled at multiple sports at Brown Deer before going on to play football for Rochester Community and Technical College in Minnesota and then Stevens Point. He graduated from UWSP, having majored in sociology, and joined its coaching staff as a graduate assistant. That led him to Carroll, where he worked as an associate head coach/offensive coordinator and coached the quarterbacks, and most recently served as interim head coach.

Aker and his partner, Haley, have an 18-month-old son and a baby on the way, due in April.

Those Wisconsin roots, he said, will drive much of his philosophy as he looks to put a renewed recruiting focus closer to home.

“I take great pride in recruiting and being able to re-establish our footprint in the state of Wisconsin,” Aker said. “When you look at some of our past teams, especially our most successful ones, we’ve had a lot of scholar athletes from Wisconsin, Illinois, that upper Midwest and Great Lakes region. And we need to get back to that. I think that’s important. We are still a Wisconsin university, and we need to have that represented. Even as we continue to make headway and continue some of the national recruiting we’ve done, I would really like to have an inside out focus as we move forward.”

That includes a new emphasis on recruiting scholar athletes from in and around the Fox Cities.

“We have to try to do our best to protect the back yard,” Aker said. “Go in and find the best and the brightest and sell our vision and sell our great university and make them understand that you don’t need to go someplace else to succeed. You can accomplish all that and more right here. It’s something we have to take great pride in.

“We’re going to be visible. I plan to be out on many, many sidelines and in many, many bleachers come fall as we enjoy those Friday night lights, watching the great high school programs around the area.”

With that inside out recruiting focus, Aker believes, will come renewed excitement in the community for Vikings football. And better attendance and more energy at the Banta Bowl on Saturday afternoons.

“We’ve got to do a little bit of work in the community to make it fun again,” Aker said. “It’s a great setting, and this is a great university, and this is a great campus and a great town. We’ve got to get people here to show it off.

“We’re a part of the community and they’re a part of us, and we’re trying to get back to that as much as we can.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence’s Banta Bowl recognized with national “distinguished facility” award

Lawrence University’s Banta Bowl has always been a home to winners, but the facility itself is now a winner as well.

The recently renovated Ron Roberts Field at the Banta Bowl has received an award from the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA). The new-look Banta Bowl, designed by Rettler Corp. of Stevens Point and constructed by The Boldt Co. of Appleton, was honored in the Distinguished Field Facilities category.

A fisheye photo of Lawrence University stadium Banta Bowl.
Renovated in 2015, Lawrence’s Banta Bowl was recognized by the American Sports Builders Association with an award as a “distinguished field facility.

“It is exciting to be honored with this award,” Lawrence Director of Athletics Christyn Abaray said. “The foresight and vision displayed to show what this could be, and the deliberation and expertise utilized to make the Banta Bowl a reality are commendable and remarkable. We want to thank everyone who supported and continue to support this effort. This is an example of how impactful positive change can be.”

The ASBA, the national organization for builders and suppliers of materials for athletic facilities, presents these awards annually to facilities built by ASBA members and exemplify construction excellence.

The 3,634-seat Banta Bowl, tucked into a natural ravine just south of the Fox River, underwent the major renovation during the spring and summer of 2015.

Renovations began with raising and widening the playing field to accommodate a soccer pitch. The stadium, home to Lawrence football since 1965, now also houses the Lawrence men’s and women’s soccer teams. The natural grass surface was replaced with FieldTurf to allow for more and varied use of the stadium.

The fan experience was greatly improved with aluminum grandstand seating and an LED scoreboard that houses a new sound system.

Fans enter the Banta Bowl through an inviting plaza at the north end of the stadium. The new Gilboy Athletic Center houses Lawrence’s football locker room, an athletic training room, an officials’ room, concessions, ticketing and restrooms. The building was named for Steve ’62 and Joan Gilboy, who provided a leadership gift for the stadium renovation.

The naming of Ron Roberts Field at the Banta Bowl honors Lawence’s legendary football coach and long-time director of athletics, Ron Roberts, at the behest of Tom Rogers ’65, who gave the lead gift for the renovation.

Lawrence surpassed the goal of $4.5 million to renovate the stadium, and the final piece of the renovation is set to be completed in 2017. The original press box will be replaced with a new multi-level facility for game control personnel, the media and coaches. It is expected to be ready for games in the fall of 2017.

