September 11, 2005
I remember Colonel Sigholtz well. His tenure on the Hilltop coincided exactly with my four undergraduate years.
We knew him by reputation: a WWII battle veteran and highly-decorated Vietnam war hero. And he was tough. With just a year of command of the campus ROTC unit, he took the reins of the Athletic Department shortly after learning his son had been killed in Vietnam.
His bearing and demeanor let you know that he was first and foremost a soldier, he was old school, and in hindsight, a charter member of Brokaw's greatest generation. He was a self-made man, not earning his undergrad, masters and doctoral degrees until well into his midlife years.
But he was an odd fit at Georgetown in those years. He wore clothes of a younger generation, meaning loud polyester prints and bright plaids. He was a blue collar war hero administering in the midst of privileged young students who increasingly wanted no part of war. More significantly, he was a complete departure from the preceding administration.
He took over a sleepy moribund department that had never recovered from the football death sentence dealt by the University in 1950. Soccer, lacrosse and rowing teams were established in the ensuing two decades and even football was reborn, but it was students who drove those changes. Functioning with shoestring budgets and meager facilities, athletics administration had been an entirely passive enterprise.
Col. Sigholtz was anything but passive. A decisive high-energy leader, he ended up playing the role of John the Baptist, paving the way for many changes in future years: football, lacrosse, women's basketball and volleyball were given varsity status under his watch. Hoyas Unlimited, the official fund raising and support organization for Hoya sports was founded. Sports Information and intramurals were upgraded. An NIT bid and narrow loss to the Pete Maravich-led LSU Tigers provided the high water mark of his directorship. Ironically, the greatest failure on his watch led to the most foreboding and far-reaching changes: a 3-23 basketball record in 1972, causing the demise first of coach Jack Magee and then of the Colonel himself.
When the administration polled the captains of the varsity teams in the spring of 1972 on the performance of the AD, looking for cracks in the Colonel's armor, I responded based upon my limited personal interactions with him in my capacity as captain of the lacrosse team: Bob Sigholtz was an up-front guy and a fair man who had worked to help the lacrosse program. There were bigger issues to be addressed however than dealing with student leaders and the lacrosse team. The necessary decision was made by the higher-ups. The stage was thus set for the Frank Rienzo-John Thompson tandem to begin their 25-year collaboration of success.
Requiescat in pace.
N.B. Services will be held, with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington at a date TBD in November. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Childhelp USA, Bob Sigholtz Fund, 15757 N. 78th St., Scottsdale, AZ 85260.