Expectations were in short supply in 1966 when longtime assistant Bob Blasi was promoted to head football coach at Colorado State College (later named the University of Northern Colorado). In the previous 73 years, the Bears had won exactly one conference championship (1934), and they had not produced a winning record the previous five seasons.
Blasi, though, spent the next 19 seasons transforming the Bears from also-rans into a dominant force in small-school football. The former two-way all-conference lineman at Colorado A&M led the Bears to six conference championships and an overall record of 107-71-3. He still holds the school record for career wins and is credited with putting UNC football on the map.
“Being able to turn the program around and give it national recognition meant a lot to me,” Blasi said. “I really feel like we were respected on a national level. The people we were playing on a regular basis didn’t want to play us any more. We only had 30 scholarships, and we were beating teams that had 60 scholarships on a regular basis.”
Blasi produced many good teams, but his greatest might have been the 1969 squad, which finished 10-0, won the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference title and was ranked No. 3 in the final United Press International poll. The Bears simply overwhelmed every team in their path, beating their foes by an average score of 43-12 while posting three shutouts. “That’s the team that really turned the program around,” Blasi said. “On a national level, people took notice that we were finally legitimate. It was one of those special years when everything fell into place. It really was a fantastic year.”
Blasi and his teams displayed a remarkable ability to adapt, winning championships in three conferences. He also guided the program through five seasons as an independent. Along the way he produced numerous standout players, including defensive lineman Dave Stalls, who went on to win three Super Bowl rings with the Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl quarterback Bill Kenney and Gerry Dattilio, a standout quarterback in the Canadian Football League.
After steering the program through the difficult period as an independent, Blasi’s repu-tation helped land UNC in the North Central Conference, which long had been considered one of the top NCAA Division II leagues in the nation. In 1980 –– UNC’s first full season in the conference –– the Bears won the North Central title and earned their first Division II playoff berth.
Blasi retired following the 1984 season, ending a 30-year run as an assistant and head coach at UNC. His success laid the foundation that eventually helped coach Joe Glenn win back-to-back Division II national championships in 1996-97. “I was tickled to death for Joe and the team when they won those national titles,” Blasi said. “Joe took the team to the place we wanted to go. I was very proud.”
Blasi, who grew up on a farm in Pratt, Kansas, is retired and lives in Conifer.
I really feel like we were respected on a national level. The people we were playing on a regular basis didn’t want to play us anymore. We only had 30 scholarships and we were beating teams that had 60 scholarships on a regular basis.