Victor J. Woods, 84 football, basketball coach

June 23, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Victor J. Woods, who was one of the area's top football and basketball coaches in the 1950s, died Monday at Franklin Square Hospital of injuries sustained in a fall at his Perry Hall home. He was 84.

Mr. Woods coached at Mount St. Joseph High School from 1947 to 1961, when he turned over the coaching jobs to Ben Petrilli and Gene Nieberlein, two of his former star athletes.

He remained at the Irvington school as a physical education teacher until 1968. He left Mount St. Joe's to become athletic director at Atholton High School in Howard County before retiring in 1977.

Born Victor Wojcihovski in Bascou, Romania, he immigrated to West Virginia in 1913 with his family and grew up in the tough coal mining region near Morgantown.

He changed his name legally to Woods in 1962 because he said people had trouble pronouncing and spelling Wojcihovski.

At Weston High School in West Virginia, he earned honors as an All-State football player in 1929 and 1930.

During one game for Weston, he scored eight touchdowns while carrying the ball only eight times, a feat that earned him a mention in the "Guiness Book of World Records."

After graduating from high school, he played right halfback for the University of Notre Dame, on a powerhouse team coached by Elmer Layden.

Mr. Woods said that one of the top athletic thrills of his life was the 1935 Notre Dame-Ohio State football game, when the Irish scored three touchdowns in the last quarter for an 18-13 victory.

After earning his bachelor's degree in 1937, he became football coach at Kingsford High School in Iron Mountain, Mich., where he turned a losing football team into a state champion.

His coaching career there was cut short by World War II, when he joined the Navy and was stationed at Pensacola, Fla. He was discharged in 1945 with the rank of lieutenant commander.

During his first season at Mount St. Joe, he coached the school's basketball team to a Maryland Scholastic Association championship. The team repeated the accomplishment in 1953 and 1954.

While never winning an MSA football championship, his teams won numerous Catholic league titles.

In 1951, before a crowd of 9,000 at the old Baltimore Stadium, the Gaels earned a 7-7 tie with powerful Patterson High School. In 1957, the Gaels upset unbeaten City College High School, 7-6.

During 14 years of coaching at Mount St. Joe, his teams had only one losing season.

He cast himself in the role of the tough, no-nonsense coach who demanded excellence and got it, but to his former players he was a coach for the ages.

While they may have feared him, they respected and loved him.

"Vic Woods was tough, so tough that he would kick a player where it would do the most good if he continually forgot plays," according to The Evening Sun in 1977.

"There were quite a few players who were members of what they called the Florsheim Club because he would kick them in their butts," said a son, Victor L. Woods of Baltimore.

"But they liked and never forgot him and jammed the funeral home to pay their respects Thursday night. He always said that any athlete or student was a member of his family."

John Plevyak, a former coach and athletic director at Mount St. Joe, said, "Vic's teams always had the spirit of the Fighting Irish. They never gave up. Because of his discipline and conditioning, they were always contenders if not champs."

Charles Reiter, president of Mount St. Joe and an alumnus, said, "He commanded enormous respect from all the students, and we all lived in awe of the tradition he stood for."

Vince Bagli, veteran Baltimore sports broadcaster, said, "He was rather self-effacing and seldom spoke of his days at Notre Dame where he was a great player and not simply a bench filler."

Mr. Bagli who first saw him play at the Notre Dame-Navy game in Baltimore in 1935, described him as being "a disciplinarian and a good tactician."

The longtime Catonsville resident, who only recently moved to Perry Hall, listed his hobbies at his retirement as "kids and athletes."

A Mass of Christian burial was offered Friday at St. Mark Roman Catholic Church in Catonsville. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, the former Marjori Nystrom; another son, Thomas M. Woods of Rockwell, Texas; two daughters, Anne Christine Fritz and Mary Jo Woods, both of Baltimore; a brother, Dr. Louis J. Woods of College Park; and seven grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made in his memory to the Mount St. Joseph Scholarship, 4403 Frederick Ave., Baltimore 21229.

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