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"Bill" Leckonby Passes Away

This Monday, the Lehigh football family lost one of its legendary coaches and athletic directors in "Bill" Leckonby at the age of 90. You may read the press accounts about his death, but it really doesn't take into account his transformative effect on the Lehigh football program and even the initial visions of the Patriot League.

A star tailback at St. Lawrence and on the Brooklyn Dodgers of the AAFL (but as a "triple threat" he could also be considered a quarterback), he would leave pro sports to fight in the Navy during World War II. When he returned in 1946, he would be the youngest head football coach Lehigh has ever had at 28 years old and in four years would lead Lehigh to their first-ever perfect undefeated and untied season (9-0-0) in 1950. The first-ever Lambert Cup would be won by Leckonby's 1957 squad, and in his final year of coaching he would win another in 1961. Overall, he would have 85 coaching wins and six "Middle Three" championships.

As a coach, he was an outspoken advocate for Lehigh. In 1957, he played the press like a violin in advocating Lehigh for being "ranked in the top 20 teams in the nation" and "No Ivy League team, save Dartmouth or Princeton, would give us much trouble." He also campaigned for a new rating between "major" and "small" colleges where Lehigh seemed to fit - a cut above the Oberlin's of the world, but a step below the Michigan's. When the NCAA moved to Division I-A and Division I-AA in 1978, it could have been seen as "Leck"''s ultimate vision coming to fruition.

"Leck" liked to have smart students. "A boy has to be a student and athlete to be on our team." "With boys of higher intelligence, teaching is a snap."

In his first year as athletic director, he made motions to leave the "Middle Atlantic" conference, which at the time included Delaware, Muhlenberg, Bucknell, Gettysburg, and Temple and Lafayette in football. In 1962, he told the football writers in New York that the ideal league for Lehigh would be an "organization similar to the Ivy League," according the the New York Times. He wanted a school with "better balance" academically and athletically. He could have been describing the Patriot League of today.

"Leck" was the athletic director though interesting times at Lehigh: the admission of women and the creation of the first women's sports teams; the plans to demolish Taylor Stadium and start the plans for Goodman stadium; and he also hired Pete Carril, who would later become famous for his slowdown, passing style of basketball at Princeton.

Bill Leckonby was a real visionary, a real man, and a great Engineer. He will be missed.

Comments

LehighWrestling said…
Very good article, its a shame to see wonderful people die.
Which games will you be attending?

Lehigh vs George town (10/17/07)?

Lehigh at Colgate (11/3/07)?

Lehigh at Bucknell 11/10/07)?

Lehigh lafayette Luncheon?

Lehigh vs Lafayette 11/17/07?
If you are attending any oft hese take a bunch of pictures at each of the games/events that you'll be attending and put them up on the webshots. Thank you
Anonymous said…
Lehigh vs Georgetown is (10/27/07)

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