Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lycoming Athletics Official Announcement - Weber retires as Lycoming linebackers coach

Longtime assistant football coach Mike Weber announced his retirement from the Warriors.
(Photo courtesy of Lycoming Athletics)
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Sitting on the porch of his house on a sunny April evening, Mike Weber ’89 tells a story that he recently sat down and told the Lycoming College football team.

The story goes that a Joe Shannon ’85, a Lycoming College Athletics Hall of Fame defensive back for the football team walked up to Weber and said, “I am really mad at you.”

Weber said, “Well, what are you mad at me for?”

“Because you are living my dream.”

“OK, what is your dream?”

“To coach at Lycoming College.”

Weber continued, “That stayed with me for quite a long time. As I grew older, I became more appreciative of the time I’ve had. It is a humbling experience and I wouldn’t turn it back for anything in the world.”

After 32 years with the Lycoming College football team, including spending the last 28 as an assistant coach, Weber has decided to retire from that role, director of athletics and head football coach Mike Clark ’93 announced.

Weber, a longtime social studies teacher at Muncy High School, was promoted to dean of students two years ago, and the new role, along with a desire to spend more time with his wife, Tonya, and 17-year-old son, Michael, has forced him to step aside.

“To coach at this level or any level, it is a full-time job,” Weber said. “Obviously, I was a part-time guy trying to do a full-time job. It just got extremely difficult. I took on more roles with my teaching job. That is more demanding of me. I am never going to compromise my coaching style and the way I do it. I didn’t feel I was as good as I could have been with the amount of time that I was putting in. It really bothered me. I also have a 17-year-old son who is starting to look at colleges. It’s my last year with him and I missed quite a few moments over the years. I want to take one last advantage and be with him for the summer.

“This was not an easy decision. I am going to miss it. There’s no doubt about it. People might think I am crazy, but I am going to miss Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday more than anything. Saturdays were fun, but to a coach, practicing is where you are a coach. Saturdays were just watching the kids perform. We coached during the week and that is what I am going to miss the most.

Weber has been associated with Lycoming football for more than half his life, having spent four seasons as a player and 28 years as an assistant coach, working with the offensive line, but mostly with the linebackers.

“He has been a constant,” Clark said. “To lose somebody like him is sad, because he is a really good coach and a really good person. To do anything at one place for 32 years says a lot about him and his family’s commitment to our football program.”

That family commitment certainly extended to his wife and son. Tonya opened the Weber home to the Warriors, with family-style dinners at their house a Friday night staple in recent years and she also helped run the clothing concession stand during football games. Their son, Michael, grew up around the program, working as a ball boy, a water boy or just cheering from the stands every Saturday for his father’s team.

From Delano, Pa., Weber came to Lycoming in 1984, just in time to help the team to its first undefeated regular season in program history as a sophomore in 1985. A strapping 6-0, 193-pounder from Marion Catholic, Weber finished his career in 1987, having earned three letters and helping the team to a 34-7-1 record during his tenure.

He also teamed with his brother, John, for three of those seasons, as John served as a captain of the 1988 squad as a defensive tackle.

“Obviously, it starts all the way back in 1984 with Coach (Robb) Curry and Coach (Frank) Girardi recruiting me,” Weber said. “They said you will be a part of a family. It’s been a great family, a great tradition. My mom and dad missed one game because my brother played on a Saturday and they couldn’t get here, but my brother, John, came here the next year. It was neat having my brothers and sisters, my mom and dad, all here for games.”

After his senior season, he decided to get a teaching certificate after originally majoring in economics and that forced him to spend another year in school. It also allowed Girardi, the hall of fame coach, to add Weber to his staff as a linebackers coach.

Weber spent the 1988 season as a student assistant coach and the next year, he found his position at Muncy High School, which allowed him to stay with the Warriors.

At the time, Girardi said, “We are very happy to have Mike with us again. He has great rapport with the young players…and I know he will be a real asset to our program.”

Years later, Girardi’s words were nearly identical when talking about Weber. On Friday, he said, “Mike played for me and I thought enough of him to bring him on staff as an assistant coach. He worked as a defensive coach, primarily with the linebackers and did an outstanding job. He was extremely loyal to Lycoming football and was a major asset to the success of our program.”

