"Name That Mystery Coach" Contest: ANSWER!

Yes, the answer to our Name That Mystery Coach contest is Jack C. Curtice, who was Stanford's head football coach from 1958-62 and wrote The Passing Game in Football in 1961. We want to thank the several dozen participants who read the piece, gave it some thought and sent in their answers.

OK, so the answer to our "Name That Mystery Coach" contest. There was so much action on the recruiting front on Friday that it took until this morning to be able to do a follow-up piece on the contest. 

So, drum roll, please...it was, as indicated in some follow-up posts, former Stanford Head Football Coach "Cactus Jack" Curtice (1958-1962) who wrote The Passing Game in Football published by the Ronald Sports Library in 1961. I hope you joined me in finding the passage on quarterback play to be quite interesting.

The overall winner, meaning the individual who submitted the first correct answer was "lsju82" Congrats, Eric! You were pretty fast...and technically savvy!

There were many reasonable, but wrong answers submitted, including Glenn "Pop" Warner, "Tiny" Thornhill, Marchie Schwarz, Clark Shaughnessy, John Ralston, Bill Walsh, and Knute Rockne. 

The following in a very nice little piece on Jack Curtice found at HelmetHut.com. We encourage Bootleg readers to check this site out: http://www.helmethut.com/College/Stanford/CAXXSU4764.html . The co-founder of this unique "electronic helmet museum", Jim Parker, passed away recently and we thought giving his site some exposure would be a nice tribute to his many years of dedicated work. You can order historic helmets, including those of Stanford, at www.GridironMemories.com . https://www.gridironmemories.com/shop/category.asp?catid=98  Talk about a great gift idea!

"Cactus Jack" Curtice

In '57 two missed conversions produced two losses and cost the Indians the Rose Bowl berth as they finished 6-4. QB Jack Douglas was a senior replacement for Brodie and HB Lou Valli became the rush threat. Soph end Chris Burford teamed with Joel Freis as a good receiving combo. Chuck Taylor had decided to leave coaching at the conclusion of the season and took on an administrative role in the athletic department, leading to the search for a new head man. However, Chuck Taylor like a number of other Stanford players and coaches, was immortalized as a member of The College Football Hall Of Fame. It appeared that Dartmouth's Bob Blackman or Utah's Jack Curtice would be the next head coach and on January 16, 1958 the nod went to Curtice.

The folksy Curtice had the reputation of an offensive innovator which would fit in well at Stanford. His teams at Utah had won and in the process had established a national reputation behind the passing of Lee Grosscup. Curtice was also given credit for having invented the "Utah pass" or shovel pass that brought Utah a conference championship. He had recruited well with Grosscup and future St. Louis Cardinal Hall Of Famer Larry Wilson as his team leaders.

"Cactus Jack" had been the head coach at West Texas State in 1940 and '41 and was so involved with the program that he wrote the official school fight song before moving on to the head job at Texas Western (Texas El Paso) where he had great success from 1942 through '50. His Utah teams from 1951 through 1957 were wide-open, pass-oriented units that put a lot of points on the board so it was felt that he would do well but his 1958 team only went 2-8 and scored but ninety-six points.

The team led the conference in passing offense but was last in rushing and unfortunately, solidly last in almost all defensive categories. QB's Bob Nicolet and Dick Norman, receiver Chris Burford, and HB Skip Face provided the sparks and they almost toppled Rose Bowl bound rival Cal before losing 16-15. Injuries forced the use of different backfield combinations in the first eight games with Nicolet the conference leader in passing, and Norman second. Burford's forty-five receptions earned him All Conference honors and was third-highest in the country.

In 1959 the team was better than its 3-7 record with close losses in four games but the defense remained porous. With Dick Norman at QB, the Indians led the nation in passing offense, with Chris Burford as the All American primary receiver. He tied the NCAA record with sixty-one receptions for 756 yards giving him 106 catches in two seasons and gained entry to The College Football Hall Of Fame.

Burford became the AFL Dallas Texans' very first number-one draft choice and was an integral part of their first Super Bowl team, playing through 1967. Norman had a huge game against Cal completing thirty-four of thirty-nine throws for 401 yards in a losing effort. These single-game records stood for decades. HB Skip Face ranked second in the country having scored one hundred points. With Dick Norman at QB and Skip Face at FB, more great offense was expected in '60 but with only three other starters returning from the '59 team, the inexperienced group posted a winless 0-10 record.

With all new receivers, Face became the go-to guy, catching twenty-nine passes out of his backfield position. The lack of team speed hurt and the morale was poor, leaving Curtice to sit in the locker room most of the night and ponder the squad's performance after the 34-20 mid-season upset by lowly San Jose State. Reflecting upon the disaster of the season, the head coach was determined to force improvement.

Improvement was expected for the 1961 season with the arrival of highly-touted soph QB Steve Thurlow but he was sidelined early with a bout of mononucleosis. Soph T Al Hildebrand became the team leader but the undermanned squad was forced to rely on a short-passing game due to poor line play. Second leading receiver in the conference with twenty-two catches, end George Honore was the only Stanford player to earn All AAWU mention. Finally beating rival Cal 20-7, the Indians could only improve to 4-6.

Back at QB and healthy for '62, Thurlow led the squad to two opening wins but they then dropped three straight and finished with a 5-5 record that reflected their inconsistency. T Al Hildebrand again played well on both sides of the ball but the improved record would not save Curtice's job. Some felt that the Texas-based coach could not recruit the type of athlete that would be attracted to Stanford. The academic requirements were stringent, they did not allow junior college transfers, and there were no football scholarships per se, only need-based grants which severely limited recruiting efforts. It was also felt that there were some influential alumni who successfully limited the number of African-American players on the team. Curtice was seen as "a nice guy" by his players but there was a defeatist attitude that permeated the squad.

Curtice enjoyed further coaching success, moving on to the University Of California at Santa Barbara where he was the AFCA College Division Coach Of The Year in 1965.


Anyway, hope you all enjoyed this little contest, a brief respite from the overwhelming amount of football recruiting activity on The Bootleg during the past few weeks. As much as we love focusing on the decision-making of 17-year-old offensive linemen, it never hurts to brush up on a little Stanford football history and heritage!  Go Cardinal!

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