Gadd left San Jose State's football program for a shot at head coach at Bucknell University.
Gadd's hiring as Bucknell's head coach indeed caught many Bucknell Bison fans by surprise.
Although his experience could not be questioned, he had served as a Division I assistant for over 20 years.
Bison fans felt that Gadd's background at schools such as San Jose State did not fit Bucknell, given the university's philosophy of need-based financial aid and its emphasis on academics first, athletics second.
As he concluded his first year as a head coach at Bucknell, Gadd had silenced any critics and had deeply endeared himself to his team, the university and its alumni.
"It was a joy to have Tom here," stated Rick Hartzell, director of physical education and athletics. "His ability to integrate the football program into our department had been really appreciated by our staff."
Gadd arrived in Lewisburg with innovative ideas and a fresh approach and quickly injected enthusiasm into a football program that had recorded just one winning season since 1980.
Quoting a statement from Gadd's recent past, he stated: "The number one thing for any program to be successful is administrative support from the top". "I don't care if it's Penn State or anywhere else. In order to be successful, you have to have administrative support. Right from the start, I' ve felt we had that at Bucknell."
Gadd also had made a concerted effort to cultivate alumni support. Almost immediately upon his arrival, he began a tireless crusade, personally calling every player who captained Bucknell's football teams between 1950 and 1990.
"We want to get the alumni more involved and give them ownership of the program," Gadd stated in a recent interview prior to his death.
Gadd also had developed a very positive relationship with his players, and said that he had thoroughly enjoyed working with the student-athletes at Bucknell.
"The players here listen better and process information better than at other places I've been," Gadd stated. "They get the point early. They've done a great job with everything we've asked of them."
With his first season at Bucknell behind him, Gadd focused on recruiting, trying to attract another group of outstanding student-athletes to Lewisburg.
Gadd was known as a diligent recruiter, something Bison fans learned firsthand on a road-trip to South Carolina and Miami close to 10 years ago.
"It was a Friday night, and we were playing Miami the next day in a huge game," Bucknells Athletic Director remembered. "I figured Tom would want to take it easy. We get to his house, and he says, `Come on. We're going to North Carolina to watch a player.' It was unbelie vable. The night before they play Miami, and Tom is going to drive to North Carolina to watch a high school game."
Gadd's diverse coaching background had paid dividends in recruiting. Freshman wide receiver Ronnie Rockett, who could become one of Bucknell's future stars, hails from Savannah, Ga., and learned of Bucknell through a high school coach in Savannah who worked with Gadd at South Carolina.
"I think recruiting is the most decisive area toward being successful," Gadd quoted. "You can't win unless you have players. You have to turn every rock and comb every bush in search of players. There is always someone out there who fits the profile . In terms of Bucknell, that means finding those players that fit the profile academically, athletically and financially."
With his zeal for recruiting and his fresh, honest approach to the game, Gadd was driven to lead Bucknell's football program into an era of prosperity.
"Putting a program on top involves perseverance, and it involves cultivating an attitude that you expect to win. That's what good teams do. They expect to succeed every week".
A former SJSU coach was quoted regarding Gadd's hiring at Bucknell after departing the Spartan program in the early 90's stating:
"You're not talking about an average guy here, you're talking about a great one," stated former San Jose State head football coach John Ralston, referring to his former defensive coordinator shortly after Gadd was announced as the 24th head football coach in Bucknell history.
"He will inspire the staff. He is a no-nonsense guy on the field. He will demand a lot from the players and he will bring that out in the highest manner."
Ralston's words had proved prophetic. Gadd had inspired not only his players and his staff, but has re-energized support for a Bison football program that needed a shot in the arm.
Here's to the memory of not only another great member of the Spartan family, but also to a winning college football coach who made the game a little more fun to play.
In other recent Spartan Athletics news:
Carolyn Lewis, a senior associate athletic director for the Spartans, announced her retirement effective September 30th, 2003.