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Wilkes rekindles magic by honoring ‘Golden Horde’


The young men who played football during the late 1960s for Wilkes College, now Wilkes University, racked up one victory after another – compiling a 32-game winning streak, capturing national attention and cementing a place for themselves in Wyoming Valley lore.

This weekend many of those players – collectively known as the “Golden Horde” – and retired gridiron coach Rollie Schmidt have returned to the downtown Wilkes-Barre campus for a re-telling of their glory days and a fitting tribute.

The university intends to honor its stars of yesteryear before kickoff at this afternoon’s football game. The ceremony is set for 12:30 p.m. at Ralston Field, Edwardsville.

This and other festivities scheduled during Wilkes’ homecoming weekend, including a parade this morning on the city’s South Main Street, are meant to highlight the institution’s 75th anniversary.

The school began in 1933 as Bucknell University Junior College. It became an independent, four-year college in 1947 and was designated a university in 1990.

A few people in academic circles might frown on spotlighting a Wilkes sports team on this occasion, considering that college athletics so often overshadow scholarly pursuits. Yet the “Golden Horde” deserves another moment in the autumn sun, not only for its on-field achievements but also for its role in the college’s development. George Pawlush, an alumnus who later became the college’s first sports information director, recently said the 1960s-era players “can take credit for helping Wilkes grow.”

The team’s success – made apparent not only by the scoreboard tally but also with honors such as the Lambert Bowl (an award given to the best small college team in the East) – attracted the interest of prospective students and donation-giving alumni. It also gave Wilkes Colonels fans throughout this community a pleasant distraction from their workaday worries.

For all those reasons, today we echo the sentiments of a newspaper editorial first published on Nov. 21, 1968: “Coach Rollie Schmidt and his stellar squad, champions among champions, rate a hearty cheer from their friends and neighbors for scaling the heights to national fame. They played, they won and they merited the Lambert Bowl. And we’re proud of them all.”

Thanks for the memories, Golden Horde.

Go, Colonels!

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