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Former Ashland High Athlete, College Football Coach Bill Dando Dies at 89

Dando was one of the last surviving members of the 1951 San Francisco Dons college football team.

Bill Dando, a former standout all-state athlete at Ashland High School and a notable college football coach, has died at 89.

Dando, a Gordon native, died on Tuesday in his current hometown of Watkinsville, Georgia.

One of the Last Surviving Members of the 1951 San Francisco Dons

After graduating from Ashland High, Dando had a choice to make on what college to attend. Ultimately, he decided on the University of San Francisco, suiting up for the Dons football team. Dando was a member of the infamous undefeated 1951 team. Dando was one of the last surviving members of that Dons team.

1951 San Francisco Dons

Photo: California State Library

That 1951 Dons football team compiled a 9-0 record but turned down an invite to the Orange Bowl because it’s reported that the bowl committee would only accept San Francisco if it didn’t bring its 2 black players.

After refusing the invitation, the school shut down its financially-strapped football program. Dando then joined the US Marines and played football for the service academy during the Korean conflict. He was honorably discharged from the Marines in 1955.

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Dando continued his college career after his military service, deciding to attend University of Detroit. He suited up for the Titans football and baseball teams. And it’s at the University of Detroit that Dando met his wife, Frances “Willie” Dando, who survives him. He’s also survived by 3 children: Frances Marie Hoehn, William J. Dando, and Martha E. Dando. Two children, Anne Louise Wilczek and Molly C. Mizerak, preceded him in death.

Dando is also survived by 4 siblings, numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

College Coaching Career

Following his playing days, Dando accepted a football coaching job at John Carroll University in Ohio in 1960. In 1963, he was promoted to head coach of the Blue Streaks team and compiled a 4-4 record in the 1964 team.

However, Dando wanted to be part of a big time college football program, according to his obituary, so he took a job under the legendary Hayden Fry at Southern Methodist University as a defensive coach for the Mustangs.

In 1966, Dando accepted a job at University of Buffalo as linebackers coach. But by 1970, the Bulls had dropped football so he stayed on as a physical education instructor, head golf coach, and assistant baseball coach.

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By 1977, following a student petition drive, the University of Buffalo reinstated the football program and named Dando as head coach. He remains the winningest head coach in Bulls history with 59 wins between 1977-1989, when he retired. In 1986, Dando’s Bulls team finished ranked 20th in the nation at the D-3 level.

During that time, Dando coached 12 All-American players at the Division 3 school.

Golf Champion

Post-football, Dando focused on golf. He operated the Audubon Golf Club in New York. He also won multiple Senior Club Championships at Brookfield Country Club in New York and Pasadena Yacht and Country Club in Florida.

A memorial service for Dando was held on Friday in Georgia.

Dando photo: University of Buffalo

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