UVA Wise Mourns Passing of College’s First Football Coach

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise said Thursday that Bill Ramseyer, the legendary coach of the College’s first football team, passed away. Ramseyer passed away with his wife Mary and family by his side.

“Coach Ramseyer will always be remembered for building a football team that brought pride to Southwest Virginia,” Chancellor Donna P. Henry said. “Our hearts and our prayers go out to Mary and his family.”

Henry said Ramseyer knew the players had to be as strong in the classroom as on the field, and that they had to be true leaders on campus and in the community in order to cultivate an exceptional football program.

“Coach Ramseyer’s hard work and dedication is still evident today in the teams that came after him,” Henry said.

Ramseyer, with his wife Mary at his side, embraced the College and the region. They became true members of the community as they worked to create a lasting football program at Wise. Even though the playing field and stadium were not yet constructed, Ramseyer took the team to various high school stadiums in the region to play the scheduled games. The team became known as Southwest Virginia’s Team during the early years.

“Coach Ramseyer developed a strong foundation for our football program,” said UVA Wise Athletic Director Kendall Rainey. “He was loved by the entire UVA Wise community. He instilled strong values in many young men throughout his career, and his leadership served as an inspiration to so many who are part of the Highland Cavalier family. We wish the Ramseyer family strength during this time.”

“There are few people who can say that one person, outside a family member, has had such an impact on one’s life, but I truly can,” Wasem said. “Bill Ramseyer became Head Football Coach at my high school my junior year, and immediately changed a tradition with no winning seasons to a record with only two losses in three years. He then was on my college coaching staff my junior and senior years. And for some reason he later asked me to be on his coaching staff at two colleges, which lasted for 28 years.”

Wasem said Ramseyer taught intensity, commitment, self-discipline, living life ethically and caring for others. His mission was to build men who were great husbands, fathers, and citizens.

“His commanding presence and constant example impacted the lives of hundreds of young men,” Wasem said. “His heritage is all of those men whose lives exemplify those characteristics and still are loyal and thankful to him for his leadership and influence. And I am probably the most thankful of all for his support, respect and love.”

Ramseyer’s Highland Cavaliers had winning seasons just two years after the program began. In 1995, the team went 10-1 in the regular season and earned a postseason trip. In 1996, the team was undefeated in the regular season. Ramseyer retired after the 2001 season and posted 280 wins.

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