Former Cavalier head coach is UVa's all-time leader in wins
Long regarded as one of the finest college football coaches in the nation, George Welsh spent 19 seasons as the head football coach at the University of Virginia. His Cavaliers have had winning seasons each of the last 14 regular seasons he coached at UVa, the longest stretch of consecutive winning football seasons at Virginia since the Cavaliers posted 28 consecutive winning campaigns from 1888-1915. Virginia went to 13 Bowl Games under Welsh.
Welsh's overall record at Virginia is 128-80-3, making him the winningest football coach in school and Atlantic Coast Conference history. His record in ACC games is 80-48-3 (.622). In contrast, Welsh's predecessors at Virginia posted a 33-121-1 conference mark. With UVa's 21-3 victory over Maryland in the second game of the 1996 regular season, Welsh became the first coach in ACC football history to win 100 games. His 80 ACC wins are also a conference record. The previous record of 66 conference victories was held by former Clemson coach Frank Howard. Virginia's 13-10 win over Duke in the sixth game of the 1997 season accounted for Welsh's 67th ACC victory.
Welsh was named ACC Football Coach of the Year five times, the last time was in 1995. He was cited as the nation's best college football coach in the 1998 preseason by The Sporting News. Following the 1998 season, he received the Joseph Sheehan Division I-A Coach of the Year Award from the Metropolitan New York Football Writers Association and was named the NCAA Coach of the Year by the Pigskin Club of Washington, D.C.
Led all year long by the spectacular play of consensus first-team All-America Thomas Jones, the 1999 Cavaliers finished 7-5 overall (5-3 ACC). Virginia won four of its last five regular season games, including a 45-38 upset victory over seventh-ranked Georgia Tech, and also defeated 17th-ranked Brigham Young 45-40 earlier in the season. UVa ended its 1999 campaign with a 63-21 loss to Illinois in the Micronpc.com Bowl. Virginia reached the seven-win plateau despite being hit hard by injuries and relying heavily on underclassmen. Six true freshmen saw significant action for the Cavaliers, including four on defense.
UVa is the only ACC school to win at least seven games for 13 consecutive seasons while a member of the conference. Virginia is also the only team in ACC history to score 300 or more points in eight consecutive seasons, from 1989 to 1996. The Cavaliers topped 300 points for the 10th time in 11 seasons in 1999.
Virginia finished the 1998 season with a 9-3 record (6-2 ACC, third) and ranked 18th in both The Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN polls. The Cavaliers fell to 19th-ranked Georgia 35-33 in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. UVa posted nine wins for the fifth time in school history (fourth under Welsh), ending the regular season with a 36-32 victory over Virginia Tech in the greatest comeback in school history. UVa erased a 29-7 halftime deficit, outscoring the Hokies 29-3 in the final two quarters. The Cavaliers notched their banner campaign despite losing All-America safety and defensive leader Anthony Poindexter to a season-ending knee injury against N.C. State in late October.
Virginia overcame a season of major transition in 1997 to finish 7-4 (5-3 ACC, tied for third). UVa welcomed four new assistant coaches, including a new offensive coordinator, and had to replace 16 starters from the year before. The Cavaliers quickly regrouped, however, clinching their 11th consecutive campaign of at least seven wins with a 34-20 victory over Virginia Tech in the final game of the 1997 season.
UVa finished the 1996 regular season with a 7-5 record (5-3 ACC, fourth place). Virginia reached the seven-win mark with a dramatic 20-17 come-from-behind victory over North
Carolina on November 16 in Charlottesville, Va. Trailing 17-3 in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers rallied for 17 unanswered points in the final 10 minutes to defeat the sixth-ranked Tar Heels. UVa ended its 1996 campaign with a 31-21 loss to Miami in the Carquest Bowl.