He joined the staff at a time when continuity in the staff was one of the most valued parts about becoming a Warrior. Girardi was already the Warriors’ head coach for 14 years by the time Weber began to walk the sidelines in 1988. Others on his staff were also longtime contributors – Dave Bower (17 years, quarterbacks), Robb Curry (36 years, recruiting coordinator), Bobby George (22 years, running backs), Gene Haupt (11 years, defensive backs), Terry Mantle (23 years, offensive line) and Steve Wiser (42 years, defensive coordinator) were all on staff when Weber came aboard.

As the ’80s rolled into the ’90s, Weber was a part of the most successful period in program history. The team made it to the national championship game in 1990, participating in the first overtime game in the history of NCAA football that year against Allegheny. The team won the MAC again in 1991 and then again in 1992, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2003.

During those years, Weber coached linebackers that became part of Lycoming lore – Bill Small ’92, a two-time All-American that anchored the team en route to the NCAA Division III Championship game in 1990, Brett Zalonis ’98, who has since been inducted into the West Branch Valley Sports Hall of Fame, and Luke Sterling ’06, to name a few.

Weber was a part of the changing of the guard in 2008, joining his longtime friend and mentor, Steve Wiser ’74, as both helped bridge the gap between generations when Girardi retired and Clark came on board.

“Webby has been a good friend,” Clark said, “and certainly a very good football coach. Playing here, I got to see him in a couple different ways. He was one of my coaches when I played here and he was a relatively young coach. He was a guy you could really relate well with. We became friends when I was fortunate enough to come back and be an assistant coach in 1998 and ’99. We got to know Tonya and Mike pretty well then. When I went to Davidson, we lost touch a bit, but from the beginning, Webby was always right here on board.”

For Weber, the decision to stay on as coach was about more than continuing to coach at Lycoming College. It was also about the kind of person he believed Clark was and the coach he could be.

“Mike and Danielle babysat Michael (while Clark was an assistant coach with the Warriors)” Weber said.  “It is kind of ironic how it goes around. Mike’s senior year, I actually coached offensive line, so I guess technically, I coached him a little bit. Now, it has come around full circle.

“Mike has been awesome. I don’t think I have ever asked him a favor where he actually said the word no to me. He allowed me to somehow juggle my coaching career, my teaching career and my full-time job of being a husband and a father.”

Weber stayed on for eight more seasons after one of the most pivotal moments in program history, and helped the Warriors win two more MAC Championships and make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2008.

Over his more than quarter-century with the Warriors, Weber helped coach the team to 11 conference titles and 11 NCAA Division III playoffs. Weber helped produce six All-American award winners at the linebacker slot, including 2012 MAC Defensive Player of the Year Kabongo Bukasa. In all, he coached 25 all-conference players at the slot.

One of the high points of his coaching career came in 2013, when Bukasa was a Second Team All-MAC selection as a middle linebacker, Tyler Denike ’14 was a first-teamer on the strong side and Kyle Sullivan ’15 was an honorable mention selection on the weak side.

“It’s easy to coach when you have players that talented,” Weber deadpanned.

In all, the Warriors enjoyed a 238-90-2 (.724) record in the 32 seasons since he joined the program. His 28 years of service to the football program is fourth in program history, behind Wiser (42 years), Girardi and Curry (36 years).

Maybe the person who best understands the rigors of teaching full-time as well as coaching is Wiser, who said Weber has been a consistent sounding board and confidante.

“Webby has been like a son, a brother and a good friend,” Wiser said. “Webby was one guy that wouldn’t always tell you what you wanted to hear. Webby was always up front with me. That is one of the things I respect about him the most. He and I were attached at the hip on the sideline. A lot of times, I would call something and Webby was already there on top of it. We had a lot of fun. I am going to miss him from a football standpoint. The friendship, that, I am going to maintain.”

Weber said, “Wise is a big reason I am who I am today. He taught me how to care about people, how to treat people. Steve was never about X’s and O’s. He is about treating people the right way. That is the most important thing I ever learned from him. He is my best friend. He is a brother of mine. He is my father here.”

Since retiring from his role as a teacher at Williamsport Area High School in 2004 to become a full-time assistant coach at Lycoming, Wiser said he could count on Weber to always answer the phone.

“One of the biggest things I thought I would hate when I came over here full-time is the travelling,” Wiser said. “It has worked out real well because I never stay overnight. Every morning I call Webby. He is my call to keep me awake when I drive to Harrisburg or go to Western Pennsylvania to recruit. He said I can still call him when recruiting starts, so I am looking forward to that.”

Weber added, “The recruiting trips didn’t start yet and he is still calling me. To be honest, I would be very disappointed if he didn’t call me.”