“This was an incredibly collaborative endeavor that bore a result of which all involved can be very proud,” Abaray said.

“Thanks to the leadership of Lawrence for this project from the Board of Trustees, President Mark Burstein and Vice President for Alumni and Development Cal Husmann,” Abaray added. “In addition, thank you to Mike Szkodzinski, director of athletics/head hockey coach at the time of planning and construction, and Rettler Corporation for their significant contribution to the renovation. Finally, thank you to Lynn Hagee, instrumental in the aesthetic appeal of the Banta Bowl, for her assistance.”

The football teams at Lawrence have embraced the Banta Bowl and made it a home to champions. The Vikings, under the leadership of Roberts, captured seven of their 16 Midwest Conference titles since moving into the stadium in 1965.

The Banta Bowl would not have been possible without the generosity of George Banta Jr. ’10. Originally called the Lawrence Bowl, the stadium was an anonymous gift from Banta and was renamed in his honor after his death in 1978.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence strengthens athletics with full-time hockey coach and new department head

Lawrence University is set to begin a new chapter by hiring a full-time director of athletics, university administrators announced today.

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Mike Szkodzinski

Current Director of Athletics and Head Hockey Coach Mike Szkodzinski said he is ready to return his focus solely to leading the hockey program. Despite splitting time between the roles of administrator and coach, Szkodzinski has put together a record of significant achievements during his nearly six years as athletic director.

“It has been a pleasure working with Coach Szkodzinski during my tenure here. Even with Mike’s high energy and strategic approach to leading our athletic and hockey programs, it is evident that a full-time director of athletics is something Lawrence needs to reach our aspirations,” Lawrence President Mark Burstein said. “Traditionally, the model at the University has been to have one of the coaches also serve as the director of athletics but bearing that sort of workload has become simply too much even for Mike.”

Lawrence will conduct a national search for a new director of athletics, said Burstein, who praised the work done by Szkodzinski on a variety of fronts.

“Intercollegiate athletics are an integral component of our liberal arts mission and Mike has been a strong leader for our coaches and student-athletes,” Burstein said. “With our growing investment in the athletic program, we want to be certain we continue the positive momentum Mike has started in the department of athletics. Having a full-time director of athletics is a crucial part of that formula for success.”

Burstein added that Szkodzinski will remain at the head of the department of athletics, which consists of 20 full-time coaches and staff overseeing hundreds of student-athletes, until a successor is named.

“Mike has done outstanding work in leading our department of athletics, but I know, in his heart, he is first and foremost a hockey coach,” Provost Dave Burrows said. “I know he wants the hockey team to have greater success in the best conference in the nation. To do that, he needs to devote all his energies to that team.”

Szkodzinski was named the director of athletics in July 2009 and has coached the Lawrence hockey team for nine seasons. He has balanced that workload with family commitments to his wife, Tori, and three young children.

Mike-Szkodzinski_action_newsblog
Named head coach of the Vikings’ hockey team in 2006, Mike Szkodzinski has guided the team to the most wins in school history.

“This is something I’ve been thinking about for some time and the support of President Burstein and Provost Burrows made it possible for me to hand over the reins of the department of athletics with the confidence that we are moving in the right direction,” Szkodzinski said.

The department of athletics has seen a number of changes during Szkodzinski’s tenure. Szkodzinski worked to increase the number of full-time staff members and was responsible for the hiring of standout coaches like Jason Fast (men’s and women’s cross country, track), Lisa Sammons (women’s soccer), Steve Francour (men’s and women’s tennis), Ashley Wellman (women’s basketball) as well as Rob McCarthy, Lawrence’s new football coach.

In addition, Szkodzinski has played a leading role in the renovation of the Banta Bowl, which is underway. Szkodzinski’s leadership, in partnership with Lawrence’s development office, has spearheaded efforts to raise more than $4 million for the renovation of the venerable stadium. A renovated Banta Bowl will debut in fall 2015 to celebrate its 50th birthday and serve as the home of Lawrence football as well as men’s and women’s soccer.

Under Szkodzinski’s leadership, the Lawrence tennis courts were recently resurfaced and had lights installed. Other facilities upgrades include a new track surface for Whiting Field and improvements to Alexander Gymnasium as well as both the baseball and softball fields.

