By Alex Ewalt, FNF Coaches Contributor
Long before Bob Hyland became Wisconsin’s all-time winningest coach, he was fresh out of college and taking over a struggling program at St. Mary’s Springs Academy in Fond du Lac.
Wins were scarce for the Ledgers before Hyland arrived in 1971 from North Dakota State, where he was conference Offensive Lineman of the Year in his senior season of 1969 for the NCAA Division 2 champs.
And, he admits, his own start at the small Catholic school was inauspicious.
“I didn’t help things at all. We went 1-15-2 my first two years,” Hyland says.
But change came quickly. Hyland instituted a hard-nosed style on both sides of the ball, running a form of NDSU’s Veer Option. He also ran what was, at the time, a weight-training program unique in its intensity.
“Our kids worked hard,” Hyland says. “They’ve always worked hard to be the best they could be.”
In 1975, the Ledgers played in their first of four straight state title games — even though they lost each one.
“When we started winning, it was unique,” Hyland says. “[The community] did a lot of things to show its appreciation, and we were just able to continue.”
Hyland captured his first title in 1983, winning back-to-back years in shutouts. Since then, St. Mary’s Springs has racked up 12 more to give Hyland 14 titles overall —including five of the last eight.
With a record of 437-105-2 in a career spanning 46 years, all at St. Mary’s Springs, Hyland ranks No. 7 nationally all-time in wins. But he isn’t one to dwell on the past — not even his 400th win, which he earned in the first game of 2014.
“I forgot all about it,” he laughs.
“The 100th was pretty significant. And then all of a sudden it’s 200, then 300 and 400.”
Hyland says he would like to coach the Ledgers through 2024, when his youngest grandson, now in fourth grade, will be a senior at the school.
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