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A Higher Calling

Longtime Villanova coach leaves post to helm bone marrow foundation

Andy Talley has spent nearly five decades coaching college football.

He has led Villanova University 32 seasons and ended his run by leading the Wildcats into the second round of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision in 2016. He finishes his coaching career with a 257-155-2 record.

Talley has mentored his players and prepared them for life after college, but now he can devote all of his attention to the Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation. He founded it four years ago, but the roots of the idea came a couple of decades earlier. Since 1992, Talley has been a proponent of finding ways to increase the bone marrow transplant registry.

“I just happened to be listening to a talk radio show and an oncologist came on talking about how people were dying because there were not enough donors,” Talley said. “The registry only had about 1 million people then. I thought since I had 90 healthy players, I knew I can do something about that.”

Talley, 73, called some of his fellow college coaches in the Philadelphia area and started a bone marrow registry drive. Today, his foundation has registered more than 61,000 potential donors, who include members of about 50 college football programs that regularly hold bone marrow registry drives.

“The process to register has really improved in the last seven or eight years,” he says. “It is a simple cheek swab. They don’t have to draw blood, and there are no needles involved. All you do is fill out some forms, and you’re on the donor list forever.”

One of the success stories from Talley’s efforts came when then-Villanova wide receiver Matt Szczur was found to be a match for an infant girl in the Ukraine. After capping the 2009 season by leading the Wildcats to the Football Championship Subdivision title, Szczur, now an outfielder for the Chicago Cubs, made his donation that saved the girl’s life.

“I have absolutely no hobbies whatsoever,” Talley says. “I’m a football gym rat guy. The bone marrow foundation will capture all my time and energy. It literally is an all-year proposition. We are constantly raising money and trying to get more teams involved.”

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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