“I am so proud and pleased with what we have been able to accomplish over the past six years,” said Szkodzinski, who has won more hockey games than any coach in Lawrence history. “I believe we are positioned to succeed in the Midwest Conference and the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association. I’m excited about the prospect of returning my primary focus to our hockey team, but I’m ready to assist the new director of athletics as well.”

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

McCarthy Named Vikings’ New Head Football Coach

Rob McCarthy is the new head football coach at Lawrence University, Director of Athletics Mike Szkodzinski announced today.

Rob-McCarthy_newsblog
Head Football Coach Rob McCarthy

McCarthy, the defensive line coach at Carleton College and former long-time defensive coordinator at St. Olaf College, becomes the 28th head coach in Lawrence’s 122-year football history. A native of Deer River, Minn., McCarthy brings 25 years of coaching experience to Lawrence.

“I just think it’s a great, great opportunity,” McCarthy said of coming to Lawrence. “During my visits, I found a great excitement for football and a passion for excellence among the administration, faculty and alumni. That made me really want to be part of Lawrence’s rich football tradition.”

McCarthy said his first priority will be to build the Lawrence football family, and he wants to see greater depth in the program.

“No. 1, we want to build a football family where “I” is replaced by “we”, “team” is replaced by “family.” We will provide Lawrence student-athletes with a great experience. Winning will be a byproduct of doing things the right way,” McCarthy said.

“In addition, recruiting will be a priority. We have to get the numbers up to provide a quality experience. We want to recruit young men who want excellence in their lives, both in academics and athletics. We will recruit the top student-athletes from the Fox Valley, the state of Wisconsin and the country.”

Lawrence President Mark Burstein praised McCarthy’s commitment to the student and the student-athlete.

“One of the distinctive aspects of Rob’s candidacy was his strong support of students’ interest to pursue more than one passion or – as we like to say – ‘multi-interested students,'” Burstein said. “To reinforce this commitment, Rob has served through most of his career as the assistant men’s and women’s track coach where his student athletes have had significant success.”

“During my visits, I found a great excitement for football and a passion for excellence among
the administration, faculty and alumni. That made me really want to be part of
Lawrence’s rich football tradition.”

— Head Coach Rob McCarthy

Szkodzinski said McCarthy emerged from a talented group of candidates to be the next leader of Lawrence’s football program. A committee consisting of Lawrence administrators, faculty, students, trustees and alumni-athletes considered more than 100 applicants identified in a national search.

“We are very excited to welcome Rob to our staff as the next head football coach,” Szkodzinski said. “The applicant pool was tremendously competitive and Coach McCarthy distinguished himself as one of the top recruiters in our pool.”

Szkodzinski added that bringing McCarthy to Lawrence serves the best interests of the program and will keep the team moving forward. With the hiring of the McCarthy and the renovation of the Banta Bowl taking place this year, Szkodzinski reiterated the administration’s commitment to football and the Department of Athletics as a whole.

“Rob’s connections throughout the Midwest, Florida and nationally will serve our program well,” Szkodzinski said. “Not only will he be able to attract tremendous student-athletes to Lawrence, as he has at other excellent institutions, his experience as a coordinator led us to believe that he has the tools to help us succeed on the field as well. We know Coach McCarthy will be an asset to the entire department and look forward to watching our program move back toward the top of the Midwest Conference.”

This past fall was McCarthy’s first at Carleton after spending the previous 12 seasons at St. Olaf College. While at St. Olaf, McCarthy was part of a coaching staff that put together the best 12-year record in school history with a 73-47 mark. McCarthy was responsible for bringing a number of stellar players to St. Olaf, including one (Horace Gant Jr.) that went on to play in the NFL, a number of All-Americans and many All-West Region and first-team All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference picks.

“The applicant pool was tremendously competitive and Coach McCarthy distinguished
himself as one of the top recruiters in our pool.”

— Director of Athletics Mike Szkodzinski

McCarthy served in a variety of roles, most notably as defensive coordinator, for the Oles. He also worked as the special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator for St. Olaf, which won eight games in four different seasons during that 12-year span.

McCarthy began his coaching career at Concordia (Minn.) College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1989 with a double major in English and speech, communications and theater arts. A standout defensive lineman for the Cobbers, McCarthy earned All-MIAC honors and helped his team to conference championships in 1986 and 1988.

