Sept. 24, 2013
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RALEIGH, N.C. - Earle Edwards, who coached the Wolfpack football squad from 1954 to 1970, guided the school to five league titles, two Top 20 final rankings, and was declared ACC coach of the year four times.
During the longest stint of any Pack football coach, Edwards produced eight All-Americans: Dick Christy, halfback (1957), Roman Gabriel, quarterback (1960, '61), Don Montgomery, defensive end (1963), Dennis Byrd, defensive tackle (1966, '67), Fred Combs, defensive back (1967), Gerald Warren, kicker (1967), Ron Carpenter, defensive tackle (1968), and Cary Metts, center, (1968).
To this day, Edwards is the winningest Pack coach in ACC play, having established a 55-45-5 record against league competition.
Glenn Sasser, who played both ways at tackle and also did all of the kicking duties for Edwards' teams from '62-64, noted what is generally conceded by most observers: Edwards did more with less than any Pack coach.
"I'm not talking about talent because Edwards recruited excellent talent," Sasser responded. "But in terms of facilities and recruiting budget, he didn't have much to work with."
The obstacles Edwards faced off the field far outweighed the opponents his teams met on the field. State played in Riddick Stadium which had wooden bleachers, telephone light poles amid the seating, and could only seat 20,000 fans. This required the Pack to only schedule three home games per season before Edwards finally spearheaded the construction of then Carter Stadium, which opened in 1966.
During that period, State was forced to play rival UNC at Kenan Stadium every season - even though every other year would be declared a Pack home game. The players had to dress in Reynolds Coliseum because the field house was off-standard.
Defying those odds, Edwards won. He was well-schooled in building a collegiate football program when he arrived in Raleigh. After his playing career at Penn State (1928-30), he eventually became an assistant coach at his alma mater from 1941-47 and then moved to Michigan State as an assistant from 1948-53.
Big Ten football didn't have to take a back seat to anybody in the collegiate football world in those days and Edwards built up significant recruiting ties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
It took some time for Edwards to construct a solid base of players to compete in ACC infancy from 1954-1957 when the Pack won its first conference title - led by halfback Dick Christy.
The Pack returned to glory in 1967 with a brilliant 9-2-1 season record and a 5-1 mark in league play - good for second place and another berth in the Liberty Bowl.
State, sporting one of the nation's best defenses (nicknamed the "White Shoes Defense", started the season 8-0, beating Florida State and surprising No. 2 Houston in the Astrodome. The Pack was ranked No. 2 nationally when it played at Penn State on November 11th.
Trailing 13-8 in the last minute of play, the Nittany Lions stopped the Pack a foot short of the goal line to preserve the victory.
The Pack lost the next week to Clemson and then beat Georgia, 14-7, in the Liberty Bowl for its first ever post-season triumph. State finished ranked 17 in the Coaches Poll.
Edwards' 1968 edition won its fifth ACC title with a 6-1 record the following fall.
Yes, in spite of all the obstacles, Edwards' Wolfpack roared to five ACC titles compared to two others: 1973 under Lou Holtz and 1979 under the late Bo Rein.
His teams won when the facilities and recruiting budgets were small. He won when he had a new, beautiful stadium and field house and football revenues were upgraded significantly.
Four ACC Coach of the Year awards proved the fruit of his labors.
By George Cox