What’s left to be said about a man who’s done it all? No matter how you slice it, Dick Biddle’s legendary tenure at Colgate speaks for itself. He has had winning seasons in 14 out of 18 years, seven Patriot League titles, and a national championship appearance. His resume is all the more impressive when you consider that he quite literally built the program from the ground up, taking over in the wake of a 0-11 season.
To build a program into a dynasty, a mastery of the X’s and O’s is not enough, which is especially true at Colgate. Colgate is a unique program in that it’s an academically rigorous school that did not offer scholarships to athletes until this year. It has thus been a constant challenge for Biddle to recruit the best talent, but one that he has continually overcome.
“My strength has been that I think I understand the school and the type of player that will be successful here,” Biddle says. “You have to get the right player that understands that and wants to be successful, wants to graduate, wants to win, wants to win a championship, wants to go to the NCAA’s – there’s not a lot of people like that.” Biddle still actively recruits in North Carolina and West Virginia but has built a national reputation for the program largely behind his name.
Recruiting top talent is just one way Biddle has left his mark on the Colgate program. Day in and day out Biddle emphasizes excellence on and off the field, bringing a sense of perspective that is often lost in Division I college football.
“You’re only going to play football for four years and you’re preparing yourself for the rest of your life,” he says. “A lot of the time, people don’t get that message when they’re going to play football. There’s more to the football portion [of college] and I try to tell them that.”
Beyond emphasizing success in all facets of life, Biddle strives to be a mentor for his players, especially those that are struggling adjusting to collegiate life.
“I think it’s important to get the kids to trust you. That’s the biggest thing to be successful as a coach – that the kids have to trust you – not only with football but with other issues.” When it all comes together for a player, it can be just as rewarding for Coach Biddle as success on the field. “There’s a maturing process and I like to see how a kid progresses from a freshman to a senior… We’ve had guys that have struggled their freshman year and end up graduating [and becoming] very successful.”
Senior wide-out Ryne Morrison has experienced Biddle’s leadership firsthand for four years. “He knows there are times to joke around with us and pat us on the back, and times to get on us. As football players, we are constantly told to never make the same mistake twice, on or off the field. If a guy gets written up, doesn’t take care of his grades, or is putting himself or the team in any situation where we might be unsuccessful, Coach Biddle takes responsibility himself to see that the problem doesn’t happen again. It’s the same way on Saturdays”.
So at age 65 what still gets Coach Biddle up in the morning, ready to get to work year after year? When you sit down and talk to him, the conversation quickly reverts from himself back to his players. All of these years later, it’s still the players that make coaching a dream job for Coach Biddle.
“There’s nothing better than taking a group and winning a championship. At times it’s great, at times it’s not great, but it’s something I love doing.”