HELMET NEWS, HELMET
REFLECTIONS FOR JULY 2008
THE "BEN" SCHWARTZWALDER TROPHY
By Dr. Ken
The off-season for college football fans is a dark time. Unlike the professionals, there is spring ball to break the drought of football-less weekends and for the true fanatics, there are the numerous recruiting websties that allow the supporters of each university to keep tabs on the high school stars that should be pursued, are being pursued, and for those filled with optimism, those who sign with one’s school of choice. Still, “real football” is missing for the hardcore fan. The off-season prior to the 2008 football season has had the added drama of the West Virginia University vs. Former Head Coach of the West Virginia University Rich Rodriguez. The June release of transcripts of depositions related to the case indicate, at least for purists and those infused with a modicum of common sense, that a contract is a contract and should be viewed as a contract. For some of us, that is not only the “end of the story”, it’s the entire story, the conversation can terminate immediately.
While the Rodriguez saga might lead to a West Virginia vs. Michigan rivalry, at least if the bowls agree to one, the football rivalry between West Virginia and Syracuse is one that for many has flown beneath the radar of national interest. When Syracuse first rose to power in the late 1950’s (see http://www.helmethut.com/College/Syracuse/syracuseindex.html for the entire HELMET HUT collection of authentic reproductions of the Syracuse helmets from the suspension era and the seasonal summaries) there were doubters, believing that Eastern football did not rise to the level of many other parts of the nation. This in part came from the perception that Syracuse played too many Ivy League or Ivy League type opponents such as upstate New York rival Colgate. Stars like Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, John Mackey, Floyd Little, Larry Csonka, and Joe Ehrmann changed the minds of many on-the-field opponents and for a solid decade or more, Syracuse teams were feared.
The history of West Virginia has been a proud one, despite a program that has been both high and low. Like Syracuse, the Mountaineers were sometimes viewed as a regional power but not a mover and shaker on the national scene yet there have been superlative squads that could play with anyone (see the entire West Virginia collection of helmets and their history at HELMET HUT http://www.helmethut.com/College/WV/WVAindex.html ). While most college football fans are aware that Pitt and West Virginia play a highly spirited rivalry game each season, one with area “bragging rights” in the balance and possible wins and losses that can significantly affect the recruiting battles throughout the region, the Syracuse and WVU game has been often soft-peddled despite the fact that both universities share the same Big East Conference affiliation and it is seen as serious business by the fans of both schools.
The victor of the annual
battle is awarded the Schwartzwalder Trophy, named of course for former West
Virginia football player and wrestler Floyd “Ben” Schwartzwalder. Orangemen fans
are quick to point out that “No, the trophy is named for Floyd “Ben”
Schwartzwalder, the great head coach of Syracuse who molded the greats such as
Brown, Davis, Mackey, Jim Nance, Little, and Csonka to glory and provided the
relatively small, private upstate New York school with the 1959 National
Championship. With both universities sharing such a distinguished individual,
the Schwartzwalder Trophy was a natural for this rivalry. The beautiful piece of
art was sculpted by Syracuse football letterman and Athletic Hall Of Fame member
Jim Ridlon who played on the SU varsity from 1954 through ‘56. The inaugural
presentation of this trophy was made to West Virginia who defeated Syracuse 13-0
in the 1994 contest. As both universities have battled for the coveted trophy,
the man it represents has given a great deal to both institutions and served as
an inspiring role model. As a 148 pound center for the Mountaineers
Schwartzwalder was a gritty leader and took his toughness to the wrestling mat
in the off-seasons. As the head coach for Syracuse from 1949 through 1973, he
posted a 153-91-3 record with seven bowl game appearances, four Lambert Trophies
indicative as Eastern champions, and the 1959 National Championship which
brought him National Coach Of The Year honors. The U.S. Army veteran who served
with distinction with the 82nd Airborne Division saw combat service
during the D-Day invasion earning a Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, the
Presidential Unit Citation, and four battle stars. There could be few more
deserving of the honor of having this type of annual award named for them.