Barry McNamara  |  Published January 08, 2024

In Memoriam: Bill ‘Moose’ Reichow

Legendary Fighting Scots coach led undefeated 1972 football team and also had great success in charge of golf and wrestling programs.

MONMOUTH, Ill.Bill Reichow, one of the winningest Monmouth College coaches of all time in three different sports, died Jan. 7 at the age of 94.

Reichow led the men’s golf team to four Midwest Conference titles and coached the Fighting Scots wrestling team to new heights.

But it was on the gridiron where he achieved legendary status, turning around a struggling program and making it, for a glorious decade, one of the best small-college football teams in the nation, including a 1972 squad that went 9-0, Monmouth’s last football team to finish without a loss.

Affectionately known as “Moose” to his Monmouth players, Reichow was a 1993 inductee into the College’s M Club Hall of Fame.

NEW MAN ON CAMPUS: Reichow is pictured in 1965 during his first year as a member of the Monmouth College athletic departmen... NEW MAN ON CAMPUS: Reichow is pictured in 1965 during his first year as a member of the Monmouth College athletic department. He took over the football program the following year and won 78 games over the next 13 seasons, including an undefeated season in 1972. Reichow came to Monmouth in 1965 from Albia, Iowa, where he coached high school football. Prior to that, two of his major formative experiences were playing quarterback and tackle at the University of Iowa for coach Forest Evashevski and serving as an Army paratrooper for three years during the Korean War, earning the rank of Sergeant First Class.

“His Monmouth teams were tough, like him,” reads a St. Olaf College account of the famous Scots-Oles rivalry.

“People said Coach had a military influence,” said Paul Waszak, a tight end on Reichow’s undefeated 1972 team, who for many years regularly traveled from the Chicago area to visit Reichow, along with ’72 teammates Mike Castillo and Greg Derbak. “He liked short hair and well-groomed athletes. Coach would sometimes bust the chops of the guys who let their hair go to the extreme. I happened to be one of those guys.”

From doormat to dominant

Reichow liked to start the season with a movie featuring Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, who inherited a losing team and quickly turned it around, winning five NFL championships during the 1960s.

Reichow could relate. In the 12 seasons before he took over as head football coach, Monmouth won just 17 games. He quickly got to work changing that losing atmosphere.

“Monmouth College had been a doormat for a decade,” said Rod Davies, an all-conference lineman for the Scots who grew up in Monmouth and is now mayor of the city. “Coach had to change that culture, and he sure got it changed. You started to see that red station wagon down at the fieldhouse day and night. You knew he was working at it. Monmouth was starting to improve, and we benefited from those teams that came before us.”

In a 2022 interview celebrating the 50th anniversary of his undefeated 9-0 team, Reichow recalled: “You have to have the horses to run the race. We were fortunate in that respect. You’ve got to get the talent and they’ve got to work at it. Talent is part of the formula. I had a lot of help in the high schools in two states (Iowa and Illinois) to pinpoint material and guide it in our direction.”

“Coach Reichow was a hard worker,” said ’72 team standout Dennis Plummer. “He was always looking at game film, and he just wanted us to be prepared. I think he was a lot like (Alabama coach) Nick Saban is now. He was well prepared, he knew what the other team would be running, and he always had a good game plan. For other players, I know he was like a father figure, but I viewed him as Nick Saban is today – just a very well-prepared coach.”

“Well, you see the results,” said Castillo. “He coached football, wrestling and golf, and just look at the success those teams had.”

His wrestling teams finished in the conference’s top three in six of his first eight seasons, including the 1972-73 team, which finished second. In all, his teams went 87-53-4 in dual meets, and he coached 10 national qualifiers.

“It’s the lessons in life that carry over. Forget the X’s and O’s he taught us, forget the wrestling moves. It’s what he taught us about life that lasts, and that’s why we owe him.” – Mike Castillo

In a seven-year span from 1968-74, Reichow’s football teams lost just eight times – an .852 winning percentage. In all, the Scots went 78-31-2 (.712) from 1966-78. Although the 1972 football team did not lose a regular-season game, it did not receive a bid to the Stagg Bowl, then the NCAA College Division championship game. The NCAA DIII football playoffs started the following season.

