Coast Guard Academy to honor 50th Anniversary of 1963 Champions Football Team

Coast Guard Academy NewsBears to wear “throwback” jerseys for their Sept. 21 game in honor of the only Academy team to complete an undefeated and untied regular season

NEW LONDON, Conn.— The U.S. Coast Guard Academy 1963 champions football team, coached by NFL Hall of Famer Otto Graham, will be honored at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Sept. 20-21, 2013.

The celebration will take center stage at CGA’s season home opener against Hampden-Sydney College on Saturday. The current team will honor the 1963 team and their accomplishments by wearing “throwback” uniforms for the game – featuring the same colors and design worn by the 1963 team on game day.

U.S. Coast Guard Academy Bears 1963 Champions Football Team. U.S. Coast Guard photograph.

U.S. Coast Guard Academy Bears 1963 champions football team. U.S. Coast Guard photograph. Click for full size

“We are very proud and happy to honor the ’63 Champions,” said Tim Fitzpatrick, Director of Athletics at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. “Their achievements on the football field were considerable and most memorable. However, their loyalty to CGA and extraordinary generosity to our football program will create an enduring legacy of leadership that will stand the test of time. Their triumphant return to CGA will be a great experience for everyone involved.”

The weekend’s events begin on Friday, Sept. 20, when 40 original players and coaches from the 1963 team will be the honored guests at the Academy’s Corps of Cadets regimental review at 4 p.m. on the Washington Parade Field. In addition, members of Otto Graham’s family will be in attendence.

U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadets display throwback jerseys they will be wearing during an upcoming football game in honor of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Champions Football Team at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. The Champions will be reuniting at the academy for two days to include activities such as attending a regimental review, captaining the football game and attending a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Otto Graham Hall of Athletic Excellence. U.S. Coast Guard photograph.

U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadets display throwback jerseys they will be wearing during an upcoming football game in honor of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Champions Football Team at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. U.S. Coast Guard photograph.

Following the review will be a ribbon cutting in Billard Hall at 5 p.m. for the recently renovated CGA football offices. The renovation, which is the first phase of what will eventually become the CGA Hall of Athletic Excellence, was paid for through a combination of appropriated funds and donations from the 1963 champions team and Otto Graham Athletic Legacy Fund, managed through the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association. The office area will be easily recognizable upon entry to Billard Hall with the installation of a large mural banner on the stage wall, which features photos of the 1963 team in action and the present day Bears taking the field.

The final phases of the project will include the construction of an Otto Graham Hall of Athletic Excellence within Billard Hall, which will showcase the history of CGA’s athletic programs, honor its Hall of Fame inductees and recognize the pioneers of men and women’s sports at the Academy.

The returning 1963 team members will serve as honorary captains during the game Saturday, and will accompany team captains Mike Vitrano and Nick Phillips to midfield for the pre-game coin toss. The halftime show will include individual introductions of the 1963 players and the accomplishments of the 1963 team will be recited.

“It is with great pleasure that I join the many members of the 1963 team during this week of celebration,” said Bill Thompson, co-captain of the 1963 team. “We are proud to pay tribute to our legendary coach, Otto Graham, and it is fitting that the Academy has commenced a plan to implement the Otto Graham Hall of Athletic Excellence.”

About the 1963 Champions Football Team

The 1963 CGA football team was the first to go undefeated and untied in Coast Guard Academy history. Coached by Graham, CGA pounded out an 8-0 record while giving up just 42 points – the lowest total surrendered by any football team in Academy history. The 1963 team advanced to a post-season Tangerine Bowl for the first time ever, where they lost to Western Kentucky by a 27-0 score. They had the first quarterback to pass for over 1,000 yards in a single season and the first Southeastern Connecticut Athlete of the year awarded to one of their key players. They had the first and only Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) College Player of the Year.

Rendering of Otto Graham Hall of Athletic Excellence.

Rendering of Otto Graham Hall of Athletic Excellence.

About the Otto Graham Hall of Athletic Excellence

The Otto Graham Hall of Athletic Excellence, to be established within a portion of Billard Hall, will transform a currently underused part of the building into a celebration of the athletic programs of the Academy. In that space, adjacent to areas still being used for cadet recreation, it will share the history of CGA’s athletic programs, honor its Hall of Fame inductees and recognize the pioneers of men and women’s sports. It will be an area of historic significance for all to enjoy and an educational tool that will aid coaches and admissions staff with impactful recruiting. Alumni and friends will be able to relive fond memories of athletic contests on the fields, courts, waters and tracks.

Schedule of Events

Friday, Sept. 20, 2013

  • 4 p.m. – Corps of Cadets Regimental Review in honor of the 1963 team, Washington Parade Field
  • 5 p.m. – Ribbon cutting for new football offices, Billard Hall
    • Remarks by CGA Director of Athletics Tim Fitzpatrick, Superintendent Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz, and 1963 champions Co-Captain Bill Thompson, CGA Class of 1964
    • 6:00 p.m. – Pep talk with current CGA Bears by 1963 team, Cadet Memorial Field
    • 6:30 p.m. – Dinner reception for 1963 team and invited guests, Alumni Center

Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013

  • 1 p.m. – Football Game vs. Hampden-Sydney College, Cadet Memorial Field
    • Pre-game walk-on by 1963 team and halftime recognition

 

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