INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Former Butler head football coach and athletic director Bill Sylvester received the Distinguished American Award from the National Football Foundation/College Hall of Fame Central Indiana Chapter on Saturday (Feb. 23). He was one of 20 individuals honored at the organization's annual banquet at the Indianapolis Colts Complex.
Sylvester was recognized for more than half a century of service to college football as a player, coach and administrator. He received his award from former Butler football coaches Bill Lynch, who received the same honor a year ago, and Ken LaRose. Six other former Butler football coaches were on hand to celebrate the occasion.
Sylvester was a four-year starting quarterback for the Bulldogs, 1946-49, and later served as an assistant football coach under Hall of Fame coach Paul D. "Tony" Hinkle. He became Butler's head football coach in 1970 and he went on to lead the Bulldogs to six conference championships and one NCAA Division II playoff appearance, the first in Butler history. Sylvester was named conference "Coach of the Year" three times and NCAA Regional "Coach of the Year" once. He stepped down as Butler's football coach in the summer of 1985, finishing his career with an 84-65-2 record. His 84 wins still stands second all-time at Butler.
Named athletic director at Butler in 1975, Sylvester continued to be a major figure in collegiate football. He was chairman of the NCAA Division II Football Committee, and he served on the American Football Coaches Association All-American selection board. He also served as the first permanent commissioner of the Midwest Intercollegiate Football Conference, which later named its championship trophy the William L. Sylvester Trophy in his honor.
The National Football Foundation Distinguished American Award is among the highest offered by the organization. Each year the NFF/College Football Hall of Fame pays tribute to a select few with awards of excellence for exhibiting superior qualities of scholarship, citizenship and leadership. The Distinguished American Award is presented on special occasions to someone who has applied the character building attributes learned from amateur sport in their business and personal life, exhibiting superior leadership qualities in education, amateur athletics, business and in the community.
Previous recipients of the award include Indiana football legends Stewart "Red" Faught, Lamar Lundy, Jim Belden, Dick Dullaghan, Nick Mourouzis, Bill Mallory, Bob Terpening, Bill Bless, Dave Land, Bob Hicks, Max Andress, Jerry Brewer, Wayne Perry, Bob Springer and Lynch.
The Distinguished American Award capped an awards banquet which included 16 Indiana High School Scholar-Athletes being recognized for their outstanding performance on the football field, in the classroom and in the community.
Among the former Butler football coaches attending the National Football Foundation Awards Banquet were, left to right: Bob Brock, Don Benbow, Ken LaRose, Bill Lynch, Bill Sylvester (honoree), Bill Sylvester, Bob Bartolomeo and Bill Kuntz. (Photo by Dr. Mark Bohnert)