Teaching life lessons

But there’s more to that story, said Castillo, an All-American wrestler under Reichow.

“It’s the lessons in life that carry over,” he said. “Forget the X’s and O’s he taught us, forget the wrestling moves. It’s what he taught us about life that lasts, and that’s why we owe him.”

Davies agreed, as did his fellow offensive lineman, Grant Minor.

VISITING THEIR COACH: From left, Paul Waszak, Rod Davies, Greg Derbak and Mike Castillo checked in on Reichow often. The pi... VISITING THEIR COACH: From left, Paul Waszak, Rod Davies, Greg Derbak and Mike Castillo checked in on Reichow often. The picture above is from their visit in January 2022,“Coach challenged us all, ‘Are you willing to pay the price to reach the goal?’” said Davies. “The pain and the sacrifice to reach the goal. Every night, it was the goal-line stand drill. We beat ourselves up so bad in practice that the games were easy.”

“Everybody likes to win, but are you willing to play the price to make that happen,” said Minor. “That’s the stuff you walk away with from being a part of that team.”

“I started coming to games when guys like Dave Purlee and Jim Simpson were playing for Coach Reichow,” said Monmouth Director of Athletics Roger Haynes, a 1982 graduate. “Anytime you’re around alums from that era, they undoubtedly have lots to say on the positive influence he had on their lives, and usually more about the personal side than the playing side. That’s the great measure of any mentor or coach. He touched hundreds and hundreds of people’s lives through the three sports he coached, and he had great success coaching those sports, as well.”

“Coach Reichow was all business,” said Tim Burk, the quarterback of the ’72 team who later helped Reichow coach the Scots. “He was hard-nosed and strict, but he was also, without a doubt, the best coach I ever had. All of us played hard for him. He was always fair, and we respected him.”

Hard-nosed and strict, but also compassionate.

“Anytime you’re around alums from that era, they undoubtedly have lots to say on the positive influence he had on their lives, and usually more about the personal side than the playing side. That’s the great measure of any mentor or coach.” – Roger Haynes 

Two-way standout Charlie Goehl suffered an injury in the 1971 finale in Northfield, Minnesota, that required him to stay in the hospital for two weeks, but not at the facility that first saw him. Reichow made sure of that.

“He came to visit me after the game, and he told the people at the hospital ‘I can drive him home,’” said Goehl. “It’s something like an eight-hour drive, but that’s how I got home, in the back of his station wagon. I tell you what, if you had to count on him, he was there. I really thought he went above and beyond the call of duty for me that day.”

‘Thanks, Coach’

Members of the 1972 team and other squads gathered in 2019 to celebrate Reichow’s 90th birthday. “Happy 90th, Coach, from the men you made,” read the icing on the cake.

“It brings tears to my eyes, and that doesn’t happen very often,” said Reichow at the well-attended event. “We had some great days together in the past, and this is a great day right now.”

“It was a great chance for the guys to come back and shake his hand and say, ‘Thanks, Coach,’” said Bill Breedlove, another star from the 1972 squad. “He still had that voice and that presence. He probably still could’ve taken half the guys in the room.”

At the College’s Homecoming in 2022, former players had one more chance to show their appreciation for Reichow, gathering for an event celebrating the 1972 team, which was good enough to be one of four teams considered to play in that year’s national championship game.

In addition to his career in Albia and at Monmouth College, Reichow was a longtime independent DeKalb Seed dealer and chairman of the Warren County Board. He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Marcia, and by three daughters, including Julie Reichow Graves ’78. One of his daughters, Joanie Reichow ’81, preceded him in death.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 12 at Immaculate Conception Church in Monmouth. A rosary service will be prior to the mass at 10 a.m. at the church. Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. Jan. 11 at McGuire & Davies Funeral Home and Crematory in Monmouth. Memorials may be given to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital or Immaculate Conception School Gymnasium Reconstruction Fund.

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