50TH VANIER CUP INTERVIEW SERIES: Dale Schulha, Alberta (1972)



A conversation with…

Dale Schulha, defensive back, University of Alberta Golden Bears

In Vanier Cup VIII, the Alberta Golden Bears defeated Waterloo Lutheran Golden Hawks 20-7 at Varsity Stadium in Toronto to capture the program’s second national title, and avenge a heartbreaking 15-14 loss to Western Ontario in the 1971 CIAU final. One of the key plays of the 1972 game came late in the third quarter, with Alberta holding on to a 12-0 lead. Playing despite a broken bone in his wrist, team captain Dale Schulha threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Gary Weisbrot on a fake field goal attempt to give the Bears some breathing room.

What is your major memory of the entire Vanier Cup weekand the overall experience?

The unbelievable feeling of relief when the game was over. We had been to the 1971 game and had lost by one point to Western Ontario. The returning players on our 1972 team vowed at the start of the season that we would go back to the Vanier Cup and win it – and we did! It was such a huge feeling of relief to attain that goal.

There was also one unique thing that I have always remembered about 1972. When we first walked into our dressing room at Varsity Stadium, all of our jerseys were hung up with name bars across the back of each jersey. WOW! We had never had name bars on our jerseys – this made us feel like we were pros. Our acting athletic director, Chuck Moser, had organized this huge surprise for us and it was the start to a great day at Varsity Stadium! I still remind Chuck of this very special moment.

What is your one major lasting memory of the actual game?

My major memory of the game is when I threw a touchdown pass off of a fake field goal late in the third quarter – many people feel that this was the key play of the game for us.

There had been a lot of rain in Toronto during the week leading up to the game and the Varsity Stadium grounds crew decided to lay down sand between the hash marks the whole length of the field. Our kicker, Jack Schwartzberg, was having a tough time with the footing and, as the holder, I noticed that Waterloo Lutheran was really trying to block our kicks but they were not protecting the flats because of their rush. When we were trotting onto the field for this particular field goal attempt, I said to Gary Weisbrot – one of our receivers – “Be ready! Go down the field 10 yards and do an out pattern, the ball may be coming to you.” Gary said “What?” and I said “Just be ready!!!” When the snap came back from our centre, Jim Lazaruk, it was perfect as usual but I could see that Waterloo Lutheran was coming with a full-out block attempt, so I put the ball down on the ground and, just as Jack was going to contact the ball, I pulled it up and did a reverse spin and ran parallel to the line of scrimmage so that I could avoid the defenders. Gary was wide open in the flat and I threw the ball to him and he easily ran into the end zone. I remember jumping into Jack Schwartzberg’s arms and we were both yelling and screaming. When I came back to the sidelines after our convert, the media were interviewing me and our bench was ecstatic. After the interviews were done, our head coach, Jim Donlevy, walked over to me and said “Nice call and nice execution. Lucky that it worked because it is a LONG walk back to Edmonton.” Jim and I still laugh about that to this day.

I was a fifth-year graduating player and this was my last game, so what a way for me to cap off my Golden Bear football career – a defensive back who throws a touchdown pass to help our team win the Vanier Cup. It does not get much better than that!

Did the coaches do anything different from normal routine in the preparation for the game?

All of our coaches were fantastic in preparing us for the game. Waterloo Lutheran had a very productive wishbone offence. We had never played against such an offence so our defensive coaches implemented a special “4-4 wishbone stack” defence that we only had three days to practise. Our defence executed this new system to perfection and Waterloo Lutheran had to go away from their regular offence in the second half.

(Note: Waterloo Lutheran completed only 2 of 11 passes for 18 yards; the 2 completions are tied for lowest in Vanier Cup history, while the 18 passing yards rank as the second lowest total)

How did you or the team react to the stadium and the crowd?

