Joe Sabol was born and raised in Pennsylvania. Captain of his high school football team and an all-state fullback, he earned his undergraduate degree from Penn State in 1958 and a master’s degree in education from Bucknell in 1962. His first taste of Vermont was in 1963, when he first arrived in Northfield to serve as an assistant football coach. He was named head coach in 1965 and served in that capacity for a decade. His overall record as head coach was an impressive 48-33-1. After a brief stint coaching at Gettysburg College in his native Pennsylvania, Coach Sabol returned to serve Norwich as athletic director from 1978 until he retired in 1992.
In his nearly 25 years at the helm of the Norwich athletic organization, Coach Sabol shaped many of the facilities and programs that student-athletes are able to enjoy today. His tenure was contemporaneous with that of the legendary Coach Wally Baines, who pioneered Norwich’s physical education program in the classroom and on the field. Their joint tenure saw such improvements as the renovation of Plumley Armory and the construction of Andrews Hall and Shapiro Field House.
In the spring of 1983, Coach Sabol helped the new Norwich president, Russell Todd, establish the Norwich University Athletic Hall of Fame. The first class of inductees honored individuals whose athletic achievements were recognized in the trophy room of Plumley Armory. The Hall of Fame, now located in Andrews Hall, inducts a new class at Homecoming each year. Coach Sabol himself was inducted as an honorary member in 1992, as was his wife Ruth in 2011 for her service on the Hall of Fame committee among other contributions during her husband’s tenure.
Today, Coach Sabol’s memory is honored in numerous ways both on and off the field. The Joe Sabol Most Improved Player Award is bestowed upon a member of the football team at each end-of-season banquet. In 2013, the newly renovated Sabine Field was dedicated in his honor. Alumni raise funds to support the football program and the Joe Sabol Memorial Scholarship every year at Homecoming in the Joe Sabol Memorial Golf Tournament.
After retiring in 1992, Joe Sabol passed away in 1998 at the too-young age of 62. He is buried in Northfield with his wife Ruth, who passed away in 2017.