When my book, The Great Teams came out the WFCA sent an e-mail blast to its members telling them about it and how to order. The second book I sold was to a Carol Hyland and the address to mail it out was in Arizona. I assumed correctly that the order message was from coach Bob Hyland, under his wife’s email address. I hadn’t planned on doing interviews of coaches but as my blogs evolved, I have talked to several former players and coaches, either my email or in phone calls, obviously, to get needed info. So, a few months back I contacted Coach Hyland and asked for an interview. We did a phone call first, then I followed up with a visit to Fond du Lac. I had a great time on both occasions.
Here are some of the questions I asked Coach Hyland:
At Wisconsin Rapids Assumption you were on a great team in 1965. Tell me a bit about it:
“We had a lot of talent on the team and we went 8-0-1 and won the conference title. The tie was against Madison Edgewood. Several guys played college ball after graduation and our coach was very good.”
Your coach was Don Penza who starred at Racine St. Catherine’s in the late 1940’s. Tell me about him:
Well, he was young and aggressive. He had played at Notre Dame and played some pro ball. He was demanding. It wasn’t unusual for him, if a player made a mistake in practice to take that players spot, run the same play and demonstrate, in a live manner, without pads, how things should be done correctly. He would throw blocks, make tackles and run the ball to show us how it was supposed to be played. He had sort of a Vince Lombardi style, demanding great effort all the time. Much like many coaches from that time.”
Were you surprised that Penza quit coaching at age 35 to run successfully for mayor of Wisconsin Rapids?
“Not really. He taught history and political science at Assumption. You know, he went on to coach later at Woodstock (IL) Marion and won three state titles there, so he didn’t give up coaching altogether. He was out of coaching while I was in college so when I went back home to visit, we didn’t stay in touch. “(See my earlier blog on the 1949 St. Catherine’s team to learn more about Don Penza)
Your brother Dick was also on the team. I know you also played basketball and track and Dick was on the rack team. Did he also play basketball?
Yes. Weren’t great stars on the basketball team but we held our own. I also found time to play on the golf team in between track practice or meets. Dick went on to play football and run track at UW-Madison.
Another star on the team was Steve Krummel who seemed to be able to do it all on the field. Where did he go to college?
“He also went to play with me at North Dakota State and did well. He was an All-America defensive back there.”
Side note: (Krummel was All-state and All-conference in 1965 as he gained 734 yards on 93 carries, caught 33 passes for 665 yards, intercepted 3 passes for 44 yards, returned 11 punts for 235 yards and 8 kickoffs for 175 yards while scoring 18 touchdowns and 6 extra points for a total of 114 points. That’s 1,853 yards in 9-games!!)
You played fullback and defensive end on the 1965 Assumption team and earned 2nd team All-conference. How did you move to the offensive line in college?
“I was recruited by one of the greatest line coaches in college history, Buck Nystrom, who was an All-American at Michigan State and he was the line coach at North Dakota State.”
Side note: Carl “Buck” Nystrom coached for 55-years. In 1965 North Dakota State was the Division II national champion. Like Coach Hyland, Nystrom was a fullback/defensive end at Marquette Graveraet High School (Which now days is an elementary school). He was drafted by the Washington Redskins but decided not to play pro ball as he was only 5-foot 10, 194 pounds. He spent three stints as a line coach at Michigan State, coached at Colorado, Oklahoma, Northern Michigan as well as at North Dakota State. When he retired, he helped out as an unpaid assistant at Marquette (MI) high school. Upon being inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame, former Oklahoma head coach Chuck Fairbanks said: "He's the greatest line coach who ever coached in high school or college football, without question or exception. He's just so special. There's no one better in his ability to teach young players how to play. He's the unqualified best. He never lost his passion to coach kids."
Another interesting fact is that Buck’s son, Kyle, also attended Michigan State and has coached for over 30-years in the college ranks. At one time, as a graduate assistant, Kyle and Buck coached together at Northern Michigan where Kyle is now the head coach.
It seems that Bib Hyland learned from the best as he himself would earn All-American honors as a center at North Dakota State.
Why move to Fond du Lac?
“Two things happened upon graduation. My wife, Carol, got a job there and there was an open coaching position at St. Mary’s Springs. I arrived to apply for the job, by chance, the day after the former coach quit.”
What did you teach at Springs?
“I spent 40-years as a math teacher.”
You obviously have had great success over the years but how do YOU measure success?
“By HOW we play the next game. If we are showing improvement.”
What’s the toughest thing about coaching?
“Motivating the kids. It’s different today than in the past.”
How were you able to build a winning tradition at Springs? Admittedly, the school had marginal success before you arrived.
“The school had once been all-girls and then, as boys were admitted in the 1940’s they began to play football and it took a while for them to get the right numbers and athletes. When I took over the program, I had a very small voluntary staff. It took 3-4 years to build the proper staff. When I started there were two guys who would help out but they had no real previous football coaching experience. I eventually went from several paid assistants to a staff of 12, some of whom are voluntary. I have had a good staff for many years. Some of the key current and former assistants are Shawn O’Loughlin, Kyle Krueger, Jim Baudry, Kurt Krueger and Bob’s son, Rob Hyland. Several are former graduates from Springs.
What are the most important concepts you and your staff try to teach the players?
“Fundamentals. All that goes with that and make no mistakes.”
