And then came football…
I remember walking on the field and thinking that it was the perfect day for fall football with a beautiful sunny sky and crisp weather. I think there were close to 5,000 attendees - the tailgate alone I'm told pulled about 450 Walsh fans! They were cheering in the stands and it seemed like everywhere we looked from the field we saw maroon and gold. It was a great way to start our first season of Walsh University football.
On Saturday, Sept. 2, 1995 the first ever Walsh football game was held at the North Canton Memorial Stadium against Geneva College. It was the culmination of over a year and half of hard work to build a football program at Walsh.
In the locker room before the game, we all felt the same anticipation "Here it is; this is reality."
When we took the field, we knew it was a special moment not only in Walsh history, but also for the coaches and players who had worked so hard to put a football program together. The pregame events are definitely something to be remembered…not just by the team but by everyone who was present. John Trapani played a trumpet rendition of the national anthem and when he was done, three skydivers trailing maroon smoke and carrying the game day ball, a stadium flag and an American flag, landed on field. They presented the game day ball to then President Rev. Richard Mucowski.
We lost to the Geneva Golden Tornados 20-0 that day but that didn't dampen our spirits or our drive. They were a nationally ranked team with over 100 football seasons behind them and we had only worked with our players for about 3 weeks. But I saw effort, enthusiasm and a "never-quit" spirit from our players. And I remember thinking "We look like we've done this before!"
We had about 90 players on that first team and the community support was incredible. But what stands out the most from that first season might surprise you. It wasn't that first memorable game. It was every game. And specifically, that we won 6 consecutive games that enabled us to win seven games in our very first year. That is special for a new team and after all of these years, one of the greatest feats we've ever done in our football program here at Walsh. It was a big accomplishment, especially when you consider we weren't expected to win 2 or 3 games! It was simply amazing.
Jim Dennison returns for his 16th season as Walsh's head football coach this year and 29th at the collegiate level. He has directed Walsh to 13 winning seasons and a Mid-States Football Mideast Championship in 2001. Dennison was named Director of Athletics at Walsh in June of 1993. The university announced on February 11, 1994, that it would institute football as a varsity sport in the fall of 1995 and named Dennison as head coach. Dennison stepped down from his role as athletic director in 2007 to devote all of his time to football.