Passings: Nobby Wirkowski founded the York University Football Program

Nobby Wirkowski
Nobby Wirkowski
Nobby Wirkowski

York University Sport & Recreation announces the death of Norbert “Nobby” Wirkowski, former Canadian Football League quarterback and the founder of the York football program and a long-time administrator, on Wednesday.

Mr. Wirkowski, or “Nobby” as he was best known, was hired by York in 1967 to start the University’s football team and the Yeomen took the field for the first time the following year. He served as the team’s head coach for 10 years over two different stints (1968-75 and 1988-89) and as associate head coach alongside Frank Cosentino from 1984-87.

In addition to his duties at the helm of the football program, Nobby was the coordinator of the men’s interuniversity sport program, coached the men’s golf team to a pair of provincial titles and was an instructor in the physical education program. He was also involved in the creation of the Ontario University Athletic Association (OUAA) in 1971, now Ontario University Athletics (OUA).

Nobby retired from York in 1992 and was inducted into the University’s Sport Hall of Fame in 2007.

“York will forever be indebted to Nobby for his contributions not only to the football program, but athletics as a whole,” said Jennifer Myers, York’s director of Sport & Recreation. “He mentored countless young student-athletes and helped establish the foundation for athletics at York that has seen so many great successes. We have lost a legend with the passing of Nobby, but his spirit lives on at York through his work.”

“Nobby was a personable, knowledgeable coach who wore his heart on his sleeve for York,” said Cosentino, also a long-time administrator at York University and a former coach with the football team. “I worked with him for 21 years and saw first-hand his passion for the student-athletes. He had to really juggle an athletic program that was in its development stage while starting at the very beginning with the football team, and he did tremendous work with both. It’s a sad time for all of us that knew him.”

Born in Chicago, Ill., Nobby came to York University after a professional career in the Canadian Football League (CFL), where he quarterbacked the Toronto Argonauts to the Grey Cup championship in 1952 and served as the team’s head coach and director of player personnel in the 1960s. He also played for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Calgary Stampeders.

Prior to that, he was a quarterback at Miami (Ohio) University and was inducted into the RedHawks Hall of Fame in 1987. He was also very involved in athletics in Mississauga, including as chairman of the Mississauga Sports Council, and was inducted into the city’s Hall of Fame in 1977.

Nobby’s legacy will live on at York through the Nobby Wirkowski Football Award, which was established by Rico DiLello and other alumni to benefit current Lions student-athletes.

The University flag will be lowered to half-mast on Sunday Oct. 19 at sunrise and will remain lowered to Monday, Oct. 20 at 1pm in Nobby’s memory.

  • Visitation – Sunday, Oct. 19, 1 to 4pm and 6 to 9pm
    Glen Oaks Funeral Home
    3164 Ninth Line
    Oakville, ON   L6H 7A8
  • Service – Monday, Oct. 20, 10:30am
    St. Francis of Assisi Parish
    2473 Thorn Lodge Dr.
    Mississauga, ON   L5K 1K8