When you hear ‘Wake Forest football’ and ‘ACC Champs’ in the same sentence, your mind probably goes to the iconic 2006 season. However, long before 2006 was another Wake Forest football team that also made Wake Forest history; it was the first-ever Wake Forest football ACC Championship team.
“It really started in 1969 when Cal Stoll came to Wake Forest as head coach,” Ed Bradley (’72), Wake Forest football player from 1969-1971, remembers. “When we came back from Christmas break after Coach Stoll was hired, we were told that we had a team meeting in Reynolds Gymnasium at four o’clock to meet the new head coach and staff. I remember being in the meeting room, and we didn’t even know what Cal Stoll looked like.
“At 10 minutes before four, in came a whitehaired gentleman and all of the assistant coaches. Cal told the assistant coaches to lock the doors. I remember Cal saying, ‘gentlemen, any players on the other side of those doors are no longer on this team. When I say four o’clock meeting, that means 10 minutes before four.’ That was known as Cal’s time and to this day I am still on Cal’s time.”
The team immediately began some of the longest and most brutal workouts and practices they had ever experienced. Most practices lasted longer than four hours and, as Bradley remembers, “that is what galvanized us. Of the core group of us that made it through to the season, our bond was stronger than ever.”
The Deacs went 3-7 overall in the 1969 season, but “that was the foundation for the 1970 season,” Bradley said
“Back then Playboy came out every September with ‘Playboy’s Pigskin Preview,’ an issue that reviewed and predicted all of the football conferences. When they got to the ACC and Wake Forest, the quote was ‘No offense. No defense. No hope.’ Cal picked up on that and turned it into a rallying cry for the 1970 season.”
In the fall of 1970, the season began with three consecutive losses against Nebraska, Florida State and South Carolina, but the atmosphere and momentum quickly changed on Oct. 3, 1970, when the Deacs won over Virginia 27-7. The momentum continued as the team had five additional wins over Virginia Tech (28-9), Clemson (38-20), North Carolina (14-13), Duke (28-14) and NC State (16-13).
The team finished with a conference record of 5-1 and secured the first ACC football title in Wake Forest history when North Carolina defeated Duke on Nov. 21, 1970.
“We flew home from our game against Houston and got in late Saturday night,” Bradley fondly recalls. “There were students piled in front of Reynolds Gymnasium ready to greet the new ACC Champs.”
Throughout the years, the players of the 1970 ACC Championship team have remained close, reuniting for reunions, serving as best men in each other’s weddings and even godfathers to each other’s children.
“Coach Cal made us believe in ourselves and not only brought us together as a family, but created a lifelong bond between us that still remains today.” Bradley said.
As the 50th reunion of the 1970 team approaches in 2020, the team wanted to honor Coach Stoll and the 1970 team in a permanent way at Wake Forest. And so, the team is currently fundraising toward a significant gift to the new Sports Performance Center so that a room in the new facility can be named and forever remembered for Coach Stoll and the team.
“In my 49 years around Wake Forest football, no team ever worked harder or played harder than the 1970 team,” said Jody Puckett (’70), a loyal Deacon Club member and lifelong Wake Forest football fan. “Let’s help honor Coach Stoll by putting his name on a part of this new building. Besides, think what Cal could have accomplished with an indoor practice facility!”
The new Sports Performance Center is a 95,000-square-foot multi-use building designed to feature a larger, state-of-the-art strength and conditioning area that will include weight rooms and cardio areas. It will also include a dedicated space for nutrition, football coaches’ offices, team meeting areas and other programmable space. This new facility will support Wake Forest’s student-athletes’ goals of competing and winning at the highest level. What was the smallest facility in the ACC will become one of the nation’s best, with state-of-the-art equipment, technology and resources that will honor Wake’s mission of building champions while educating the whole person.
“I’m very excited about the Sports Performance Center,” Bradley said. “To think back to when I was in school, the only weight room we had was the little weight room in Reynolds Gymnasium in the basement, and that was for the whole school! Seeing the weight room Wake Forest has now is light years ahead of what we had back then, and to see it transform even further is very exciting. The Sports Performance Center will be a great tool for Coach Clawson. It will allow him to not only build and strengthen his team to compete at a higher level but will also be a recruiting tool to attract the best athletes out there. I am truly excited for the seasons to come.”
The Sports Performance Center is in the final stages of fundraising, as an astounding $50 million of the $58 million needed has already been raised. Through the McCreary-Sutton match, Bob McCreary (’61) and Ben Sutton (’80, JD ’83) have made a generous combined matching gift of $10 million to challenge the Wake Forest community to complete the funding needed for the Sports Performance Center. Each capital gift made through March 2016 to the Sports Performance Center project will be matched, dollar for dollar, by Bob McCreary and Ben Sutton. In order to complete the funding for the Sports Performance Center, the Deacon Club must raise the final $8 million by March 2016 in order to receive the full amount of the match.
For more information on the Sports Performance Center, please visit wakewill.wfu.edu/lets-roll.
(Note: This article was originally published in the February/March 2016 issue of Gold Rush.)