Chuck Wagner Nov. 28, 1943 - Sept. 25, 2017 Football Coach Is Fifth on All-Time Wpial Wins List

By White, Mike | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), September 28, 2017 | Go to article overview

Chuck Wagner Nov. 28, 1943 - Sept. 25, 2017 Football Coach Is Fifth on All-Time Wpial Wins List


White, Mike, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


"Hang in there tough."

If a man could have a mantra, that was Chuck Wagner's. Whether speaking with a good friend or a new acquaintance, Mr. Wagner often ended the conversation with the saying. Even a biography of him published last year is titled "Hang In There Tough."

Mr. Wagner hung tough for 47 years as a high school football head coach in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic League (WPIAL). Counting five years as an assistant at the college and high school levels, he coached 52 years. Mr. Wagner died Monday morning at his home in Oakmont of complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 82.

Mr. Wagner retired as Springdale High School's coach after the 2011 season, and his 270 career wins are fifth on the WPIAL all-time list. Mr. Wagner coached Oakmont (his alma mater) for 10 seasons (1961-70), Riverview for 15 (1971-85), Fox Chapel for three (1988-90) and Springdale for 19 (1993-2011). Jim Render, Joe Hamilton, George Novak and Jack McCurry are the only WPIAL coaches with more wins than Mr. Wagner.

The word legend is truly appropriate for Mr. Wagner. During his years, he was one of the most respected coaches in the WPIAL - and not just because of his longevity. It was way he carried himself and the effect he had on players. He coached high school football for almost two-thirds of his life. He could be tough as a coach, but like a grandfather at the same time. Tommy Wagner played for his father at Riverview in the 1970s and then was a statistician for his dad at Springdale.

"He didn't put up with any junk from anybody," Tommy Wagner said. "In the olden days, he could get away smacking a kid in the helmet or making players run laps. He was a son of a gun who got fired up when it came to winning and losing. But even in his younger years, it just seemed everyone loved him. To this day, a lot of his old players kept in touch. They were still coming over the house the past few weeks, just to say goodbye to him. He changed so many lives."

Over the years, many opposing coaches referred to Mr. Wagner as "one of the good guys" in high school athletics. Tim O'Malley, the executive director of the WPIAL, also coached against Mr. Wagner when Mr. O'Malley was Avonworth's coach.

"He was the consummate gentlemen and professional," Mr. O'Malley said. "It is said about many people but he it's definitely true with him. He was highly thought of by everybody. He would be the guy who was up on you by 14-6 and was on the 5-yard line with 10 seconds left in the game, and would have his team take a knee. You don't find a lot of those guys today. That's the kind of guy he was."

Mr. Wagner cried when he told his Springdale players in November 2011 that he was retiring. …

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