Blue and Gold Backtrack 2000 Football

Widener football had a program redefining season in 2000, going 12-2, the most wins since a 13-0 mark to claim the 1981 National Championship. The Pioneers advanced to the NCAA semifinals, including dominating wins in the national tournament against Union, Hobart, and Springfield. We caught up with some members of the team and got the story of the season in their own words.

"I would say first and foremost, the 2000 football team had great leadership from both players and coaches. Being new to the scene, I wasn't sure what to expect, but after quickly getting to know our captains and reading the letters they had sent out to the entire team during the offseason, I knew we were in good hands. I am not sure we really had the understanding of how good we could actually be until getting that first double overtime thriller win vs. Lycoming. That was a pivotal win for the program and helped us to understand that we could set high expectations moving forward. The 2000 football team had the right mix of guys. We had several hard working "bring your lunch pail to work everyday" kind of guys who didn't always get the limelight but were happy to do their job and do it well. Even the team members who didn't see a lot of playing time helped significantly during the week to challenge their teammates. This coupled with the very talented skill players on the team made for a perfect combination." --T.J. Hess

"Lycoming, second game of the season of course. We beat them 50-49. They always had a lot of Philly guys so it was a rivalry for some. They had also literally ripped out our hearts two years earlier (my first year) beating us 15-13 at home when we had the best defense in the country. I can’t remember how many OTs we went through with them, but I just remember being so exhausted I felt like I was going to pass out towards the end. I also remember the game against Albright College. That was the game, I believe, that we clinched the Conference championship, Coach Zwaan’s first I think. The team was so happy for coach and proud to be a part of it." --Andrew Waxman

"Of course we were beyond excited and fired up to be there (the NCAA Tournament) and win. Most of us hadn’t traveled for football like that before and didn’t know what to expect. It was the experience of a lifetime. Our cheerleaders, families, and friends traveled with us everywhere no matter how far or how cold. It was amazing how the entire Widener family was all in and supported us to the very end." --Bill Woodburn

"Total confidence and a sense of trying to gain respect. We had been placed in the Eastern region when we should have been in the South and had been seeded last in that region. We beat all three top seeds to win the region. It was exciting and fulfilling to go through those playoff games. Will never forget the bus rides, the games themselves and the reaction of the fans and players to all the fun we were having." --Bill Zwaan, Head Coach

"I also think a seminal moment did not occur on the field but in the Friday night meeting before the Union game. Bill came back from the NCAA meeting and press conference and he was hot, I’d say he was livid. It seems that a local reporter essentially asked who was Widener and it he felt that maybe like we did not belong in the tourney or insinuated that Union was clearly the better team. Well Bill went off and I mean off!!! Bill repeated Who was Widener?? Well who the (heck) was Union!!!! When Bill was finished not only was the team fired up but the entire travel party was ready to go. We went out and upset Union and never looked back handily beating Hobart and Springfield.

"It put Widener back on the map. It started an unprecedented run of three straight MAC Championship teams. One conference loss in three years." --A.J. Duffy, Head Athletic Trainer

Be sure to join us at 7:00 p.m. on October 15 for the premiere of the Blue and Gold Backtrack - 2000 Football Roundtable!