What motivated you to keep coaching and what motivates you now?
“Just the passion for the sport”
You’ve talked in other stories that I’ve read that you probably were prouder of the WISSA titles because you beat bigger schools? Is that true? I mean, people said that you (Springs) couldn’t compete against the WIAA schools but you have proven them wrong.
“Look at our record since joining the WIAA. Only twice has Springs not made the playoffs. And we do play bigger schools. We are the smallest (The only Division 6 team) school in the Flyway Conference and we have for many years gone up to Appleton East and played our pre-season scrimmage against East, Green Bay Notre Dame and Wisconsin Rapids, to name a few bigger schools. Also, when we were in the WISSA we usually played against bigger schools in the playoffs or non-conference games against the likes of Waukesha Catholic Memorial, Milwaukee Marquette, Racine Park, Milwaukee Thomas More, Milwaukee Pius, Wisconsin Lutheran, Menominee (MI), Antigo, Madison West and many other bigger schools. Those that I’ve mentioned are but a few that we played in just our undefeated WISSA title seasons."
“We don’t need to “play-up” as some of the out of state schools do. We are already or have in the past done so.”
After your early success in turning the St. Mary’s Springs around (He did go 0-8-1 in 1971, 1-7-1 in 1972 and 3-5-0 in 1973 before starting to gain traction with the program) did other schools seek you out to come to their school? Any colleges?
“No. My wife had a good job, I liked it at Springs and we liked the area so there would have been no need to move.”
What offense do you run at Springs? What defense?
An option utilizing the Veer. On defense it has varied depending on the personal."
What do you want your legacy to be?
“I treated everyone the same. You got a fair shake from me”
Is there anything people might not know about you?
No. So much has already been written in the papers.
What do you do in your spare time since you aren’t teaching?
“Golf” (In fact I had to delay my visit to Springs a bit because Coach Hyland had a golf date that day but I had a great time talking to him in person that day)
Final question. When did you think about going for 500-career wins?
“I honestly never gave it a thought. Not until my grandson Isaac mentioned in 2020. That year there weren’t playoffs due to COVID. We only played seven games that year (4-3 record). We had won three consecutive titles (2017, 14-0, 2018, 14-0 and 2019, 12-2) and even with the losses we had a chance to win another title. That would make it four in a row and his goal was to win again in 2021 but we went 11-3 and lost to Colby, a good team, 22-7. He remarked that he wanted to play in the 500th win game. I was going to quit but my wife said “NO, you have another grandson (Brady) to coach so you can retire after the 2024 season.” So, that’s the plan.”
Coach showed me his office (small but usable), the locker rooms (Also modest by some newer school’s standards and the weight area (A very nice gift from two former players). On the walls above the weight equipment are large photos of all of his 17 state championship teams (8-WISSA and 9-WIAA titles).
Hyland stands with a superb 492-113-2 career W/L record in his 51 seasons. He is 45 wins ahead of Jerry Sinz of Edgar (447-89 career record in 47 seasons) and 113 wins ahead of Bill Young of Waukesha Catholic Memorial (379-120 career record in 44 seasons). As he heads into his 52nd season at Springs, Hyland is second on the national active coaching records behind the legendary John T. Curtis of Metairie (LA) John Curtis Christian Academy who has won an incredible 603 games and lost only 75 with 6 ties in 53 years (27 state titles!!). Jim Roth of Southern Columbia Area (PA) is 21 wins behind Hyland with a crazy coaching record of 471-64-2 in only 38 years. John McKissick of Summerville (SC) is the all-time winningest football coach, high school or college with a 62-year record of 620-156-13. In 2021 Mile Smith of Hampton (VA) retired with 505 career wins.
Below is a list of the top 15 coaching wins supplied to me by Steven A. Floyd (THANKS, Steven) of Corpus Christi, Texas who has been doing national research for many years. I took what he sent me and condensed some of it to fit this format. As you will see where Bob Hyland and Jerry Sinz stand on the leader wins listing. Note that Bob Hyland ranks second, tied with Gary Rankin of Tennessee in the column listed as ST’s for the most state titles, behind John T. Curtis of Louisiana. Several coaches held two stints at the same school or retired and then returned to the game, but I didn’t add that info to the listing. Nine of the 16 coaches listed (There was a tie for the #15 spot) are still active. Six active coaches have 47+ seasons under their belt but two, the afore mentioned Jim Roth of Pennsylvania and Tommy Knotts of North Carolina have coached 38 years. Also, Gary Rankin has put in exactly 40 years of service.
FINAL NOTE BEFORE THE LIST:
Thanks to Coach Hyland for keeping such great records as I now have much needed information to do several future blogs on four of his undefeated WISSA teams. I would have done more on the WISSA championship teams but I found newspaper and available school records lacking for many of the teams I wanted to profile when I wrote my book. School records is, to me, important to maintain, even if there is a change in the coaching staff or a team has a poor season record. I wish all schools would be as diligent as what I found at St. Mary’s Springs.
The list below is for 11-player coaching records only. While some 6, 8 and 9 player coaches have approached great overall career victories, none approach the list posted here. Also, at this point in my estimation, records for schools and coaches with career totals in 8-player and 11-player football should be separated. A coach may, say, attain 175 career wins (A notable feat in any case) those wins by 8-player and 11-player squads should be separated.