1970-72 Catamounts
(Authentic Reproduction)

The University Of Vermont played football from 1896 through the 1974 season, and few football fans might be aware of that fact. Possessed with a beauty that is breathtaking, Vermont could rank among the most pleasant places to live, a fantastic vacation spot, and a wonderful state to raise one’s children. Unfortunately, its success in the sport of football has never quite matched its other very positive attributes. Though it is not the smallest state in the U.S. relative to population, Vermont has only fielded approximately thirty to thirty-six high school football teams in any single season within the past five years. The tradition of the home state university sending gridiron heroes on to professional football is close to nil, with a total of six University of Vermont players actually seeing game action in the National Football League and one, its most recent professional player, was actually a two year performer in the All American Football Conference of the late 1940’s. The Catamounts of UVM (“everyone knows,” or at least everyone in Vermont knows that the abbreviation is not “UVT” but instead, one that stems from the translation from Latin, Universitas Virdis Montis, to the University Of The Green Mountains), was an original 1946 member of the Yankee Conference. In football, they usually slogged along with two to four wins per season, no more than a middle-of-the-pack program, with what might be considered a high water mark during the 1966 through ’68 seasons where the overall 24 – 7 record came under the tutelage of head coach Bob Clifford.

The seasons of the mid to late 1960’s were among the better ones for the Catamounts under Head Coach Bob Clifford

If one scans the UVM Athletic Hall Of Fame, there seems to be a disproportionate number of football players from the Clifford years that spanned 1962 through 1969. Joe Scannella took over the program in 1970. He had been an outstanding high school coach on Long Island, the head coach at C.W. Post College, and the offensive coach for the Montreal Alouettes in 1969.

Under Clifford, the Vermont gridders had worn a white shell with a stalking catamount on each side, and green flanking stripes. Scannella, perhaps influenced by his stay at C.W. Post College who shared a Green Bay gold and green color scheme with Vermont, changed the uniform, utilizing a Green Bay gold shell with the VTM dark green V decal on each side, a clean, simple, but stylish look.

Introducing what proved to be a relatively complex and diverse Pro Offense to the Catamounts resulted in a depressing 0-9 mark but the season produced a bright light in sophomore quarterback Earl Olson. His school record 1189 passing yards was unfortunately offset by the school record of eighteen interceptions but his talent was obvious. The shoring up of a porous defense was expected to improve the ’71 record but the 2-7 mark again featured too many defensive breakdowns and inconsistent offensive production.

Record setting quarterback Earl Olson

The Vermont program took a serious hit when Scannella accepted an assistant’s position with the Oakland Raiders in mid-June, prior to the start of 1972’s pre-season practice, forcing offensive line coach Carl Falivene to move into the head coaching chair. Falivene had been an outstanding running back at Albany’s Christian Brothers Academy and when injuries curtailed his University Of Notre Dame career, he transferred to and graduated from Syracuse. He returned to Christian Brothers as head football coach, had success as an Ohio high school coach, including years at Cleveland’s Holy Name High School where he coached future Nebraska great and long time college coach Frank Solich, and was well acquainted with the New England area after serving as an assistant at Williams College and Vermont.

Vermont’s Steve Coon on the receiving end of a 1972 pass from Earl Olson

Falivene’s first entry surprised with a 4-5 record that included three conference victories. Earl Olson continued to set school records, often hooking up with Bill Looker, and was complemented by a rushing attack featuring a committee of Gary Vandecar, Barry Visen, Mike McAllister, and Steve Coon. Linebacker Rich Rostowsky’s thirty-one tackles against Northeastern went a long way towards earning him All Yankee and All New England honors and a two year stay with the Ottawa Roughriders. As players, staff, and fans looked forward to the 1973 season, the spirited play and understated “old school” Vermont helmet and jersey style had gained many new followers.