McCarthy Press Conference_newsblog
Rob McCarthy and Mike Szkodzinski attend a press conference announcing McCarthy’s appointment as Lawrence’s new head football coach.

After serving as an assistant coach at Concordia for the 1989 season, McCarthy moved to the University of St. Thomas (Minn.) in 1990. He served with the Tommies for five seasons and helped them win the MIAC championship in 1990. McCarthy then coached at Northwestern (Minn.) College and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire over the next five seasons. He helped Northwestern win the 1995 Upper Midwest Athletic Conference title and was part of the UW-Eau Claire team that took the 1998 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.

McCarthy earned a master of science of education degree in learning disabilities from UW-Eau Claire in 2000. He then returned to coach for one season at St. Thomas and one season at Pensacola (Fla.) High School before moving to St. Olaf.

After coaching for most of his career in Minnesota, McCarthy said Lawrence provided him exactly the opportunity he was seeking, both for himself and his family. McCarthy and his wife, Angie, have three children.

“It’s a great place to raise a family,” McCarthy said. “I wasn’t just going to leave. It needed to be the right program. When this came up and everyone raved about Appleton and Lawrence, we knew this was the one.”

Lawrence has been playing varsity football since 1893 and ranks third in Midwest Conference history with 16 league championships. The Vikings have won 496 games during their storied history, and that includes the distinction of being the first Midwest Conference team to host, and win, a NCAA Division III playoff game.

Lawrence has nearly 450 All-Midwest Conference selections since the league began choosing teams back in 1937. The Vikings have 66 All-America selections, starting with Claude Radtke in 1949. Lawrence also is the only school in the Midwest Conference to have a player, Scott Reppert in 2003, selected for the College Football Hall of Fame.

Watch a video of a press conference introducing Coach McCarthy. (Note: The press conference actually begins at the 15:50 mark of the vide0.)

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Banta Bowl Renovation Project Receives $250,000 Grant from Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau

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An architectural rendering of the renovated Banta Bowl, including a widened playing field with synthetic surface, new press box, locker rooms, restrooms and entrance plaza.

Lawrence University has received a $250,000 Tourism Development Grant from the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau for the renovation of the Banta Bowl. The grant, reviewed and approved by the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Tourism Development Grants Committee and its Board of Directors, will be distributed over a five-year period at $50,000 per year.

The proposed Banta Bowl renovations include raising and widening the field to accommodate soccer and lacrosse and the installation of a high-quality synthetic playing surface making the field more durable. This durability will increase opportunities for community groups to use the facility.

The project also will include new seating, locker rooms, press box, concession, restrooms, lighting, LED scoreboard and entrance plaza, all contributing to a modern, state-of-the-art stadium experience. The total cost of the project is estimated at $5.2 million.

“Lawrence is delighted to have the support of the Fox Cities for our highest priority capital project,” said Lawrence University President Mark Burstein. “Investment in a new Banta Bowl is the latest example of the long-standing relationship between the college and the community including Mile of Music, the Civic Life Project and the Division III Baseball World Series. I strongly support our football program and want to thank the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for their investment in Lawrence football and sports throughout the region. ”

The renovated Banta Bowl could attract a sizable number of visitors for overnight stays each year. The wider field will enable Lawrence to host regional youth soccer tournaments and summer camps, while the durable new turf will allow for concerts and events like the WIAA state football playoffs or even semi-pro football games. The new lighting opens up the opportunity for night games and the entire stadium feel positions it well for signature “championship” games.

“The Bureau’s Tourism Development Grants Committee along with its Board of Directors is thrilled to be able to offer this grant to Lawrence University,” said Chris Haese, Grants committee chair. “The renovations to the Banta Bowl will not only provide a boost to the Lawrence athletic program, but will also provide a great opportunity to enhance sports tourism, both of which will benefit the economy of the Fox Cities.”

The Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau’s mission is to strengthen the Fox Cities economy by attracting meeting, sports and leisure visitors through sales, marketing and destination development. Visitor spending in the Fox Cities was more than $392 million in 2012. The bureau estimates that spending created 5,500 jobs and $125 million in income for Fox Cities residents.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

 

 

Lawrence University Mourns the Loss of Football Coach, Athletic Director Ron Roberts

Former Lawrence University athletic director, long-time football coach and Professor Emeritus of Physcial Education Ron Roberts passed away Sunday, Dec. 2 in Oshkosh. He was 81 years old.