The 1995 Virginia team compiled an overall record of 9-4, tied Florida State for the ACC championship with a conference record of 7-1 and defeated Georgia 34-27 in the Peach Bowl. UVa finished the 1995 season ranked 16th by the AP and 17th by USA Today/CNN. The Cavaliers beat the Seminoles 33-28 in Charlottesville on November 2 to become the first ACC team to defeat the Seminoles since Florida State joined the conference in 1992. Virginia's four losses were by a combined total of 14 points. Virginia's conference championship in 1995 marked the second ACC football title for the Cavaliers since 1989.
Welsh's 1994 Cavaliers enjoyed one of the finest seasons in school history, finishing with a 9-3 record and posting a 20-10 victory over Texas Christian in the Independence Bowl. UVa was ranked 13th in the final USA Today/CNN poll and 15th by The Associated Press, Virginia's highest final rankings since the final polls have been conducted after the bowl games (first time by AP in 1965). Included in UVa's eight regular season wins in 1994 were victories over two bowl-bound teams--North Carolina (Sun Bowl) and Virginia Tech (Gator Bowl). Virginia finished tied for third in the ACC in 1994 with a 5-3 record.
The Cavaliers led the nation with 27 interceptions in 1994, setting a conference and school record in the process. Virginia also led the nation in rushing defense, allowing an average of 63.6 yards rushing per game. Offensively, UVa scored 350 points during the 1994 regular season.
The 1993 Cavaliers compiled a 7-4 regular-season record and played Boston College in the 1994 Carquest Bowl on New Year's Day. Virginia, appearing in its third New Year's Day bowl game under Welsh, suffered a 31-13 loss to the Eagles. The Cavaliers were 5-3 in the ACC in 1993, finishing in a third-place tie in the conference standings. UVa was ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 poll for 10 consecutive weeks, climbing as high as 15th in the nation.
Welsh led the 1992 Cavaliers to a 7-4 record. UVa spent nine weeks ranked in the AP's Top-25 poll, climbing as high as 10th in the nation after opening the season with five straight wins.
Virginia finished the 1991 regular season with an 8-2-1 record before losing to Oklahoma in the Gator Bowl. Welsh was honored as the 1991 Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year, the Bobby Dodd "Coach of the Year" and the National Coach of the Year by College & Pro Football Newsweekly. Faced with replacing 15 starters from a 1990 team that compiled an 8-4 record, was ranked number one in the nation for three weeks and competed in the USF&G Sugar Bowl, Welsh and his coaching staff provided the 1991 Cavaliers with steady leadership. After a 1-2 start, UVa won its last five regular-season games and was unbeaten in the last eight games of the regular season. Virginia ranked fourth nationally in scoring defense and sixth in pass efficiency defense (91.1 rating) in 1991 among NCAA Division I-A programs.
Virginia's success the last nine years came on the heels of two outstanding football seasons. Virginia's 8-4 Sugar Bowl season in 1990 was preceded by a 1989 season in which the Cavaliers compiled a 10-3 record, earned the school's first ACC football championship, received a Top-20 ranking and participated in Virginia's first New Year's Day bowl game (Florida Citrus Bowl).
UVa's success in 1989 came against one of the most demanding schedules in school history. The Cavaliers played five teams during the regular season that played in bowl games and four others that finished the season with winning records.
Welsh first led Virginia onto the national scene with an 8-2-2 record in 1984, his third season at UVa. Virginia capped that season with a thrilling 27-24 Peach Bowl victory over Purdue. The Cavaliers finished the season ranked in all the major Top-20 polls.
Welsh's 1987 squad rallied from a 3-4 start to win its final four regular season games and earn an appearance in the All American Bowl. The Cavaliers handed Brigham Young a 22-16 loss in the bowl game as UVa ended the season with a final Top-20 ranking by The Sporting News.
Hand-in-hand with Virginia's on-the-field success has come much individual recognition for both Welsh and his players. In addition to earning National Coach of the Year recognition in 1989 and 1998 (by the Washington Touchdown Club) and 1991, Welsh has been named ACC Coach of the Year five times at Virginia (1983, 1984, 1989, 1991 and 1995).
