Arthur Daley on Dietzel

Here is another article, this time by the sports editor of the <i>New York Times</i> Arthur Daley, written in January of 1962 on the incoming coach of Army Football, Paul Dietzel.

by Arthur Daley
The New York Times
January, 1962


The athletic authorities at West Point obtained a football coach of high competence in Paul Dietzel, a superior craftsman who hardly can miss returning the Black Knights to the glory days of Red Blaik. But was this move worth the price?

In order to get Dietzel, Army had to woo him from Louisiana State, where this enormously successful young strategist had four years left on his contract. It may seem like a quaint reaction in this cynical, materialistic world to regard a contract as a solemn obligation that's binding on both parties. Still, did anyone expect that West Point, a bastion of honor, would disregard such a pledge.

Despite a surface obeisance to morality, colleges seem to have few compunctions about raiding other colleges for the key men they want. Sometimes the inherent nefariousness of this deed is softened when the school holding the contract yields to pressure and gives its man his quick release. This is a mere ungent to salve the conscience.

Reluctant Tigers

The Bayou Tigers were so delighted with Dietzel however, that they didn't want to let him go. There even was angry talk at Baton Rouge of taking the young coach to court if he jumped the contract. But in the end he was given reluctant release and Army had the man it wanted and needed.

It is true, of course, that Army first sought permission from Louisiana State authorities to sound out Dietzel. Yet it seems here that this does not negate the sanctity of a contract. When colleges break an agreement and dismiss a coach, they at least pay him off. When a coach breaks his signed pledge, the college has no redress.

It's a sorry business to see an institution of higher learning persuade a man to violate his legal obligations. It's worse when the action comes from a school like the Military Academy, with its rigid code of honor. That other schools do it constantly is no excuse.

There even was the instance a few years ago of the coach who used the Cadillac he had received from grateful fans at one college to drive off in acceptance of a better job from another. He broke no speed laws en route. The only thing he broke was his contract.

It doesn't come easy to rap the knuckles of a school as admired and as respected as West Point or of a coach as admired and respected as Paul Dietzel. Perhaps it is better now to try and forget, rejoicing in the certain upsurge that will take place on the Plains.

Coming Full Cycle

By this time, Paul probably is beginning to think that this is all a design of fate. The one thing that probably will convince him is that Louisiana State yesterday selected Charlie McClendon, his first lieutenant at Baton Rouge, as the new head coach. If it hadn't been for this close friend, Paul never would have got to Baton Rouge in the first place.

Dietzel was serving his apprenticeship at West Point as an assistant coach to the master, Blaik, when he learned that Louisiana State was undergoing a coaching housecleaning. Fearful that his buddy, McClendon, would be swept out of a job in the shake-up, Dietzel phoned him.

"If you need a job, Charlie," said the anxious Paul, "I know a couple of spots where you might move."

"I don't want to move at all," said Charlie. "I like it here. But there's a big opening as head coach. Why don't you apply for it? ".

"I might at that, said Paul, suddenly smitten by the idea".

He went to work. Biff Jones, a one-time coach at both Army and Louisiana State, began to pull wires and the Biffer has few equals as a wire-puller. Blaik himself came through with flowery endorsements of his protege, speedily offering to cancel the second year of a two-year contract Paul had with Army. So Dietzel got the job at the tender age of 31.

McClendon stayed on. He's still staying on. He's the new head coach at L.S.U., much to the delight of his pal.

Paul was no instant sensation, but as soon as the rules committee relaxed the strictures on substitutions, the imaginative Dietzel plunged through the opening and scored big.

The Chinese Bandits

He picked his varsity eleven, which he called the White team. Then he assembled a batch of offensive minded youths and called this group the Go team. To a third unit of defensive-minded characters he gave the fancy tag of the Chinese Bandits. They became the glamor boys of the squad and they combined with the others to make their glamour boy leader, Dietzel, the coach of the year in 1958.

Since then he has gained steadily in stature, advancing to top rank. Army, meanwhile, had reached a point of desperation, presumably goaded by Pentagon brass who regarded football failures as a reflection on national prestige. So the West Pointers went after the best man they could find, regardless of previous condition of servitude. They sure picked a dandy. Paul Dietzel not only is matchless in getting talented material, he knows how to use it to greatest advantage. Army is ready to roll again. Top Stories