The Oldest Rookie

Bill Redell '64 may have the toughest job on campus this fall—stepping onto the field following the dismissal of veteran football coach Dale Widolff. But his love for the game brought him back

By Michael Wells

It's not often that your first college head-coaching job comes after you've already retired and been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. But for Bill Redell '64—widely regarded as one of the greatest Oxy football players in school history—it's never too late for your dream job.

"I'm glad I'm going to end my career coaching in college," says Redell, 71, who was named Oxy's head football coach in May in the whirlwind surrounding the sudden ouster of longtime coach Dale Widolff. He made his name as a player in the Canadian Football League and as the architect behind a nationally ranked program at Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village. "I've always wanted to coach in college, but the opportunity never really presented itself."

The reason he hasn't taken a head gig in college has little to do with his resume. Redell won eight CIF-Southern Section championships and compiled a 233-65-3 record in high school, and had two stints as an assistant coach at the college level with Cal State Fullerton and Cal Lutheran. Rather, it was a hesitancy to commit to the coaching-carousel lifestyle that kept the Pasadena native close to home in Southern California.

"I made the determination after I coached pro football for two years that I did not want to move all over the country," says Redell, who has lived in the same house in Westlake Village for 35 years with his wife, Cheryl. "That's why I didn't want to be an assistant at a major college or in the NFL."

When Widolff was dismissed amid allegations of recruiting violations in the spring, Redell soon emerged as the leading candidate for the job—and a dream that he'd put on the back burner came front and center. "I'd really already retired," he admits (Redell stepped down at Oaks Christian in March). "But to come back to my alma mater and be the head coach was very appealing to me."

As a player, Redell was attending USC on a scholarship before Vic Schwenk, his high school coach at San Marino, convinced him to transfer to Oxy in 1962. He ended up an All-American, starring on both sides of the ball as a quarterback and as a defensive back, and was later drafted by the NFL's Los Angeles Rams and the AFL's Denver Broncos in 1963. His greatest success as a pro came in the CFL when he won the Grey Cup Championship with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1967.

While the 2012 Tigers will have a new coach for the first time in 30 years, don't look for big changes on the field. Redell plans to keep the staff intact (led by Eric Bergstrom, who has been promoted to associate head coach) and run the same offense and defense that the Tigers are already comfortable with.

Redell knows he isn't your typical rookie coach. But that doesn't mean he's one-and-done at Oxy. "I've gotten some emails and calls and congratulations. And some, 'Are you out of your mind, coming here at 71, driving 40 miles?'" he says with a laugh. "I would like to continue coaching for another four or five years. If it ends up being a year or two, then that's what it ends up being."