Woody was born on September 24, 1915, in Harrisonburg, West Virginia, nestled in the Shenandoah Mountains. The family eventually moved to Hershey, PA and Woody played football, basketball, track and baseball at Hershey High School, graduating in 1933. Woody began a career in football, basketball and track at F&M the next year. As a student athlete Woody showed the enthusiasm and aggressive spirit, which he was to display later as a coach and athletic director. A game that typifies his spirit was played in 1935, the year, the year he made Little All-America, when the Diplomats went to New York's Polo Grounds to play a Fordham team ranked with Pitt as the top team in the East.
Fordham's "Seven Blocks of Granite," including Green Bay Packer coach Vince Lombardi, were in action that year. In the first period with a score of 0-0, Woody broke through the vaunted Fordham line, blocked a punt and then carried the pigskin 30 yards for a touchdown that gave F&M a 7-0 lead. Fordham scored twice in the fourth quarter to thwart what would have been a spectacular upset. Dr. Joseph Medwick, a Lancaster physician, who was a halfback on the same tram, remembers Woody's competitive drive. "He was a terrific competitor who had all the qualities to be great, and he was. He made Little All-America.
He was a good sportsman who took his defeats hard. Although he hated to lose, he was a gentleman. He was a good example of what an athlete should be." Assistant football coach Bernie Santaniello played guard on that 1935 team. "We played alongside each other for four years in college and two years in the pros," Coach Santaniello said. "As a player, Woody was great. He loved to win and was very aggressive." Another teammate of Woody's, George "Whitey" Pew, also remembers him as a great competitor and team leader. "Woody was a football player's player. He played hard; he gave it all he had and liked to win." Graduation in 1937 ended Woody"s career as a college athlete and he moved on to become assistant football and basketball coach and head track coach at Emmaus High School, Emmaus, PA.
He also served as a teacher of European history and civics at that school. A year later, in 1938, he accepted a position as head coach in football, basketball and track at Columbia High School, while also teaching American and European history there. In 1941, he moved to Newark Academy, Newark, NJ, as head coach in football and basketball and assistant coach in track, also serving as assistant director of athletics while teaching physical education. In 1943, Woody began a nine-year coaching association with his brother Boyd Sponaugle, now retired football coach at McCaskey High School in Lancaster. Woody came to McCaskey, then Lancaster High School, as head coach in football, basketball and track and a faculty member teaching English. Boyd, whose coaching career had paralleled Woody's, joined he as an assistant coach.
In 1948 they both moved to F&M with Woody becoming head football and basketball coach and a physical education faculty member. Boyd left his work with Woody in 1952 to become head football coach at McCaskey. Meanwhile, Woody continued an active coaching career. Despite football and basketball season that practically overlapped and the elimination of athletic scholarships, he compiled a career football record of 59-58-6 at F&M. His 1950 team was the most memorable, winning nine games without a loss, then declining a bid to the Gator Bowl in Florida. After that first undefeated season in college history, Woody was voted "The Small College Coach of Pennsylvania," and received the F&M Alumni Medal for outstanding service to the College. In 1952 Woody led his team on the College's first football plane trip to a game at Springfield, MA, against American International College. Dale "Dusty" Ritter, an assistant geology professor and freshman football coach, played on the 1952 airborne team.
In the American International game Ritter established a small-college record for most yards gained passing. In January of 1962, Woody and his brother Boyd, who was then coach of the football team at Lancaster?s McCaskey, while Woody was mentor of the Blue football squad, were co-recipients of the Lancaster Sportswriters and Sportscasters Headliner Award for outstanding contributions to sports. This was the first time the award was presented as a joint award. In 1963 Woody left coaching to become athletic director of the College, the position he held until his death. Wrestling coach Roy Phillips had a sixteen-years relationship with Woody as a fellow coach. "I think he did a tremendous job as athletic director. His experience and knowledge in sports and the keen interest he had in athletics enabled him to be the fine director he was. He handled things in a manner that was professional.
He felt that all sports were worthy and handled them accordingly. His ability to deal with people and his knowledge were invaluable. He was very personable and always willing to listen to any problems that people in the athletics department might have had. His solutions were always just, in my opinion. It was a pleasure working with him." Basketball coach Chuck Winsor who served under Woody as a coach recalls another aspect of his career. "He wanted to work for F&M because it was his alma mater. The years of work that he devoted to his college are the type of thing that is not often seen today. Many people tend to forget what their alma mater offered to them and don't do anything for it after they graduate."
Woody's interests went beyond the college campus and beyond the world of sport. As well as serving as a member of the Lancaster Officials Club, All-Lancaster Football Association, American Football Coaches Association and American Basketball Coaches Association. He was a member and vice president of the Lancaster Township School Board, the Lancaster Exchange Club. George Crudden expressed what Woody Sponaugle was to the College, "Woody wasn't confined to sports in his contribution to the College. He made many friends for the College. He stood for all that is good about the College. He was a real fellow and a dear friend."