February 2020 ROAR

jeanniegregory

Coverage of Rockford athletics at all levels.

Stadium to Experience Name Change

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

How does a school system honor a man who has dedicated

countless hours of his time to not only building a program but

also guiding hundreds of young men on their life journeys?

A person who orchestrated a program that is recognized not

only in the state, but the entire nation? A coach who saw almost

100 of his student-athletes go on to coach themselves

and mold other young athletes’ lives? That was the question

that faced many members of the administration of the Rockford

Public School System recently.

Legendary football head coach Ralph Munger announced

he was hanging up his head set after 28 years at the helm of

the Rams Football Program in December, 2019. Through those

years, Coach Munger notched enough victories to earn the title

of the sixth most winningest coach in the state of Michigan.

He led the Rams to three MHSAA Division I state titles, 25

consecutive playoff years, and six undefeated regular seasons.

When all was said and done, Coach Munger holds a 75 percent

win/loss total career record. But numbers aside, Coach Munger

instilled a sense of responsibility and pride in the student-athletes

whose lives he touched. Munger honed the skills of many

on his roster, with many going on to play at the next level, and

four who played in the National Football League.

It had to be a fitting, lasting tribute. One of the things the

administration did immediately was retire the No. 28 Rams

football jersey. That jersey will be resting behind glass, unless

Munger’s beloved son Thys VanderWall decides to pursue a

Ram high school football career. But, there was a need to do

more. What could be more visual to not only the Rockford

community, but those visiting the area? What was needed was

a visible reminder of what the honored coach had gifted Ram

Nation through almost three decades. The idea was created

to rename the place where Munger had built his legacy. The

place where so many special Friday nights had been gifted to

the Ram Nation.

In 1991, the RPS Board of Education dubbed the high school

varsity stadium “Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium.” Its namesake

Ted Carlson was not only a community member who served as

a trustee on the Rockford Board of Education, but he was well

known as Rockford’s own “super fan” of Rockford sports.

Former Rams football head coach Ralph Munger.

~ Photo by Miles Postema

One year later, Ralph Munger was hired as the Rams varsity

head football coach, and nobody could have predicted how

the next 27 years would play out. It was the beginning of a legacy.

“Mr. Carlson and Coach Munger, each in their own way, defined

and promoted ‘Ram Pride’ throughout the community,”

shares Dr. Michael Shibler, Superintendent of Rockford Public

Schools. “Ram Pride isn’t only evident in high school sports,

but in all of Rockford’s schools, academics, the arts, and the

community in general. It is our culture.”

Those reasons are leading Dr. Shibier to recommend that

the Board of Education honor Coach Munger’s contributions

alongside Mr. Carlson’s impact on the athletic programs and

community. At its regular meeting held on January 27, 2020,

Dr. Shibler will recommend the Board of Education officially

rename the varsity stadium “Carlson-Munger Stadium” to

honor two men whose contributions exemplify Ram Pride.

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