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Road to the Triple Crown: 1980-1981

A Digital Exhibit Created by Amy Skillen, Archives Technician

Hal Wissel, Charley Matlock, Joe Arnold, and Hal Smeltzly holding awardsIn the 1980-1981 season, Florida Southern College Athletics won three NCAA Division II Championships in Men’s Basketball, Men’s Golf, and Baseball for the first and only time in college history. At the time, a triple crown had been accomplished only four other times before by other schools. Head coaches Hal Wissel, Charley Matlock, Joe Arnold, and Athletic Director Hal Smeltzly helped lead the teams to this historic feat.

Joe Arnold (standing, left) was the head coach of Baseball from 1977 to 1983. By the time he had left, Arnold had accumulated a 316-69 (.821) record, 4 Sunshine State Titles, 6 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division II College World Series, and 2 NCAA Division II Championship wins in 1978 and 1981. He also won the NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year award in 1978 and 1981 as well. Arnold was inducted into the FSC Hall of Fame in 2003 and the College Baseball Hall of Fame as a player in 2015. His uniform number, #11, has been retired.

Hal Wissel (standing, center) coached the Florida Southern Men’s Basketball team from 1977-1982. During his time here at Florida Southern, Wissel had a 105-49 winning record and won 4 Sunshine State Conference titles. He was named National Coach of the Year in 1981, inducted into the Sunshine State Conference Hall of Fame in 1997, and inducted into the FSC Hall of Fame in 2003.

Charley Matlock (standing, right) coached the Florida Southern Men’s Golf Team from 1972 until 1995. In his 23 seasons here, the golf team won 7 NCAA Division II Championship titles and three of his players would win NCAA Individual Championship titles as well. Multiple players of Matlock’s also went on to become successful players themselves and playing on the PGA Tour. Matlock was inducted into multiple Halls of Fame: the Sunshine State Conference Hall of Fame in 1992, the FSC Hall of Fame in 2002, and the Polk County Sports Hall of Fame in 2003. Charley Matlock passed away in 2016 at the age of 86.

Hal Smeltzly (seated) was Florida Southern’s Athletic Director, a role he began in 1978 and would hold until his retirement in 2000. Prior to that, he had been the Baseball head coach, starting right after his graduation from Florida Southern in 1957. He won three NCAA Division II Championships during his time as head coach, and he also served as manager for two Team USA teams (1972 and 1975). During Smeltzly’s tenure as Athletic Director, the Mocs won over 20 NCAA Division II Championships, including the Triple Crown. Smeltzly is a member of multiple Halls of Fame, including, but not limited to, the FSC Hall of Fame, the Florida Sports Hall of Fame, and the Polk County Sports Hall of Fame. His uniform number, #7, has also been retired. Hal Smeltzly passed away in 2018 at the age of 86.

Baseball Schedule DAY DATE OPPONENT PLACE TIME Thur. Sept. 25 Manatee JC Marchant Stadium 3:30p.m. Fri. Sept. 26 Valencia JC Marchant Stadium 3:00p.m. Mon. Sept. 29 South Fla. CC Marchant Stadium 3:00p.m. Wed. Oct.1 Valencia JC Away 3:00p.m. Fri. Oct. 3 UNC (2) Away 6:00p.m. Oct. 3 Edison JC Marchant Stadium 3:00p.m. Sat. Oct. 4 UNC (2) Away 6:00p.m. Oct. 4 Florida College (2) Away 12:00p.m. Mon. Oct. 6 Manatee JC Away 3:00p.m. Wed. Oct. 8 South Fla. CC Marchant Stadium 3:00p.m. Fri. Oct. 10 St. Petersburg JC Marchant Stadium 3:00p.m. Sat. Oct. 11 USF (2) Away 12:00p.m. Wed. Oct. 15 South Fla. JC Away 3:00p.m. Thur. Oct. 15 Florida College Marchant Stadium 3:00p.m. Fri. Oct. 17 USF Marchant Stadium 3:00p.m. Sat. Oct. 18 Seminole JC (2) Marchant Stadium 12:00p.m. Sat. Oct. 25 Palm Beach JC (2) Marchant Stadium 12:00p.m. Thur. Oct. 30 Valencia JC Marchant Stadium 3:00p.m. Fri. Oct. 31 FSC Fall Jamboree (South Florida CC, Valencia, Indian River, Seminole, Edison, FSC) Marchant Stadium 8:30p.m. Sat. Nov. 1 FSC Fall Jamboree Marchant Stadium 5:30p.m. 8:00p.m. Fri. Nov. 7 Florida College Marchant Stadium 3:00p.m. Sat. Nov. 8 Seminole JC (2) Away 11:00a.m.