Fourteen of the 20 first-team football All-Americans in UVa history played under Welsh, including Jones, offensive guard Noel LaMontagne and center John St. Clair in 1999. Virginia's three first-team All-Americans in 1999 are the most in one season in school history. Offensive tackle Jim Dombrowski was named UVa's first-ever unanimous choice in 1985. The other first-team All-Americans who played for Welsh at UVa include: defensive end/outside linebacker Ray Savage (1989); wide receiver Herman Moore (1990); quarterback Shawn Moore (1990); offensive tackle Ray Roberts (1991); defensive end Chris Slade (1991 and 1992); offensive guard Mark Dixon (1993); punter Will Brice (1995); defensive back Percy Ellsworth (1995); Poindexter (1997 and 1998); and defensive end Patrick Kerney in 1998.
Welsh and his coaching staff have produced eight NFL first-round draft picks: Dombrowski in 1986 (sixth pick overall, New Orleans Saints); linebacker Jeff Lageman in 1989 (14th pick, New York Jets); Herman Moore in 1991 (10th, Detroit Lions); Roberts in 1992 (10th, Seattle Seahawks); linebacker James Farrior (eighth, New York Jets) defensive end Jon Harris (25th, Philadelphia Eagles) in 1997; Kerney in 1999 (30th, Atlanta Falcons); and Jones (seventh, Arizona Cardinals) in 2000.
Welsh and his staff have made an equally strong commitment to academic excellence. Virginia won the College Football Association's Academic Achievement Award for the highest graduation rate of scholarship football players in 1985 (92.6 percent) and 1986 (88.9 percent). UVa also has been recognized nationally for its graduation rate among scholarship football players in 1984 and in every year from 1987-2000.
Welsh, a 1956 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, came to Virginia from Navy in 1982. During his nine years as head football coach at Navy, his teams compiled an overall record of 55-46-1, participated in three bowl games, and posted winning seasons in each of his final four seasons. Welsh remains the winningest coach in Navy football history.
He was appointed head coach at Navy in 1973, following 10 years as an assistant coach at Penn State under Rip Engle and Joe Paterno. Welsh guided Navy to its first bowl appearance in 15 years in 1978 when his team defeated Brigham Young 23-15 in the inaugural Holiday Bowl. Two years later, Welsh guided the Midshipmen to an 8-4 record and a final ranking of 17th in the nation by UPI.
Welsh was a standout quarterback for Navy, where he finished third in the 1955 Heisman Trophy balloting after leading the nation in passing and total offense as a senior. He led Navy to a 21-0 upset over heavily favored Mississippi in the 1955 Sugar Bowl.
Born August 26, 1933 in Coaldale, Pa., Welsh played his early football at Coaldale High School and Wyoming Seminary Prep. He was appointed to the Naval Academy in 1952. When he was not quarterbacking the Navy football team, he was an infielder for the baseball team. Welsh won a total of six varsity letters before graduation in 1956 and was awarded the Thompson Trophy Cup as the midshipman who had done the most for the "promotion of athletics at the Naval Academy."
Assigned to the USS Des Moines after graduation in 1956, Welsh played football one year for the Norfolk (Va.) Naval Base Tars, but torn knee ligaments before the 1957 service season ended his active playing career. After 32 months on the Des Moines and a tour on the staff of Commander, Cruiser Division 4, Welsh returned to the Naval Academy in 1960. He assisted with the football program in 1960-61 under Wayne Hardin, helping the Midshipmen to the 1960 Orange Bowl.
Welsh left the academy for a tour aboard the destroyer USS Fletcher in 1962. He left the service with the rank of lieutenant in July of 1963 and joined Rip Engle's Penn State football coaching staff a month later.
Welsh's overall record in 28 seasons as a collegiate head coach was 189-132-4 and 134-86-3 at Virginia.