The View From Pluto: Case Western Reserve Football is a Powerhouse on the Field and in the Classroom

Nov 22, 2019

Case Western Reserve University's (CWRU) football team is making its fifth NCAA postseason appearance. They'll play Union College in the Division III tournament on Saturday. Case players have notable achievements on the field, but our commentator Terry Pluto says they perform even better in the classroom. 

The keys to success
It's the second time in three years that the CWRU Spartans have made the playoffs. They finished the regular season with a 9-1 record, eventually going on to claim the Presidents' Athletic Conference title and a bid to the NCAA championships.

But Pluto says it's the man behind the plays that's giving the team a strong foundation: coach Greg Debeljak.

'A lot of their practices have to be early, (sometimes) even later in the evening, because these kids have labs and everything else'

"His record is 119-46," Pluto says. "Now, I'm not going to get into all the numbers, but they played nothing close to that kind of football until he got there." 

Debeljak has been at the university for 16 years, serving as head coach since 2004. Pluto says what's making this team successful is Debeljak's experience mixed with many of the players' skills.

Pluto says defensive end Cameron Brown has emerged as one of the Spartans' star players — he grew up around professional sports. His dad, Mike Brown, is a former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach and is now an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors. Back when he was with the Cavs, Cameron had been more interested in school than playing football. 

"But (Cameron) and a friend of his, they had high grades, but they decided to go to (University of Cincinnati) together. Case was recruiting him. So (Cameron) called up Case and Greg Debeljak was thrilled to take that phone call because he knew this kid was borderline Division I football player as a defensive lineman," Pluto says. 

Pluto says another player that stands out is quaterback Drew Saxton, who at first wanted to go play for the Ivy League, but wasn't a Division I-caliber player. 

"One of the things Saxton said (was), 'The reason I picked Case Western is not for four years of football, but the next 40 years of my life.'"

Six CWRU players have been named to the Academic All-District Team: junior running back Zach Hall, junior offensive lineman Dee Gose, sophomore kicker Robertson Albrecht, senior defensive lineman Andrew Lease, junior linebacker Travis Johnston and senior defensive back Patrick Crossey

It's all about science
While the team remains a powerhouse on the field, they have notable achievements in the classroom. Senior wide receiver Colt Morgan of Wooster majors in psychology and pre-med.

"There's a thing done in Wayne County called the Roy Bates (scholarship), which goes to the student scholar athlete for Wayne County and Wooster. That was Colt Morgan ... and he's setting all kinds of receiving records this year."

Kicker Robertson Albrecht of Aurora majors in physics and has a 4.0 GPA. 

'The reason I picked Case Western is not for four years of football, but the next 40 years of my life'

"Debeljak was telling me, he said one time (Albrecht) was talking about (how) he's interested in the space program, and I guess he mentioned in passing to his coach, 'You know, I'd really like to be on the first flight to Mars.' And that's why a lot of their practices have to be early, (sometimes) even later in the evening, because these kids have labs and everything else," Pluto says.

Playoff expecations
Pluto says there's many times not every student is at practice because of their heavy workload. 

"I was a good student. I couldn't have got into there and these majors. And that's not a knock on anything," Pluto says. "They'll run into one of the superpowers if they win a game or two. ... The school they're playing, Union (College) out of New York, they're 10-0."

Kickoff is at noon at Union College.