Giving Banner
$("#navigation").navobile({
  cta: "#show-navobile",
  changeDOM: true
})
      

St. Norbert, Abbot Pennings Coaching Icon La Violette Dies at 83

From Sports Information Director, February 13, 2015 | Football
by Dan Lukes, dan.lukes@snc.edu, (920) 403-4077

DE PERE - Don La Violette, who spent 11 seasons as St. Norbert College's head football coach and guided the Green Knights into the Midwest Conference, died Thursday, Feb. 12 in Green Bay. He was 83.

La Violette, a 1954 St. Norbert graduate, coached St. Norbert football from 1983-93, posting a 59-43-1 record. The Green Knights, who joined the Midwest Conference for football in 1984, won league championships in 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1989. St. Norbert also made their first NCAA Division III Playoffs appearance in 1989. The three straight championships from 1987-89 marked the last time a team won three consecutive titles when the Midwest Conference featured a championship game against the North and South division winners. St. Norbert also posted a win over NCAA Division II Michigan Tech University in 1989.

Well known for his low-key coaching style and wry sense of humor, when he was hired at St. Norbert he quipped to the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "It's like going from Bo Derek to Ursula Andress. It's not many times you can say life begins at 51."

La Violette did double duty as the men's basketball coach for three seasons from 1987-89, totaling a 36-30 record. When he began both roles he was one of only two college coaches in the country to simultaneously serve his institution as head football and basketball coach. He also coached men's tennis for one year.

"Coach La Violette was truly one of the nicest people I've ever known," said Russ Schmelzer, who worked closely with La Violette as St. Norbert's athletics trainer since 1981. "Whenever you came in contact with him you'd always walk away with a smile on your face. And as much as football and sports in general meant to him, they were always put in the proper perspective with regard to the bigger picture of life. He taught thousands of men he coached every day in the St. Norbert tradition - by word and example."

La Violette arrived at St. Norbert after spending 24 years across Reid Street from the college at Abbot Pennings High School. La Violette, who coached briefly at Fond du Lac Springs and Beloit Catholic high schools before arriving at Abbot Pennings, coached both football and basketball. He led the Squires to a 140-89-6 record, six Fox Valley Christian Conference championships and the 1971 Wisconsin Independent Schools Athletics Association state championship. La Violette led the Squires to 324 wins on the hardwood with eight WISAA state tournament appearances. He was named FVCC Coach of the Year seven times in basketball and five times in football. Including two seasons at Beloit Catholic, his prep basketball coaching record was 370-245.

La Violette was inducted into the St. Norbert College Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1995.

In retirement, La Violette returned to the high school ranks in 1999 at the age of 68 as the head coach of St. Andrew's High School in Boca Raton, Fla. He coached the Scots, who just prior to his arrival nearly scrapped their football program due to low numbers, for five seasons until retiring a second time in 2003.

La Violette, a U.S. Army veteran, was a Green Bay native and a graduate of Catholic Central High School (a forerunner to Premontre and Notre Dame Academy). He is survived by his wife, Anne, whom he married in 1955, and four children.

A memorial gathering will be held from 9-10:45 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 21 at Old St. Joseph Church on the St. Norbert campus. The Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 11 a.m., with a reception following the service at the Bemis International Center on campus.

In lieu of flowers, a memorial fund has been established for the St. Norbert College football program in La Violette's name.