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Roland Day

Roland Day was born in Columbus, Georgia on January 12, 1900. He was an honored institution long before his 28 years of coaching were done at Petersburg High School, not only because he developed so many stars who later had brilliant careers at the college level, but also because he was universally loved, and especially in Petersburg. The feeling was strongly mutual. Day once said of his adopted home city, “This (Petersburg) is my home. I have raised my family here. Petersburg is part of us, and it has been good to us.” Quite naturally then after he bowed out of active coaching, he served the city in three positions, as director of Petersburg’s recreation department, supervisor of physical education programs for the public schools, and coordinator of the city’s Civil Defense Organization. Day broke into coaching while serving in the Navy, taking the reins at Woodrow Wilson High in Portsmouth in 1917. He later coached at Virginia Tech and Lynchburg College before accepting the Petersburg post in 1926. He didn’t have a winning season until his 1929 team posted a 6-4 record. From then, however, until 1950, he suffered only through one other losing year. From 1932 through 1945, his strongest clubs registered 114 victories while losing only 24 games and tying in 10. Two of his teams were undefeated, the 1933 squad going 12-0, and the 1937 group 10-0. Among the hundreds of athletes who left him to go on to starring careers in college were Eric Tipton and Aubrey Gill at Duke, Marvin Bass at William and Mary, and Will Rogers and Dick Boisseau at Washington and Lee. In May of 1970, Petersburg paid honor to Day for his 50 years as a coach. His philosophy in coaching was to “concentrate on fundamentals. Never give the boys over 15 plays a season, but see to it that they learn those 15. They get plenty of blocking and tackling drills. We believe in that strongly.” Upon his retirement in 1970, it was noted that in 28 years with Petersburg’s famed Crimson Wave, Day coached every sport: baseball, basketball, wrestling, track and field, and of course football all in his first 20 years. His unbeaten 1933 team played in a post-season game in Jacksonville, Florida on New Year’s Day, and many say that contest gave birth to the now-famed Gator Bowl. Day passed at the age of 76 in 1976 but will always be remembered as one of Virginia’s finest athletes who have made great contributions to sports within the state.

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