1960 Football Team Celebrates
50-Year Anniversary of the Perfect Season
by David Johnson
In the fall of 1960 the paint was still drying on newly opened Merner-Pfeiffer-Klein Memorial Chapel; however, the talk of the town wasn’t the new building, it was Albright football. The Albright Lions had achieved a milestone very few others had seen before, a perfect season.
Head coach John Potsklan had joined Albright in 1955, taking over a 3-6 program from Ed Gulian. Potsklan’s squads went 7-27-2 over his first four seasons. Potsklan was known as a coach’s coach and recruited players who scored in the classroom and on the field.
The perfect season began in 1959 with a 33-12 win over Moravian College. The Lions would close out that season winning their last four contests and had a 7-3 record. The 1960 campaign, led by team captains Robert Meyer ’61 and Mike Varano ‘61, opened on the road with a 31-7 victory over Muhlenberg College. Thiel came to Reading the following week and the Lions handled them easily 41-18. This is the only time in the history of Albright football that these two teams would meet.
Albright would go on to beat Drexel, Gettysburg, Scranton and Moravian. A test of Albright’s defense came November 5, 1960, when Lebanon Valley came to Reading. The Lions led 7-6 in the fourth quarter when the Flying Dutchmen moved down the field to the Albright goal line. They would make five attempts to get in but the Lion defenders refused to buckle. The Lions, in front of 6,000 fans, saved the one-point victory.
The following week the Lions traveled to Juniata to face a team that had a 35-game winning streak at home. The Lions ended that streak with a 27-14 victory. Lion fans paraded past the home bleachers with a sign that read “Another Streak Ended.” Shortly after the Juniata fans returned the favor parading past the Albright faithful with the Pretzel Bowl sign that had disappeared from Shirk Stadium the previous year.
The 1960 football season ended with a 41-29 victory over Franklin & Marshall culminating in a perfect 9-0 record. “The season was breathtaking,” said Mike Varano. “It unleashed an outpouring of school pride.” Potsklan was quoted in the Reading Eagle. He said, “I owe all my success to the players, the finest group of boys I coached, who had the desire and spirit.”
The winning didn’t end there for the Lions. The 1961 squad went on to an undefeated season as well; however, they had one small problem. In week five Moravian tied the team, leaving the 1961 team with an 8-0-1 record. Overall the Lions achieved a 13-game win streak from 1959-1961.
Potsklan went on to become the winningest coach in the history of Albright College. Over his 30-year career with the Lions he won 144 games. Potsklan, who died in 1990, was inducted into the Albright College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992.