Tue. Jan 25th, 2022

There is feeling of excitement around Golden Rams football. As fans and alumni wait in anticipation through the off-season for kickoff in the fall, they can be assured that the program is on the rise. Last season West Chester head football coach, Bill Zwaan, led the Golden Rams to the NCAA Division II semi-finals in just the second year of his tenure here at West Chester. The Rams had a landmark season in 2004. They went 11- 4 and clinched the PSAC East division on Oct. 30, beating the Bloomsburg Huskies 35-24. The Rams hosted their first playoff game since 1992 when they defeated Long Island University C.W. Post 35-3 at Farrell stadium. The Rams continued their playoff run beating Shippensburg 33-28 and East Stroudsburg 48-38. Both games were away which was nothing new to the Rams in 2004, who hosted only five home games and played 10 away. The playoff run came to end when they fell at Valdosta St. 45-21 in the Division II Semi-finals after the Blazers came out to a 31-7 halftime lead. The Rams expect to pick up right where they left off in 2005. “[The kids] are really motivated [in the off-season],” said Zwaan.

“They got to play some of the best teams in the country and the eventual national champion. Our winter workouts have been better than ever, the kids are working as hard as I could ask them to,” he said. Zwaan was selected as PSAC Coach of the Year for 2004, while 14 of his players earned All-Conference honors. Zwaan had previously head coached for six seasons at Division III Widener, leading the Pioneers to three straight Middle Atlantic Conference Championships.

Zwaan led the Pioneers to the Division III National Semifinals in 2000 and the Quarterfinals in 2001. Zwaan took over as head coach of the Rams in February, 2003. “I think that there is a positive energy here, they were looking for positive enthusiasm. When somebody comes from a winning program, the players listen to that guy right away,” said Zwaan. “[The transition] was a lot easier than I had expected.

More kids were serious about football here than at Widener. It was easier to get moving.” Zwaan was a standout quarterback at the University of Delaware and led the Blue Hens to the 1974 NCAA Division II Championship. When asked who he modeled his game after as a young player, he laughed. “Of course Iʼm old so it has to be an old guy,” he said. He mentioned Lenny Dawson, Super Bowl IV MVP and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback from 1963-1975.

“Dawson was a prelude to [Joe] Montana. The kind of guys who werenʼt as athletically talented but could win. Dawson and Montana would be the two,” he said. The move from Widener to West Chester “presented a new challenge,” he said. “I wasnʼt looking to leave Widener, but the opportunity was there and I didnʼthave to move.”

When asked what his dream job would be, he answered passively, “Iʼve never been the guy to chase jobs. Maybe the University of Delaware; everyone wants to have a chance to coach at their alma mater. Thatʼs something that creeps up once in a while.”

West Chesterʼs increased academic standards are an advantage to the recruiting process. “Our number one selling point here is that we have one of the best academic programs in the State System. Thatʼs a good selling point to parents, the academic part is really helping our selling,”Zwaan said.

Motivation is key to establishing consistency in a programʼs success and is something Coach Zwaan focuses on. “Each year is a new challenge, so that keeps me motivated. We have to replace kids and we have new kids coming in, and recruiting is a big challenge. Winning. Itʼs not that simple but when youʼre winning everyone is listening to you and you can be a good teacher.”

Teaching is something Coach Zwaan takes pride in on and off the football field. “I try to teach [the players] responsibility. I donʼt baby the players. I try to make them grow. I try to teach them to be responsible for their own actions. My number one goal is to watch them mature.”

Zwaan has had great success bringing attention to the program but doesnʼt lose focus from the more permanent aspects of his job. “[I want the] program to be established on the national level again and for people to know who West Chester is. My goal as a coach is to have the kids graduate and get good jobs, to succeed at life. Thatʼs my number one goal no matter where I am. Thatʼs the part that is most personally rewarding,” he said.

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