When University of La Verne head football coach Chris Krich approached what would be a historic 2015 season, he encouraged his players to put others first and learn the value of sacrifice.
He taught the importance of lifting up teammates rather than chasing personal glory. It turned out to be a winning strategy.
The players bought in to Krich’s philosophy and completed a dream season, winning the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) championship for the first time since 1995 and earning a berth to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Football Championship for the first time since 1994.
Players say the common thread between 2015’s team and the powerhouse teams of the 1990s is a solid team culture.
Ryan Campuzano ’96, quarterback of the 1994 and 1995 SCIAC championship teams, saw one big similarity between the teams of both eras.
“After speaking with Coach Krich, I realized that he had more in mind than just winning,” Campuzano said. “Our coaches at the time and the current staff placed priority on molding young men into better people. The demonstration of respect and love for all of us created an environment of brotherhood.”
And the winning took care of itself. The Leopards claimed three straight SCIAC championships from 1993-1995. The Leopards were undefeated in conference play (18-0) in those three seasons.
Andy Moran ’97, a lynchpin on the offensive line of the 90s’ teams and a 1995 All-American, takes the connection back even further.
“This culture was created by Roland Ortmayer and was handed down to Rex Huigens ’70 and Don Morel ’87, both of whom I played for,” he said. “There is definitely that closeness right now and I see that Coach Krich cares about all his guys and that’s what resonated with me.”
But when a team veers off from that culture, it gets sidetracked. Moran was tabbed a Preseason All-American in 1996 and he says the personal success got in the way of the bigger picture.
“I was much more focused on my personal glory,” he said. “When the season ended against Redlands, I asked myself if there was anything I could’ve done differently and I came up with a lot of ‘Yeses.'”
La Verne was one game shy of the SCIAC championship that year. Past players say the task for the Leopards now is to maintain the momentum and not lose sight of what got them here.
“I think the team has turned the corner and it’s nice to see winning back in the program,” said Doug DuBois ’96, a two-time First Team All-SCIAC linebacker. “Take this year and just remember the feeling of the championship.”
If the Leopards heed the advice of those who walked before them, they just might start the new glory era of La Verne football.