Charles Nailen/The Hoya Benson, who enters his 11th season as head football coach, faces a complete 12-game schedule this fall.

So Georgetown’s football team finished its season at a game below .500. Sure, the team won just two conference games in the past two years.

That will change, and soon, head coach Bob Benson insists.

Benson is not a math guy; he’s a history buff. He received his Master’s of Education in History from the University of Albany in 1987, serving as a graduate assistant coach during his two years there. It was a place that, in the ’70s and ’80s, served as a proving ground for the present coaches of many elite schools.

Individuals who passed through Albany include Fordham head coach Dave Clawson, John Hopkins head coach Jim Margraff, Lehigh head coach Pete Lembo (GSB ’92), Penn head coach Al Bagnoli, Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki and former Dallas Cowboys head coach Dave Campo, several of whom are still in close contact with Benson.

The football team’s statistics from last season are not as disheartening as they appear, Benson says. A story he often shares with players, fellow coaches and the media details the history of the Patriot League.

The league, formed in 1986, consisted of six teams: Bucknell, Colgate, Davidson, Holy Cross, Lafayette and Lehigh. Davidson bowed out after three years, failing to win any matches against conference rivals. Fordham replaced Davidson, and the Rams suffered for several years, living in the conference basement and going seven years and winning just two games against league opponents.

“It has taken the Hoyas two years to win two [Patriot League] games,” Benson is quick to point out. “It took Fordham 13 years to win their first [Patriot League] championship. It will not take us 13 years.”

This serves as just one example of Benson’s philosophy. With his history background, he takes a unique approach to the Georgetown football program: he looks ahead by looking back.

Georgetown football has one of the most storied histories of all campus sports teams. The team played its first intercollegiate football game in 1889 against Virginia. Over the seasons, the Hoyas improved to become one of the exclusive teams in the nation, even participating in the Orange Bowl in 1941.

Ten years later, Georgetown’s program suffered its darkest year as a result of painful losses to Penn State, Miami and aryland. Debts and unsold tickets piled up forcing the university to drop the beloved institution.

The program returned in 1964 as a shadow of its former self, playing at the Division III level after 1970.

Benson, who is just the second coach in the era of Georgetown football in the NCAA, has guided the program through a transition from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference to the Patriot League – a transition that, after just two seasons in the Patriot League, is still far from complete.

The numbers do not lie. Benson’s teams have consistently improved from season to season in each of his 10 years as head coach. In 1993, his first year, the team finished 4-5 in its Division I-AA debut. For each of the next five years, the team won one more game than the prior season and captured the MAAC Championship in 1997, 1998 and 1999.

The Hoyas played one year independently in 2000 before joining the Patriot League in 2001, a move that helped Georgetown move closer to the past and the tradition that has been lacking in the program for decades.

On May 2, Benson released tentative schedules for 2004 through 2011, including many Ivy League opponents.

“All of this is an effort to restore the tradition that was once here and the associations with those schools,” Benson says.

What better way to do that then to bring the Ivies back to the District, Benson asks – a place they have not been since Penn came here in 1893? To move forward, the program has to look to the past, when rivalries with Princeton, Yale and the other Ivy League schools were strong.

“By 2007, we are playing [many] of the teams in football that are in our fight song,” he adds.

“By the time [the Hoyas] play us, they should be a comparable opponent,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki says. “Going from Division III to Division I-AA to the Patriot League, you’re bound to experience growing pains. But,” he adds, “they’re headed in the right direction.”

Siedlecki, for whom Benson was the first assistant coach ever hired, adds that the Bulldogs are happy to travel to the District because so many of their alumni reside in the Washington metropolitan area. They expect many of those alumni to come to the games, which can be helped by the completion of the Multi-Sport Facility – a project that Benson expects will raise student interest in the football program.

“We have to understand that [we] are affiliated with the top 20 institutions academically in the country, yet . our facilities rank among the lowest in the country,” Benson says. “I think students recognize that. If we fix and upgrade [the facilities], the students will come.”

“It’s all about the academics and the ability to succeed at the highest level,” he insists. “I think the students respect winners. They will support the team. I’ve seen it happen.”

An article written by Benson appeared in a recent version of the American Football Coaches Association manual in 2001. It was a testament to his devotion to the history of Georgetown football and his confidence in the future of the program.

It reads: “The move to the Patriot League and my association with Georgetown University reminds me everyday how thankful I am to be involved in this great game of football.”

With a mother who was a three-sport All-American at Brown and a father who played two sports at Cornell, it is safe to say that Benson’s competitive nature is in his blood.

“He brings enthusiasm and motivation to the football field,” Johns Hopkins head coach Jim Margraff, who worked with Benson for three years at JHU, says. Benson served as defensive coordinator of the Blue Jays before taking over the head-coaching job at Georgetown from Scotty Glacken, who stepped down in 1993 after 23 years of service to the football program.

Only Glacken and Jack Hagerty, who coached the team in its days of glory in the 1930s and 40s, have held the reigns for longer than Benson, who enters his 11th season this fall.

“He’s a great friend of mine,” senior defensive lineman Justin Haynes says. “I learned a lot in my four years under him. He’s a really good players’ coach. It’s tough when you have more than 100 players on the team at the start of the year, but he still tries to help everyone and deal with their problems individually.”

“He’s the ideal person to be head coach at Georgetown,” Siedlecki says. “He’s the hardest working assistant I’ve ever had, he’s a great recruiter and he loves the game.”

“Football is fun,” Benson admits. “Students, everybody realizes that. There is no question that we can have the atmosphere that Yale, Cornell, Brown and Penn have on an autumn day here. It all takes time.”

Whether looking to the future or to the past, time is something that Benson has plenty of.

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