The game was played in front of over 10,000 fans and all but a few of them were cheering for Waterloo Lutheran. However, we were not fazed by this because we had faced a similar challenge the year before when we played another Ontario team, Western Ontario, in the Vanier Cup in Toronto.

What are your memories of the post-game celebrations on the field and/or in the dressing room?

My memories centre around drinking champagne out of the Vanier Cup with my teammates in the dressing room and singing on the bus back to the hotel from Varsity Stadium.

What are your memories of the trip back home?

I had the Vanier Cup sitting in the seat next to me on the plane. As a team captain and a fifth-year player, I had the privilege and honour to carry the Vanier Cup off of the plane and into the airport where many family, friends and fans were waiting for us. I was so, SO proud to be a Vanier Cup champion!

What was the reaction on campus when the team returned?

There was a pep rally for us back on campus the day after we returned. There were signs across campus and we were pretty popular around the university for a number of weeks after our return.

At the time, how did winning the Vanier Cup change your everyday life?

It changed my life immediately after we won. The fact that we had set a team goal of winning the 1972 Vanier Cup and had dedicated ourselves to that goal every day of the season made a significant difference to the rest of my life. The process of winning the Vanier Cup over my five years as a student-athlete taught me so many life skills for both my personal life and my professional life: team work, dedication, commitment, time management, leadership, respect for others and their feelings, etc.

How often to you reminisce about your Vanier Cup win?

Very regularly. It was such a great accomplishment in my life to have been a part of that experience. I am often reminded by friends of that special fake field goal play. Because I went on to a 35-year career in athletic administration, I was around many, many championship athletes and championship teams and therefore was reminded on a regular basis of winning a championship and of being a champion.

More about Dale Schulha (courtesy of University of Alberta Athletics):

Dale Schulha was involved in Canadian interuniversity athletics for close to 40 years, including 25 years with the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta and Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics. He stepped down as Director of Athletics – his second time holding the position – in August 2010 and is now taking a well-deserved break from his professional duties.

It all started in his athlete days when Schulha played five years for the Golden Bears’ football team (1968-1972), twice serving as team captain, and making two appearances in the Vanier Cup (1971, 1972). He is famously known for throwing a touchdown pass on a fake field goal attempt while playing through a broken bone in his wrist in Alberta’s 1972 Vanier Cup championship win.

Schulha, who holds a Master of Science degree, served in a number of capacities at the U of A, including two stints as the Director of Athletics (1989-93 and 2005-2010), Director of Marketing and Public Relations (1985-89), University’s Acting Director of Development (1994-95) and Associate Director of Development from (2004-05). He received a Block ‘A’ sweater and ring from the university and watched two of his sons, Ryan and Aaron, compete for the Golden Bears’ football and volleyball teams, respectively.

He was appointed the Chairman of the Department of Athletics from 1989 to 1993 and, from July 1995 to June 2003, Schulha served as the Director of Development and Alumni Affairs for the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, securing a $2.0 million gift from Eldon Foote to complete a 2001 legacy facility, Foote Field, which became the start of development of the university’s South Campus expansion.

Schulha also served as the University Liaison for the Edmonton 2001 World Championships in Athletics and was also involved in other international events, including three FISU World University Games in the winter of 1991 (Japan), winter of 1987 (Czechoslovakia) and summer of 1983 (Edmonton).

In July 2003, he moved to an Associate Vice-President (Advancement) role at the University of Lethbridge, but returned to the U of A in February of 2004 when he was named Associate Director of Development for the Office of External Relations. He then began his second term as Director of Athletics in May of 2005.

Schulha was active in a leadership role throughout the Canada West conference and CIS, serving in a number of executive positions, including as a member of the CIS board of directors (1990-1992), member of the CIS International Programs Office Advisory Board (1998-1999) and member of the Canada West board of directors (2006-2009). Earlier this year, on June 11, he received the Austin-Matthews Award, presented annually by CIS to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to interuniversity sport.

Scott Harrigan
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