Bill Sylvester has been connected to Butler University athletics for nearly his entire life. He closely followed the Bulldogs as a youngster growing up in Indianapolis. He competed for the university as a quarterback on Butler football teams from 1946-49, and he later became the second most successful grid coach in the institution's history. And he served for 15 years as director of athletics at the university, before assuming the position of director of athletics emeritus in October of 1989.
Sylvester accepted appointment as Butler's director of athletics in 1975, after having served the institution as a coach for 12 years. Among his first duties as athletic director was organizing a civic group which ultimately persuaded the NCAA to bring the 1980 Division I basketball championship to Indianapolis. Butler has since had a hand in hosting NCAA first and second round tournaments in 1982, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1993 and 1996, and the Final Four in 1991.
The veteran administrator was further instrumental in the formation of and Butler's admission to the Midwestern City Conference (now Midwestern Collegiate Conference), and he was a key figure in the reorganization of the Indiana Collegiate Conference into the Heartland Collegiate Conference, as well as the Midwest Intercollegiate Football Conference. He also helped with the development of the North Star Conference for women's athletics. He served as the first permanent commissioner of the Midwest Intercollegiate Football Conference, and filled that position for five years. The MIFC championship trophy is named the William L. Sylvester Trophy in his honor.
Well-respected in the collegiate athletic realm, Sylvester served as a president of the MCC, and of the Indiana Intercollegiate Coaches Association. He was chairman of the NCAA Division II Football Committee, and he's served on the American Football Coaches Association All-American selection board. He's also served as district chairman for the AFCA rules committee. During the spring of 1990, Sylvester was named "Man of the Year" by the Indianapolis Old-Timers Club.
Sylvester first joined Butler athletics in the late 1940s as a quarterback on Bulldog football teams under legendary coach Paul D. "Tony" Hinkle. He gained a starting berth as a freshman and helped lead Butler to a 7-1 record and a championship in the ICC. He closed out his grid career as a four-year starter and four-year letterwinner.
Following his graduation in 1950, Sylvester enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps, where he served as an athletic officer. He began his civilian coaching career in 1953 as head football coach and athletic director at Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis, and he later held assistant football coaching positions at Indianapolis Cathedral High School and Purdue University.
Sylvester returned to Butler as an assistant football coach under Hinkle in 1964, and he became head coach in 1970. Bulldog teams under his direction captured six conference championships and one NCAA Division II playoff berth, and he was named conference "Coach of the Year" three times and NCAA regional "Coach of the Year" once. He stepped down as head football coach in the summer of 1985, closing out a 15-year coaching tenure with an 84-65-2 record.
Sylvester earned his master's degree from Butler in 1960, and he gained the rank of associate professor in Butler's College of Education. He and his late wife, Dorothy, have six children, Jill, Bill, Jody, Ann, Katy and P.J. Bill, who served as an assistant football coach at Butler, Jill, Jody, Ann and Katy each are Butler graduates.