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A champion’s reunion

A champion’s reunion

Nicole L. Craw October 13, 2021

Former UD football players from the 1980 championship team gather for 40th anniversary celebration

On Saturday, Dec. 6, 1980, most UD students were huddled around TVs in the Kennedy Union lounge and TV rooms, in most dorm rooms, even on TVs dragged out to front porches in the student neighborhood. Flanagan’s Pub offered an “all you can drink” pre-game special for just $2.

They were watching the Flyers battle Ithaca College in the NCAA Division III Football National Championship, formally the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl. The Flyers won, the perfect ending to an undefeated season, beating defending national champion Ithaca by a final score of 63−0.

“We dominated and had a ‘perfect’ season. We truly enjoyed the game, as it was evident early on, we were going to,” David Terkoski ’82, member of the 1980 championship team.

Running back Gradlin Pruitt '81
Running back Gradlin Pruitt '81 finds an opening for a long gainer.


After the win, students celebrated in the streets. Luckily, no one was injured, except perhaps Ithaca coach, Jim Butterfield’s, pride.

“You’re the best Division III team that I’ve ever seen,” he told Dayton coach Rick Carter as they shook hands at midfield following the victory, according to a December 1980 special edition of the Flyer News.

Nearly 30 players from the 1980 Flyers football team are reuniting 40 years after their incredible win. They’ll gather on campus in Dayton this weekend and will be honored during halftime at the UD football game on Saturday, Oct. 16, as the Flyers take on Marist.

The team had planned to get together for their anniversary in 2020 but were forced to cancel plans due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“We established a brotherhood during all the hard work and success we went through and had together,” Terkoski.

The game was Carter’s last with Dayton, as the next season he took the top job at Holy Cross. He was named the American Football Coaches Association College Division Coach of the Year in 1980. Carter died in 1986.

“We have more than a football team at Dayton. We have a program,” Carter said in the Flyer News. “Besides a great football team, we have a fine band, great fans and excellent community support.”

This weekend’s festivities will also celebrate UD’s 1991 football team, the national championship runners-up for that year. The Flyers lost to familiar opponent Ithaca, which won its third NCAA Division III championship, 34−20, that year.

Famed UD coach Mike Kelly was an assistant coach with the 1980 team and was head coach for the 1991 team. UD current head coach Rick Chamberlin was an assistant coach both years. Kelly insisted that while the championship game was exciting, the semifinal game before it versus Widener University was the memory that truly stands out in his mind.

Coach Carter holds trophy, holds up "number 1."
Coach Rick Carter after the big victory.


“We were behind 24 to nothing at halftime and came back,” Kelly said. “The [championship] game itself was kind of anticlimactic. Our opponents had 10 turnovers, it was unheard of, and we just kept capitalizing on it, and who would have ever thought that a national championship game would be 63–0 — just unbelievable.”

Kelly recalled one of the best moments of the season came after the win that night, when the team walked into the Fieldhouse together to a huge crowd of supporters that included students, community members and fans.

“Our head coach, Coach Carter, carried the trophy in above his head, and that place was packed with people,” Kelly said. “It was so exciting to get off that airplane to walk in there as a team.”

University of Dayton Athletics will host a meet-and-greet event for the football alumni to meet with current UD players on Friday night, with a private reception to follow. On Saturday, the group plans to tailgate in the hours leading up to UD football game outside Welcome Stadium, before being honored at halftime.

“Seeing everyone and sharing the stories that we all have never gets old,” Terkoski said. “These guys are family!”

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