September 1980 
Baseball Fall Training Underway

Baseball fall training began early on in the school year. Over the summer, the team had lost five players to professional teams, but they were still looking forward to the future. The fall training also included the team's first-ever Fall season out-of-state trip to University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.

FSC Golfers Aim For National Championship By JEFF BABINEAN Staff Writer The Florida Southern golf team, led by coach Charley Matlock, is preparing to "defend" their National Championship this season. The potential of this year's team is limitless. With four players returning with All-American recognition and the addition of three freshmen who were high school champions, the quality is plentiful. There is very little separating the top nine or ten players, giving the team depth. "The competition from the top to bottom has never been better'', said Coach Matlock. "The courses are in good condition and the scores have been low." All five players who represented Florida Southern in last year's National Championship have returned. They are Tom Patri, who finished second individually, Mike Domalske (9th), Dave Snyder (13th), Jim Northrup, and Brian Kramer. Domalske, Snyder, and Kramer were each assessed controversial two stroke penalties for delay of play, which resulted in Florida Southern officially finishing in second place, three strokes behind Columbus College. Coach Matlock sees the possibility of a letdown from year to year in an individual sport such as golf "In most sports, an athelete has defensive skills to fall back on. In golf however, a player is on the defensive all the time, and must always strive to get better." "Our goal is simple – to become national champions. Hopefully," sighed Coach Matlock, "we have the players to get us to the top of the mountain."

October 2 - October 4, 1980
Men's Golf Season Begins

The season was off to an optimistic start after the team had placed second the last two seasons (1978-1979 & 1979-1980) at the NCAA Division II Championships. The team was led by senior Tom Patri who was determined to win the championship as well as beat Division I schools.

Captains Selected For New Season LAKELAND – Senior reserve Cesar Odio and junior center John Ebeling have been selected as co-captains for the 1980-81 Florida Southern College basketball season by their teammates.   Odio, from Miami, is the veteran of the team, he has averaged 3.5 points per game in his three-year career with the Mocs.   Ebeling, a third-team All-American selection in NCAA Division II last year, is just 30 points shy of the 1,000-point mark at Florida Southern. The Trenton, N.J., native led his team in scoring (17.0 ppg) and rebounding (9.8) last year while breaking the school record for field-goal percentage (64.3 percent).   Mocs Coach Hal Wissel said the selection of co-captains, a first in his four seasons at FSC, will be beneficial to the team because one is a starter and the other a reserve.   “I’ve always played the same six or seven men through the course of a season,” said the 1980 Division II Coach of the Year. “But, this year, I may go with two teams of five. There’s not much to choose between our sixth and tenth man. This will give us a captain on each team.”   “I’m very pleased with the selections,” Wissel continued. “Ebeling has earned the respect of his teammates with his outstanding ability. Odio is respected because he gets the most out of his ability. He can’t run, jump or shoot – he just wins. He’s been our most inspirational player.”   “Both men are extremely hard workers. They kill each other in practice.”   Each of the four seniors on the squad received votes for captain.  John Ebeling Cesar Odio

November 24, 1980
Men's Basketball Season Begins

The season was off to a strong start with the Mocs winning 3 of their first 4 games, including a win at the annual Citrus Tournament. Co-captains John Ebeling and Cesar Odio led the team.

1980-81 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS Coach: Hal Wissel (24-8, 9-1 SSC / T-1 st) - (H: 12-4; A: 9-3; N: 3-1) 11/24 Webber H W 135 64 12/03 Alabama A L 59 73 CITRUS INVITATIONAL (hosted by Florida Southern) 12/05 Samford H W 92 72 12/06 Arkansas-Little Rock H W 91 85 12/09 South Florida H6 L 68 7 4 12/11 Wake Forest A L 73 98 12/18 Florida N1 L 62 72 12/30 Iona A L 68 89 1/03 Long Island Univ. A W 72 71 1/05 Evansville H L 67 73 FLORIDA SOUTHERN FESTIVAL 1/09 Valparaiso H L 79 92 1/10 Northeastern H W 80 75 (OT)

November 24, 1980 - January 10, 1981
A Rough Start to the Season

Despite a strong start in their first few games, the Mocs end up going 5-7 across their first 12 games.

FSC's John Ebeling throwing Basketball

January 17 - March 14, 1981
Turning the Season Around

After the rough start, the Mocs go 17-1 for their next 18 games on their way to the NCAA Division II Finals.

