LONE STAR DIETZ
A QUIXOTIC effort started years ago, and then given up for dead, today yielded a most unexpected announcement from the National Football Foundation. William Henry "Lone Star" Dietz, the only coach in Washington State history to win a Rose Bowl, is going to be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Dietz guided the Cougars to a 14-0 win over Brown in the 1916 Rose Bowl, capping an undefeated season in which they gave up just 10 points, and truly putting West Coast football on the national map.
Dietz spent three years at Washington State before World War I brought a temporary end to most football programs. He was 17-2-1 while in Pullman.
In 2005, the founders of Cougfan.com, Greg Witter and John Witter, joined forces with Tom Benjey, a Pennsylvania author who wrote the Dietz biography
Keep A-Goin to push Dietz for the Hall of Fame.
"This was truly out of left field, because no one from Lone Star's era was still living, so we were starting from ground zero in terms of voter familiarity," remembers John Witter.
The marketing effort on Dietz' behalf included distribution of data and facts to the Hall of Fame selection committee, and phone calls with such luminaries on the committee as John Ralston, the former Stanford coach, and Gene Corrigan, the former Notre Dame athletic director and ACC commissioner.
"Ralston was a great advocate for Lone Star's induction," Greg Witter said. "We came close one year, but as Ralston put it, the field is tilted toward the eastern half of the U.S. when it comes to counting the votes. When Bill Moos (then at Oregon) was added to the committee, he too became an advocate but it wasn't enough given the uphill climb."
Dietz was finally dropped from the Division I-A ballot two years ago.
But he made it in this year through the proverbial back door. Because he also coached at two lower-division schools -- Haskell Institute and Albright College -- he was eligible to be elected through the Hall's Division II, III and NAIA balloting.
Whichever ballot an inductee arrives on, it doesn't matter come enshrinement day because there is just one College Football Hall of Fame, which is located in South Bend, Ind.
"This is long overdue and well deserved," said Benjey. "Almost everyone who knew Lone Star is dead now so those of us who only know him second hand will have to raise the cheer they sang in Pullman after the team returned from winning the 1916 Rose Bowl:
Lone Star! Lone Star!
Yip, Yip, You! How We Love You!
Oh, You Sioux!"
Dietz is the second (and technically third) Washington State coach to earn enshrinement in the College Hall of Fame. He joins Babe Hollingbery, the winningest coach in school history who guided the Cougs to the 1931 Rose Bowl. Forrest Eveshevski is also in the Hall of Fame, but mostly for his work at Iowa. He only coached at WSU for two seasons.
Three WSU players are in the Hall: Mel Hein, Turk Edwards and Rueben Mayes.
BY ALL ACCOUNTS, AND the historical record is considerable, Dietz was one of the pioneers of the game -- a guru of the single-wing, a defensive mastermind and a brilliant motivator. Pop Warner, his coach at Carlisle, where Dietz starred with Jim Thorpe, considered him a protégé. Damon Runyon dubbed Dietz "a coaches coach." And Knute Rockne once said of him, "I think he is one of the smartest and best football coaches in the game."
In guiding Washington State to that 14-0 upset win over Brown in the 1916 Rose Bowl, Lone Star put the stature of West Coast football on an equal footing with the East and lit the torch that would make the Rose Bowl THE game of the year. On the 40th anniversary of that historic contest, eminent sportswriter Rube Samuelsen wrote, “That was the game which was to change the face of New Year’s Day ... That game provided the stimulus which turned the holiday from the day after the night before (of celebrating) into a day of football ..."
Lone Star’s Rose Bowl pedigree did not end in 1916. Besides Washington State, he went to the Granddaddy during World War I, with many of his former WSU players, as head coach of the Mare Island Marines. And in the late 1920s he returned to Pasadena twice as an assistant coach at Stanford under his mentor, Pop Warner.
In 19 years as a head coach at Washington State (1915-17), Purdue (1921), Louisiana Tech (1922-23), Wyoming (1924-26), Haskell Indian Institute (1929-32) and Albright (1937-42) he won more than 60 percent of his games. He also coached the NFL's Washington Redskins, which are named in his honor.
But there was much more to Dietz than Xs and Os. He contributed in a variety of ways to the schools where he coached. An acclaimed artist, he taught art and mechanical drawing; gave lectures on architecture; would sing with the glee club; and produce artwork for the yearbook. “He even wrote a new cheer and taught it to students at a pep rally,” Benjey wrote in his book on Dietz. In between it all, he would sometimes coach baseball or track in addition to football.
His work in motion pictures was also notable, but what stands out to me were his efforts to see Indians -- Dietz' mother was of Sioux descent -- played in a more positive light in Hollywood films.
"Lone Star Dietz was a true Renaissance Man," said Greg Witter. "Both on and off the field his record says Hall of Famer. As the Tacoma News Tribune wrote a dozen years back: He did so many things that his life, especially the first 40 years, can be called astounding. Greatness enveloped him.”
Dietz died in 1964 at age 79 and is buried in Reading, Pa. His last trip to Pullman was in 1956, where was feted at a special luncheon and presented with a Gray W blanket.