Football, 1976-79; Assistant Football Coach, 1980-97
Inducted February 24, 1996
Mitch Ware has completed two decades of consecutive service to SMS football, operating as the Bears’ starting quarterback from 1976 through 1979, working as a graduated assistant coach in 1980 and 1981, and serving as a full-time football assistant coach since 1982. He was promoted to Assistant Head Coach of the Bears in January of 1996. A native of Aurora, Ware took the starting quarterback job of the football Bears for the last four games of his freshman season in what was the first year of Rich Johanningmeier as the SMS head coach. Ware passed for 996 yards as a freshman, 1,293 yards as a sophomore, 1,164 yards as a junior and 1,429 yards as a senior. He completed more than 53 percent of his passes each season, with a high of 59 percent as a senior, when he threw just three interceptions in 135 pass attempts. Ware also wound up with some 720 net yards rushing in four seasons and scored 17 touchdowns. The Bears improved through Ware’s four seasons, posting a 5-6 mark in 1976, going 6-3-1 in 1977, winning eight of 11 games in 1978 and logging a 7-4 mark in 1979. SMS tied for third in the MIAA twice and won the league championship in 1978 with a perfect 6-0 conference mark. Ware earned MIAA all-conference honorable mention his freshman season and was on the all-league second team as a junior as the Bears broke virtually all the school’s offensive records. He was a the MIAA all-league first team quarterback as a senior, was named the league’s Most Valuable Player, and earned all-America honorable mention recognition from Associated Press. In a 41-game playing career with the Bears, Ware set SMS all-time records for offensive plays run (935), total offense yards (5,602), pass attempts (592), pass completions (322), completion percentage (.54), consecutive games with a pass completion (4), consecutive completions (12), yards gained passing (4,882), touchdown passes (36) and total touchdowns produced (53). He led the MIAA in total offense as a senior as he broke the league single season record for total offense with 1,889 yards, and his passing efficiency rating of 172.38 was better than the NCAA leader although Ware lacked the necessary number of pass attempts to qualify for the national honor in the Bears’ ground-oriented Delaware Wing-T offense. He was given both the Virgil Cheek Athletic Achievement Award and the A.J. McDonald Achievement Award at the time of his graduation from SMS in 1980, and also was a recipient of a prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. His tenure on the SMS football staff has seen the successful transition of the Bears’ program from Division II to Division I-AA status and from the MIAA to the Mid-Continent Conference to the Gateway Football Conference. SMS has 11 first division conference finishes since Ware joined the staff, including Gateway championships and NCAA I-AA playoff appearances in 1989 and 1990.