University of Delaware Athletics Mourns Loss of Blue Hen Coaching Legend Irv “Whiz” Wisniewski
A native of Toledo, Ohio and a former college standout in football and basketball at the University of Michigan, Coach Wisniewski mentored hundreds of Blue Hen student-athletes over a 29-year tenure that included stints as head coach for basketball and golf and assistant coach for football. For 65 years he teamed with his wife, Martha, and their family to run the Varsity Day Camp near Ann Arbor, Mich. that exposed thousands of youngsters to the great outdoors.
He was inducted into the University of Delaware Athletics Hall of Fame in 2000 and into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame in 2006.
“The University of Delaware Athletics family is saddened by the news of Coach Whiz’ passing, and our thoughts go out to the Wisniewski family,” said UD Director of Athletics and Recreation Services Eric Ziady. “Although I never had the opportunity to work with Coach Whiz, his name is synonymous with the great tradition of Blue Hens athletics. He made so many valuable contributions in so many ways to this University. We will always be proud to call him a Blue Hen.”
A viewing will be held next Wednesday, March 5, from 6-8 p.m. at the Foard & Jones Funeral Home at 122 West Main Street, Newark. On Thursday, March 6, a funeral mass will be held at the St. Thomas More Oratory at 45 Lovett Ave., on the UD campus at 10:30 a.m. followed by a memorial service.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Varsity Day Camp Scholarship Fund, 3420 Cordley Lake Rd., Pinckney, Mich. 48169 (www.varsitydaycamp.com), or to the St. Thomas More Oratory (www.udcatholic.org).
Wisniewski earned his degree in education from the University of Michigan in 1950 where he was a standout two-sport athlete for the Wolverines. He led the football team to two national championships and played in the Rose Bowl twice and was also a member of Michigan’s 1948 Big 10 Conference championship basketball team.
He began his coaching career as head coach for football, basketball, and golf for two seasons at Hillsdale (Mich.) College for two seasons in 1950-52 before heading East to join College Football Hall of Fame member Dave Nelson’s staff at the University of Delaware in 1952.
He served as ends coach at Delaware for Nelson from 1952 until 1965 and remained in that position for one season when another College Football Hall of Fame inductee, Tubby Raymond, took over the reigns of the Blue Hens in 1966. Wisniewski took over as offensive line coach in 1968 and held that position until his retirement following the 1976 season.
Wisniewski was the architect of powerhouse offensive lines that paved the way for Delaware’s rise to perennial national championship contenders during the Wing-T era. He helped to develop numerous Blue Hens who attained All-America status and was instrumental in recruiting top-quality talent. During his 25-year tenure, Delaware won three national titles (1963, 1971, 1972) and five bowl games, made three NCAA Tournament appearances, captured six conference titles, and was named Lambert Cup champions as the top team in the East 11 times.
"Whiz was a fine coach and as fine a person as you would ever want to meet," said Raymond, who like Wisniewski was also a Michigan graduate who followed Nelson to Delaware. "He just had such great empathy for everyone and had great people skills. He will certainly be missed."
As head basketball coach at Delaware from 1954 through 1966, he won a then school-record 111 games and led the 1961-62 team to an 18-5 record. He still ranks No. 2 all-time in wins.
He also authored two editions of the book, "Delaware Basketball,” served as an advisor to Poland's Olympic basketball team in 1965 and 1966, and also coached American women's basketball teams and USA junior teams in international competition. He also remained active as a color commentator on UD men’s basketball broadcasts for several years following his retirement.
Wisniewski also served as an associate professor at UD from 1952 through 1989 and was head coach of the Blue Hen golf team from 1955 through 1963, leading the team to a then school-record 52 dual meet wins. The team placed third at the Middle Atlantic Conference Tournament in 1961.
Coach Wisniewski is survived by his wife, Martha, and seven children. Son, Mike, and son-in law Tom Brattan, both played football at the University of Delaware while daughter, Mary, played both volleyball and basketball, and daughter, Clare, played volleyball. Son, John, served as a manager for the football team. Mike earned All-American honors for Delaware’s 1979 national championship team.