Varsity Baseball Schedule 1981 Date Opponent Place Time Sunday Feb. 8 Palm Beach JC (Exb) West Palm Beach 1:00p.m. Wed. 11 Manatee JC (Exb) Bradenton 3:00p.m. Thurs. 12 Seminole CC (Exb) Henley Field 3:00p.m. Fri. 13 Valencia (Exb) Henley Field 3:00p.m. Mon. 16 South Fla. JC (Exb) Henley Field 3:00p.m Wed. 18 Brevard CC (Exb) Henley Field 3:00p.m Fri. 20 Central Fla. CC (Exb) Ocala 3:00p.m. Mon. 23 Hillsborough CC (Exb) Henley Field 3:00p.m. Wed. 25 University of Tampa Tampa 3:30p.m. Sat. 28 Eastern Michigan (2) Henley Field 1:00p.m. Mon. Mar. 2 Evansville Henley Field 7:30p.m. Tues. 3 Western Michigan Henley Field 3:00p.m. Wed. 4 Ark. (Fayetteville) Henley Field 3:00p.m Thurs. 5 Ark. (Fayetteville) Marchant Stadium 7:30p.m. Fri. 6 Missouri (Columbia) Henley Field 1:00p.m. Sat. 7 Liberty Baptist Henley Field 1:00p.m. Sat. 7 Findlay College Henley Field 4:00p.m.

February 25, 1981
Baseball Season Starts

After a series of Spring exhibition games, the Mocs won 6 of their first 8 games. Three co-captains led the team: Craig Gero, Mike Piatnik, and Jimmy Jones.

Black Swan

March 6 - April 1, 1981 
The Black Swan

During their 1981 Championship run, the FSC Mocs had a lucky charm – a Black Swan that lived on Lake Morton. The swan would bob its head every time as the team bus passed, and the team would win. The Mocs won 28 times in a row before one day, the swan refused to bob its head. The team tried to get the swan to bob its head by circling the lake multiple times, but it refused to do so. The team ended up losing that game and breaking their winning streak on April 1. Despite the loss, this record-breaking winning streak still stands to this day.

Men's Basketball team with NCAA Division II National Champions 1981 Banner

March 21, 1981
Men's Basketball Team Win Their 1st NCAA Division II Championship

The win in 1981 was the first NCAA Division II Championship title for the Men’s Basketball team. Not only that, it was also the first national title for a Florida college basketball team. Dick Vitale served as an announcer for the game as one of his first assignments for ESPN.

MVP John Ebeling (not pictured) played from 1979-1982 and went to 3 straight Final Four appearances with the Mocs. During his time here, he set 15 school records, and he is still the all-time leading scorer and rebounder. Ebeling was named MVP two years in a row, 1981 and 1982. In 1982, he was also named NCAA Division II Player of the Year. He was part of the inaugural class into both the Sunshine State Conference Hall of Fame in 1992 and the FSC Hall of Fame in 2002. His jersey number, 31, has been retired.

The Southern Vol. 94 No. 13 Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Florida 33802 Mar. 27, 1981 Mocs Claim National Title; “We Are The Champions” (Compiled from a LEDGER story by John Valerino)  The Florida Southern College Moccasins, written off by many earlier this season after a sluggish start, captured the school’s, as well as the state of Florida’s, first national basketball championship in Springfield, Mass. Saturday night with a heart-throbbing 73-68 victory over tourney favorite Mount St. Mary’s of Maryland.  The Mocs, led by six-foot-eight All-American center John Ebeling’s 29 points, had to fight off a second-half rally by the Mountaineers before they could rightfully claim the national title that they had set out to win at the start of the season.  Other Mocs that hit for double-digits were forwards Mike Hayes (14), Felix Tertulien (10), and point-guard Clide Roberson. These players, in addition to super-sub Cesar Odio, will be graduating next month. Perhaps it is a most fitting way to bid farewell.  The championship victory has given Florida Southern, Lakeland, Polk County, and perhaps all of Florida a case of “Moc-fever”, which has apparently hit these areas in epidemic proportions.  “Tell me, can anything be greater?” asked head coach Hal Wissel, whose regime at Southern has produced a 52-13 mark over the past two years as well as finished of both first and third in the nation.  “I’ll tell you,” Wissel said during a post-game celebration,  See BASKETBALL on page 6  Head Coach Hal Wissel congratulates center John Ebeling after the Mocs defeated Mount St. Mary 73-68 in the national Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Championship game last Saturday in Springfield, Mass. (Photo courtesy of The Ledger)  Moc Center Ebeling Honored as First Team All-American By JAY WILLIAMS Staff Writer  When John Ebeling came to Florida Southern three years ago he was a soft-spoken, friendly, easy going type of individual with dreams of winning a basketball national championship – and possibly achieving All-American honors.  His dreams are now reality.  Last week, John, the Movin’ Mocs 6-7 center from Trenton, New Jersey, was named as a 1981 first team All-American and then guided the Mocs to a national championship.   That’s quite an accomplishment for someone many criticized for not having the height to play the demanding position of center in the collegiate ranks.  But what John lacks in height, he makes up with heart.  Ebeling is the co-captain of this year’s successful edition of the Movin’ Mocs and has smashed the 1700-point mark while at FSC with 1,723 career points.  But John can do more than score.  For a big man, he is incredibly mobile, as is evident by his 56 assists, 44 blocked shots and 29 steals this season. John also averaged over 10 rebounds a contest, started every game, and played an average of 36 minutes a game.  Not bad.  Against tough Division I opponents this season John was phenomenal. He scored 19 points and pulled 20 rebounds against the University of Alabama, 34 points and 14 rebounds against Iona College, and 31 points and 15 rebounds while defeating Arkansas-Little Rock.  Ebling’s game high came against rivel UCF, as he scored 40 points in the Southeast Regional Championship.  No wonder he’s an All-American.  John gives a lot of credit for his success to coach Hal Wissel. “Coach Wissel molded me into  See EBELING on page 7

