Occidental College fires football coach in wake of recruiting investigation

Photo from Occidental College

Occidental College fired Dale Widolff as head football coach after a 30-year long career at the Eagle Rock college amid an NCAA investigation into alleged recruiting violations, the second investigation involving Widolff in the past two years.

“We take violations of the rules very seriously and believe that, however difficult, we have done the right thing,” said Occidental College Athletic Director Jaime Hoffman in a statement issued today. “Our top priority is to ensure that the future of our student-athletes is not placed in jeopardy.”

Occidental will conduct a national search to find a successor for Widolff, who won 11 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles and made seven post-season appearances. Offensive coordinator Eric Bergstrom will serve as acting head football coach until the search has concluded.

The college did not provide more details about the allegations, saying that the NCAA had asked Occidental officials not to disclose details pending the investigation, which began after the college athletic director contacted the NCAA on April 17.

The earlier investigation resulted in Widolff being suspended without pay in August 2010 for six weeks for violation of NCAA rules and internal college policies.


  1. Oxy football dad

    The athletic director Jamie Hoffman has been prejudice against the Oxy football program since her arrival. The violation that happened in 2010 was as follows. Coach Widolff hired a football player student to repair his computer an paid him $100. and the other violation was coach Widolff went onto the field to time a player in the 40 that was trying out for the NFL. for these items he was suspended without pay for 10 weeks. The AD has been vocal about her lack of support for the football program and never attended a game or fund raiser during the last 4 years. During introductions for new athletes she has stated that “Occidental is not about football anymore” She has reported minor violations that would have been internal warnings at any other school in the county. None of the violations being considered in any way gave a student an advantage over another school. This is a witch hunt and the AD is the one that should be fired. She put out the press release stating the the concern for the student athlete is of the utmost concern and then fires a well respected coach during finals week. That action is clear demonstration the Occidental football players were the least of her concern.

  2. There has been a real backlash against the college and the athletic director at Oxy, with judgments of the type posted by “Oxy Football Dad” (above) and a complete disregard for what is likely the whole picture of Dale Widolff’s firing. Dale himself took full responsibility for his actions when he was suspended. In Dale’s words: “I made poor decisions that called my ethics into question,” Widolff said in an open letter to the Occidental campus community. “I failed to give appropriate thought to my conduct, failed to consider how my actions appeared to others, and failed to consider how my choices would impact my players, staff and the Oxy community as a whole.”
    “Let me be clear to all,” Widolff’s letter continued. “Athletic Director Jaime Hoffman and the entire Oxy leadership staff have approached this situation thoughtfully, deliberately and fairly. I am grateful for their generosity, forgiveness and for being willing to give me the opportunity to return to the Oxy community.”
    Dale acknowledged his poor choices back then, and felt the college had acted “thoughtfully, deliberately and fairly.” My guess is that Dale is royally kicking himself for choices he has made since that time that have caused this situation. I am hoping that Dale at some point realizes the damage being done not just to the college, but to the student athletes and athletic programs, and that Dale comes forward and once again lets folks know that there is more going on here behind the scenes than is immediately obvious — and that the college has, once again, behaved “thoughtfully, deliberately and fairly.” I think everyone should be giving not just Dale Widolff the “benefit of the doubt” — but also the college. I simply cannot imagine that the college would have taken the drastic step of firing Dale Widolff — knowing full well how beloved and admired he was for his 30 years of service — without there having been some serious breaches of college policies and/or NCAA rules. The college had to know it was potentially negatively impacting its donor base, and that tells me that whatever Dale did was serious enough for the college to consider the liability of his actions to be greater than the potential loss of donors.

  3. D. Richard Chinn, DVM

    As a graduate of Occidental (’66), a participant in their football program, and as a former football coach there (’67-’69), my loyalties lie with Coach Dale. The recruiting of athletes as in most NCAA Div III programs is determined by the Director of Admissions, not the football program. In other words, if an athlete doesn’t have the GPA, class rank, and Board scores, he’s not going to OXY. There are no scholarships. Athletes compete because they love a sport, the program, the coach. The NCAA has enough rule breakers at Div I schools than to be concerned about Occidental, and ‘Oxy football Dad’ is right in stating that the earlier transgressions of the coach were minor and wouldn’t even be a blip on the NCAA’s radar. Prior to Coach Widolff, Occidental College and its football program had been a stepping stone to a more prestigious job The 60’s and early 70’s, saw Oxy contribute coaches Vic Schwenk (LA Rams), Jim Mora (NO Saints) and Doug Gerhart (Bears, Lions). As an alumnus, I was proud of Dale Widolff’s dedication and his decision to make Occidental College his home. The stresses each year to recruit under such strict guidelines is something I had to deal with but for a much shorter time period. Other alums need to focus on the real culprit here, a self-serving, self promoting athletic director who by her very deeds has shown that she has no business being an AD. One only has to browse the Oxy website to find her name in about 1/2 of the press releases covering any sport. What she does not understand is that most AD’s don’t want to see their names in print, they want to promote their school’s programs, promote its coaches, and act as a source of information on what’s happening with the NCAA, the new do’s and don’ts in this electronic age. Ms Hoffman was a poor hire, guys, and if you let this go, it won’t be long before you have to replace a whole lot of coaches. Professors and Coaches alike do not appreciate working in an environment where there is no support, no trust. ‘Mo Oxford’ has a great way with words and was no doubt anxious to take the high road in support for the AD. But old ‘Mo’ has probably never dealt with the NCAA or a whistle-blowing policeman who could have corrected a problem in-house with a slap on the wrist. And believe me, these were asinine charges. I have some stories of transgressions at Div I schools that would curl your hair! Coach touched a lot of players in 30 years. I’d be more afraid of them withholding financial support!

  4. I was recruited by oxy’s football program a few years ago and went for an overnight visit. Everything seemed above board.
    The only possible violation I am aware of is the payment of $20 cash to the players who hosted recruits. As you can imagine, this money was often spent on alcohol.
    Oxy Football Dad speaks the truth about the AD’s resentment of Oxy Football. To my knowledge, she has not done anything positive for the program choosing instead to taddle to the NCAA about the most minor of indiscretions. I do not believe she scrutinizes the actions of head coaches of other sports in the same manner.

  5. After 30 years of service to a quality institution, I must believe that Dale had some good deeds built up over that length of time to keep his days rolling. The man recruited hundreds of athletes to the Eagle Rock campus (think of the enormous amounts of money their tuition costs into Oxy’s vaults), delivered a prime-time small college program, provided many memorable Saturday nights/afternoons during the Fall semester and launched untold numbers of student-athletes into their post-Oxy years. To see it all discarded like that is of immeasurable disappointment at the college’s highest servants. A year-long suspension? How about forfeiting some games? I see a way out of this beyond ending the career of a campus servant that may be second to none in its great tradition.

  6. Well done, Oxy. As a ’65 grad with pride in the college, everything football has swiftly changed from a point of pride to a complete “head scratcher”. If a true representation of the reason for the earlier suspension, the two cited violations should have been ignored. No specifics have been even rumored as to the cause of the firing. Oh, by the way, great hire. It’s always great to find a young, up and coming coach. What, you say he is 70! That’s right, he was a player before I graduated. I guess that the one appropriate result is that the current record should so closely follow the renaming of the field and erection of a most inappropriate statue.

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