An icon in the annals of Lawrence athletics, Roberts joined the athletic department in 1963 as the football team’s offensive line coach under another Lawrence legend, Bernie Heselton. Roberts also coached the wrestling and men’s tennis teams upon his arrival on campus.  He later served as athletic director for many years, overseeing the introduction and expansion of varsity sports for women.

Ron Roberts

Named head football coach in 1965 — the year the Banta Bowl opened — Roberts won his first of six Midwest Conference championships the following year, compiling a 7-1 record. In just his third season, the 1967 squad finished 8-0, becoming only the fourth unbeaten/untied team in school history en route to another conference title. Roberts’ teams would go on to win Midwest Conference titles in 1975, 1979, 1980 and 1981.

A 45th-year reunion honoring Roberts and the members of the 1967 undefeated football team was held on campus in October, an event he called “one of the best evenings of my life.”

Gracious in victory and uncomplaining in defeat, Roberts posted 14 winning seasons in his 20-year football coaching tenure. During an impressive 10-year stretch (1974-83), the Vikings never lost more than two games in a season and posted a 77-15 record that included a school-record 18-game winning streak.

The 1981 season was arguably the pinnacle of his coaching career. Lawrence won the Midwest Conference championship and finished with a 9-0 regular-season record, becoming the first Midwest Conference team selected for the NCAA Division III playoffs. The Vikings  became the first Midwest Conference team to host and win a NCAA playoff game, defeating Minnesota-Morris 21-14 in overtime. Lawrence reached the NCAA national semifinals, the only Midwest Conference team ever to advance that far in the Division III playoffs.

A tireless recruiter and an unabashed optimist, Roberts stepped away from football after the 1983 season but returned as the team’s head coach for a final season in 1992 before retiring. When he ended his football coaching career, he had amassed the second-most wins in the history of the Midwest Conference.

He owns the Lawrence school record with 121 victories and his 121-54-1 record upon retirement was the 12th-best winning percentage (.690) in NCAA Division III football history at the time. Nearly two dozen players who played for or were recruited by Roberts earned all-America honors.

He coached the wrestling team for 19 seasons in three different stints (1963-69, 1972-74, 1985-93) and the men’s tennis team for six seasons from 1964-69. His 1968 tennis team won the conference championship.

A charter member of Lawrence’s athletic Hall of Fame, Roberts also was inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1996.

Born in Chicago, Roberts was a standout football player and wrestler at the University of Wisconsin. He helped the football Badgers reach the 1953 Rose Bowl and was selected as an alternate to the U.S. wrestling team for the 1956 Pan-Am Games in Mexico City.

Roberts earned a bachelor’s degree in history and physical education and a master’s degree in educational administration from Wisconsin, an advanced degree from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in educational administration from Brigham Young University.

He began his coaching career at his high school alma mater, Crane Tech, taking over a program that had not won a game in three seasons before he arrived. Roberts’ first team won a divisional championship and advanced to the city playoffs three consecutive years under his guidance. He also coached three seasons at East Leyden High School in suburban Chicago before coming to Lawrence.

He is survived by his wife, Marlene, three children: Ron Jr. ’84, Appleton; Carrie ’86, Lombard, Ill.; and Elizabeth (Fredrick) Leijonhufvud, Stockholm, Sweden; and two grandchildren, Lovisa and Matilda.

A visitation will be held Friday, Dec. 7 from 4-8 p.m. at Wichman Funeral Home Tri-County Chapel, 3212 S. Oneida St., Appleton. A celebration of Ron’s life will be held Saturday, Dec. 8 at Calvary Bible Church, 1450 Oakridge Road, Neenah. Visitation at 1 p.m. until time of service at 2 p.m. Burial will be at Kingston Cemetery, Prairie du Sac, Wis.

Memorials can be directed to the Lawrence University Athletic Department, 711 E. Boldt Way, SPC 18, Appleton, WI  54911 or the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Neuropathy Research Association, P.O. Box 105, Glenolden, PA 19036.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,450 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.