50 Years Later, Remembering Colonel Wilkes Bobby McBride

WILKES-BARRE — On Nov. 18, 1972, Bobby McBride led the Wilkes College Colonels onto the field for a game against King’s Point.

While attempting to make a tackle from his secondary position, McBride suffered an injury that resulted in his death the following day.

McBride, a junior business administration major, passed out on a third-period tackle. Attempts to revive him on the field were unsuccessful and he was taken to Wilkes-Barre Hospital.

A three-year member of the Wilkes football team, McBride was a standout quarterback for the Colonels from 1970-72. He arrived in Wilkes after earning all-star honors for the Coughlin High School football team. He was also selected to play in the 1970 East/West UNICO All-Star Game.

McBride helped Wilkes post a 13-11-1 record over three seasons, including a 6-2 mark in 1971. In that same span, the Colonels have won five shutout games, holding opponents to six points or less on eight occasions.

Son of Robert J. and Teresa A. McBride, Bobby McBride’s spirit lives on in Wilkes. A wing at Munson Fieldhouse was named in his honor.

McBride was inducted into the Luzerne County Hall of Fame.

A Times Leader article written by Joe Petrucci in February 2003 tells McBride’s story:

“It was the type of strike that defined previous generations of football.

“It was something from the golden age of the gridiron, a brutal Chuck Bednarik vs. Frank Gifford.

“This convergence between a quarterback from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., and a defensive back from Wilkes College in the late fall of 1972, however, defies nostalgic description because it turned out to be fatal.

“Bobby McBride was, by all accounts, a good kid. One of five children (brothers Joseph and Michael and sisters Colleen and Molly) to Mr. and Mrs. Robert McBride, he was quiet, the type to talk on the field when the ball was hit.

“He also played baseball well and was a two-sport standout at Coughlin High School. He played in the East-West UNICO All-Star Game in the summer of 1970 before enrolling at Wilkes and retiring from football. He was a business administration major.

“An article in the Nov. 10, 1972 Times Leader listed several Colonels among the leaders in Mid-Atlantic Conference statistics and offered a preview of the MAC final against Delaware Valley the next day. In it, McBride was described as “the hidden man in the blue and gold’s starting line-up”.

McBride, a stocky 6-foot-1, 175-pounder, had an interception return 28 yards and is “well-respected in the (defensive) backfield,” the paper said.

“Wilks lost 20-18 at Doylestown, setting up the season finale against Kings Point, as the academy is known, a team Wilks had never played against in the program’s 26-year history. Both teams entered the game at 4-4 and looking to finish the 1972 season with a win.

“Football was statistically much more dangerous in 1972 than it is today. Since 1931, 664 players at all levels of football have died from injuries sustained directly during the game, including 156 in the five years to 1972, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research — 69 college players died after ’31, including number 15 in the five years before ’72.

“Furthermore, the center found that nearly 80 percent of all head and cervical spine injuries are related to the defensive functions of the back.

“On Saturday night, McBride’s family, Schmidt and close friends held a vigil in the intensive care unit at General Hospital. These friends informed the rest of the Wilkes students of what was happening, and news of the severity of the injury spread around campus.

“A memorial service was held for McBride two days after his death at the Wilkes Center for the Performing Arts. McBride was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Hanover Township.

“Four years later, after 35 players died from injuries sustained on the football field in 1976, the NCAA and the National and State Football Rules Association introduced rule changes that removed the head from the initial point of contact for a catch or hit or penalty.” spears”. In the NFL, helmet-to-helmet hits not only result in penalties, but now often result in fines.”

Contact Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

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