"In Memorium: Bill Racich"

In Memorium: Bill Racich

A legend in collegiate wrestling, Racich served as the Bears’ head coach since 1980. He ranks first in wins among all men’s single-sport coaches ever to serve at the college, fourth on the NCAA’s all-time list for all divisions, and second among all active coaches. He suddenly and unexpectedly passed away on Sept. 21, 2018.

“If you put enough time in and do the right things, good things will happen, but I don’t focus on that. It’s not about me. It’s about all of the kids here. It’s about the Ursinus student-athletes.” - Bill Racich to Ursinus Magazine shortly after earning his 500th career win.

Under Racich, Ursinus established itself as the flagship wrestling program of the Centennial Conference.

The Bears won 11 conference championships, including five straight from 2003 to ’07, to become the only school in league history to accomplish that feat. He coached 56 Centennial Conference champions and more than 200 Middle Atlantic and Centennial  Conference place-winners, and saw 17 All-Americans and two CoSIDA Academic All-Americans go through his program. Five Ursinus wrestlers won the prestigious Chris Clifford Award, while six others were named Outstanding Wrestler at the Centennial Conference championship meet.

“From the first day, we’re focused on graduating our student-athletes, getting them into grad school and helping to parlay that into a career,” he said in 2016. “That’s what we’re thinking. Wrestling—that sorts itself out. The main prize is going to every class. The most important letters in a student-athlete’s life here are G-P-A, not W-I-N. We’ll win, but they need to be solid students and leaders in the campus community. That’s our goal.”

A coach for the better part of four decades, Racich brought an incredible enthusiasm for his role as a teacher and mentor, and leaves behind a legion of student-athletes who were forever changed for the better by his presence. One of them, Scott Flannery ’92, penned an article for Ursinus Magazine following Racich’s induction into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame earlier this year.

“He built a family the spans four decades of combatants,” Flannery wrote. “Men who are undoubtedly more successful in life because they had Coach. He stressed the importance of supporting each other and pushing each other to be successful, but when the whistle blew you were accountable for yourself and there were no excuses. Coach knows how hard he can push an athlete to get their best and they often discovered they had another gear only he know about. Oh—and once you found it—he would push you to the next one.”

As a head coach, Racich was named coach of the year 13 times over his time in the Pennsylvania Ches-Mont League, Middle Atlantic Conference, Centennial Conference and NCAA East Regional. During Racich’s storied career at Ursinus, the Bears never had a losing season; his 1988-89 team set the current standard of 21 dualmeet wins.

In 2001, Racich was inducted into the Ursinus College Hall of Fame for Athletes. Perhaps even more impressive is the academic success his student-athletes have enjoyed through the years. Under Racich, 91 Ursinus wrestlers have been named NCAA Division III Scholar All- Americans, including nine in 2017. All senior letter winners Racich coached have graduated from Ursinus.

“Bill always used to talk and joke about ‘living the dream’ and how great it was to coach kids,” Ursinus Director of Athletics Laura Moliken said. “He’d say, ‘they don’t really change; you just have to adjust how you teach the sport.’”