March 23, 1981
Movin' Mocs National Champions Day

Lakeland Mayor R. Larry Turnipseed declares March 23, 1981 as Movin' Mocs National Champions Day in honor of the Basketball team's NCAA Championship win.

FSC Men's Golf 1981 Team

May 22, 1981
Men's Golf Team Win Their 1st NCAA Division II Championship

The 1981 Championship win was the first of many for the Men’s Golf team. The next year, in 1982, the team would win another championship win and begin a trend of back-to-back championships titles. The Men’s Golf team has had five back-to-back wins in total: 1981 & 1982, 1985 & 1986, 1990 & 1991, 1995 & 1996, and a triple back-to-back in 1998, 1999, and 2000.

MVP Tom Patri (second from left) played for two seasons at Florida Southern College. In his junior year (1979-1980), he was the runner-up in the NCAA Division II Individual Championship as well as part of the runner-up team for the NCAA Division II Championship title. In 1981, he would win both the NCAA Division II Team Championship and the Individual Championship. After his time here at FSC, Patri went on to have a successful career in coaching. In 1992, he was inducted as part of the inaugural class into the Sunshine State Conference Hall of Fame, and in 2004, he was inducted into the FSC Hall of Fame. 

1981 Baseball Team

May 26, 1981
Men's Baseball Team Win Their 5th NCAA Division II Championship

The win in 1981 marked the Baseball team’s fifth Championship win as well as the tenth anniversary of the team’s first win in 1971. To date, the Baseball team has won 9 NCAA Division II Championship titles and made 44 NCAA post-season appearances.

MVP Mike Tanzi played for Florida Southern for two years and is one of only four pitchers to have pitched a complete game (where the starting pitcher plays the entire game without using a relief pitcher). Tanzi was the winningest pitcher for the 1981 season as well as the pitcher with the most appearances. He was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 1981 and inducted into FSC’s Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.

The Southern Vol. 95 No. 1 Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Florida 33802 Sept. 25, 1981 Southern Wins Three By TOM STARR Southern Sports Writer  1981 was the year of the Triple Crown at Florida Southern College. The Mocs won an unprecedented three national championships in NCAA Division II competition. The Triple Crown has only been accomplished four other times in Div. II history. FSC is the first to hold three national championships in the major sports: basketball, golf, and baseball.  In 1980, the basketball team, led by Head Coach Hal Wissel proved they were one of the best small college teams in the country. They beat many Division 1 teams and made it to the Final Four, but this was not to be the year. The Mocs finished third in the country. In 1981 the Mocs set out to reach the Final Four again, but this time came back with a national championship. The trip to Springfield, Mass. was not an easy one for the Mocs. They had to overcome many difficulties and challenges. Along the way they proved as a team they had what it takes to be true champions. On March 21 the Mocs beat Mount. St. Marys of Maryland, 73-68, in the championship final. In the process, FSC became the first college basketball team in Florida to bring home a national championship.  Winning one national championship might have been enough to satisfy most schools, but not FSC. The golf team in 1980 suffered a six-stroke penalty which cost them the national championship by three strokes. This setback left the team disappointed, but not broken. In 1981the golf team traveled to Hartford, Conn. in search of a  See THREE on Page 5  Moc baseball coaches Mike Coombs, Frank Cacciatore, and Steve Nichols proudly proclaim the third and final leg of an unprecedented NCAA Division II triple crown for Florida Southern.  Basketball coach Hal Wissel’s daughter Sharon boasts the first FSC national championship bumpersticker in Springfield, Mass.

September 1981

The start of a new academic year saw the recognition and celebration of what these three teams had achieved.