LIU Post’s football team is 10-0 and can gain a berth in the NCAA Division II playoffs with a victory over Assumption on Saturday in the NE-10 Conference championship game.
No Post team has gone undefeated. This might be the university’s most dynamic team since 1971, when quarterback Gary Wichard of Glen Cove led the Pioneers to the Boardwalk Bowl in Atlantic City. Even a 72-22 loss to Delaware in that game — played indoors on natural grass in the Convention Center — did not diminish the glow from that season. Wichard, touted as an NFL first-round pick before the bowl game, was selected in the 16th round by the Colts in 1972.
The 2016 Pioneers have quarterback Jeff Kidd, who has thrown for 20 touchdowns. Running backs Malik Pierre (10) and David White have 17 total touchdowns. For Assumption (8-1), Marc Monks has thrown 24 TD passes. Assumption, located in Worcester, Massachusetts, lost to Post, 19-18, on Oct. 1.
Wichard played when Division II teams were known as college division. He was the biggest name to play for a Long Island team and even received a Heisman Trophy vote.
The Giants used Post as a preseason practice facility going into Wichard’s senior year. According to former Post coach Dom Anile, who is 78 and lives in Nevada, Wichard was throwing the ball about 60 yards during one practice. Herb Machol, Post’s sports publicist, got Y.A. Tittle to take a look at Wichard.
“He got Y.A to say, ‘This kid’s got as strong an arm as I’ve ever seen,’ ” Anile said, with Tittle making comparisons to Joe Namath and Sonny Jur gensen. “Herb took that comment and that went all over the country and in Europe. It was an exciting time on the college campus.’’
Since 1976, Post has won seven NE-10 titles and made five appearances in the D-II playoffs. Bryan Collins, in his 19th season, is the program’s winningest coach with a record of 140-68.
It seemed as if Post was taking a step back in competition in 2013 when the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference removed schools that did not have an all-sports affiliation. Post, which had joined in 2008, went back to the NE-10.
“We enjoyed playing in that conference,’’ Collins said of the PSAC. “It opened up our recruiting area to New Jersey a little bit more. We had beaten the No. 2 team in the country at the time, Bloomsburg.’’
But a return to the NE-10, which added scholarships and improved facilities at its member schools, turned out to be a positive development for Post. “I think it’s become as competitive if not more so than the PSAC at this time,’’ Collins said.
Collins does not remember Wichard’s team of yesteryear, but he knows Anile and has heard all the stories. Wichard, who became a player agent and remained interested in Post football for many years, died in 2011 of pancreatic cancer. He was 60.
“I don’t know how to compare [this season] as much to those years as far as giganticness,’’ Collins said. “It’s a good season. it’s been a great season. Our kids have been tremendous and keeping their focus. Winning is hard. Winning is always hard, and to win every game you step foot on the field is a tremendous accomplishment for these young men. We have business to take care of, so we won’t look back on this season till it’s all over.’’
That may not be for a while.