MARQUETTE, Mi. Former Northern Michigan University head coach Gil Krueger, who guided the Wildcats to the 1975 NCAA Division II Football Championship, passed away Oct. 30. He was 87 and a resident of Walnut Creek, Calif. Krueger coached at NMU from 1974-77. His achievements included 1975 NCAA II Coach of the Year, a school-record 10 regular-season wins and an 18-game winning streak that remains the longest in program history. He also coached eight All-Americans.
It took Krueger only two seasons to develop a championship program. In his first year at the helm, the Wildcats went 0-10, losing seven of those games in the closing minutes. Fortunes reversed in 1975, when the team garnered several come-from-behind wins at the end of the regular season and through the playoffs to post an overall 13-1 record. The Wildcats downed Western Kentucky, 16-14, in the national championship game in Sacramento, Calif. NMU had advanced by defeating Livingston (Ala.), 28-26, and Boise State, 24-21. The dramatic 1975 turnaround included 10 regular-season wins, a school record that was quickly matched by Krueger’s 1976 team.
Tom Peters of Marquette was closely tied to Northern’s athletic programs as the first director of Alumni Relations and longtime assistant to the NMU president. He also contributed an NMU sports memorabilia collection spanning 1968-1996 to the Central U.P. and NMU Archives. Peters offered his reflections on the former coach.
“Gil Krueger was a fierce competitor in all that he did—in football and in life,” Peters said. “This characteristic was very prominent in his approach with his team, his coaches and his boosters, as well as anything he became involved in. All those who knew Coach Krueger embraced his enthusiastic commitment and fiercely competitive spirit. This was evident to me from his initial interview until his passing. He made all those around him stronger and better. Gil Krueger will be missed, but never forgotten.”
NMU President Fritz Erickson added, “Coach Krueger’s leadership and expertise helped to create one of the most memorable and significant moments in the history of Northern Michigan University. I did not have the pleasure of getting to know Gil, but I’m certainly familiar with all that he achieved as a coach here. He has an enduring legacy at Northern.”
In 1976, Krueger led the Wildcats back to the NCAA tournament. They defeated Delaware, 28-17, but fell to Akron in overtime to finish the season with an 11-2 record.
Krueger posted an overall record of 31-16 at NMU. From 1975-77, his teams went a combined 31-6. He coached All-Americans Dan Stencil (1975), Mike Berry (1976), Steve Mariucci (1976, 1977), Maurice Mitchell (1976), Zachary Fowler (1977), Ken Rusielewicz (1977), Joe Stemo (1977) and Carl Ulmer (1977).
Krueger also led the football programs at Macalester, Wisconsin-Platteville, New Mexico State and Wisconsin-Superior.
To view Krueger’s obituary and service information, or to post a comment on the tribute wall, visit www.traditioncare.com/obituaries/Gilbert-Krueger/.