Tiger Den Archives – XI

Dietzel and McClendon - Episode 1 Part 1
An Orange Bowl invite firmly in hand, Paul Dietzel's 1961 Tiger team, whom many observers, including the coach himself, considered better than the 1958 National Champions, clobbered Tulane 62-0 to complete a 9-1 season. As LSU began preparations to meet Colorado in Miami New Year's Day, an event 1,400 miles away from Baton Rouge would change Tiger football forever.
  • December 9, 1961
    Army dismissed head football coach Dale Hall, who compiled a 16-11-2 record in three years. Following the legendary Earl Blaik, who went 121-33-10 in 18 season, Hall's record wasn't good enough, especially since he was 0-3 vs Navy. The an­nouncement of the firing stated that Hall would be replaced by "the finest coach available." That implied that West Point would break with its tradi­tion of restricting the coaching post to academy graduates. That opened the door for potential candidates who served as assistants at Army dur­ing Blaik's tenure, including Dietzel, who served at West Point in 1953-4.
    In his book Fighting Tigers, Peter Finney told this story, which he could have gotten only from Dietzel himself.
    Several days after Navy defeated Army, Paul Dietzel picked up his Baton Rouge
    Morning Advocate to learn that Dale Hall ... had been fired. Dietzel looked across at his wife and said: "Honey, better start packing." ... The same day he learned of Hall's dismissal, Dietzel placed a long-distance call to Joe Cahill, sport publicity director at West Point, indicating interest in the job.
  • December 11
    The LSU head man told reporters, I am very happy here and plan no change.
    In his 2008 autobiography, Dietzel recalled: Since I had coached at West Point on two occasions, once as plebe coach and once as line coach, the academy's athletic director called and asked if I would be interested in the job. When Colonel Blaik retired several years before, I never remotely con­sidered applying for the position, because you never want to follow a legend, and Colonel Blaik was definitely a legend. ... Besides, Army had never hired a head football coach who was not an alumnus of the institution. ... When the athletics director called me, I pointed out that I was not a gradu­ate of West Point. He said they had decided to go in a different direction. So I asked him to let me think about it.
    I called the West Point athletics director back the next day and asked, "Who's on your short list? Who are you interested in talking with?" He said, "We've got it down to three. They are Murray Warmath, who has just been named Coach of the Year at Minnesota, where he had a national championship team; Vince Lombardi ..., and you." I said, "Well, that's a very heady group. I'm quite honored to be in the company of those fellows, but if LSU finds out that I'm even thinking of another job, they'll probably fire me." ...
    I immediately spoke with Jim Corbett, our athletics director, and said, "Jim, Army has asked me to apply for the heading coaching job, and I've told them that I can't be a candidate if I'm just one of several prospects on their list. But if they would really like to hire me, then I'd like to talk with them."
    And Corbett said, "You know you've got a long contract here, Paul."
    "I know that, Jim," I said, "and if this is going to be a major problem, or if LSU will not release me, I'll just tell West Point right now that I'm not in­terested in the job."
    And he said, "What would it take to keep you here?"
    I replied, "If I stay at LSU, I do not want a raise in salary." At the time, I was making $18,000 a year. "I don't want people to think they had to buy me to get me to stay. It really doesn't have anything to do with money at this point. The academy won't pay me any more than I'm making here. But if LSU will not release me, I'll just tell them to take my name out of the hat."
    He said, "No, if you want to go, there's no way we would want you to stay. It wouldn't be good for either of us." So I talked with the Army officials, superintendent General William Westmoreland, and athletics director Colonel Hank Adams.
  • December 15
    The LSU Board of Supervisors announced that Dietzel and his staff would receive an extra 10% for their extra work coaching the bowl game.
  • December 17
    Amid continual questions about the West Point job, Paul insisted, My one thought is to get ready for the Colorado job, and that's all I'm worried about.
  • December 20
    LSU AD Jim Corbett acknowledged that Dietzel was one of the finest young coaches in the nation and deserved being sought after by other universities. While admitting that he had not discussed with his head coach the media reports of Dietzel considering a move to West Point, Jim said, I would certainly be very sorry to see him leave and promised to do ev­erything in his power to prevent the departure. I will tell you one thing. If he does decide to leave LSU, he will be leaving the finest coaching job in Ame­rica.
  • December 21
    An Associated Press article stated that Jack Green, Florida assistant, and Murray Warmath, head coach at Minnesota, were reported Thursday to have the inside track for the top football post at Army ... "Out of deference to the coaches themselves, we have decided not to release any names," said Col. Emery S. Adams Jr., Army athletic director. ... Dietzel, whose $18,000-a-year contract at LSU has four more years to run, and (Vince) Lombardi, who has raised the Packers to championship status, are considered out of reach. ... The Army job pays between $15,000 and $20,000 a year, offers excellent living quarters, and has other fringe benefits, not the least of which is its tremendous national prestige.
    Meanwhile, LSU ended its football practice sessions for the Christmas holidays. Players would report back to campus the night of December 25.
    During the Christmas break, Dietzel flew to New York to meet General William Westmoreland, superintendent of West Point, at the Interna­tional Hotel near Kennedy Airport. Following a discussion of the head coach position. Paul told the general that, if details could be worked out, this is what I'm looking for.
  • December 26
    LSU's staff and 52 players flew to Miami and went directly to the Univer­sity of Miami field for a brief workout and a session with the media.
  • December 27
    The Tigers practiced in private, as they would continue to do until game day.
    Back in New Orleans, Judge Oliver P. Carriere, who was on the LSU Board of Supervisors when Dietzel was hired, said he put no stock in the rumors that Paul was headed to West Point. Paul assured us that, if he made good as head coach, he would stay as long as he was wanted. We asked him point-blank if he would break the contract with us in the event he re­ceived an offer to go to West Point or to his alma mater, Miami Ohio, or to any other university. He was most emphatic in stating he would not leave LSU and would not break his contract. I for one sincerely believe him. He is a gentleman of high character - one whose word is his bond.
    Carriere did more than just express his feelings to the press. He met the charter bus that took the LSU board members to Moisant Airport to catch a plane to Miami and pressed his argument that the board should hold Dietzel to his contract.
  • December 30
    The Times-Picayune included this column by sports editor Bill Keefe: From a reliable source comes the confidentially-expressed statement that the Uni­ted States Military Academy HAS contacted Paul Dietzel of LSU with the offer of head coaching job at West Point. From the same source comes the opinion that Dietzel WILL ASK the Louisiana State university athletic board TO RELEASE HIM FROM HIS CONTRACT SO THAT HE MAY ACCEPT WHAT IS CONSIDERED THE PLUM OF THE COACHING PROFESSION, COLLEGIATE OR OTHERWISE.
    Further, through the grapevine comes the report that LSU WILL grant Diet­zel's request. Still further, says the report which is considered well-grounded, DIETZEL WILL TAKE FOUR TIGER COACHES ALONG WITH HIM TO THE POINT. The four coaches Dietzel wants are named in the allegedly well­founded report, as Bill Shalosky, who at one time was, like Dietzel, an assistant coach at West Point; Larry Jones and Charlie Pevey, two former LSU star players, and George Terry, who has done some brilliant coaching in the Tiger backfield both on offense and defense.
    Dietzel is not the kind of man who would jump a contract. I, for one, firmly believe he will not make the change unless given the green light by the LSU board. But, if the Army offer is made it would be surprising if LSU would say nay to Dietzel's shift from the Old War Skule to the new war school. No organization would want to retain a man who would want to make a move.
    It would later be revealed that Keefe's "reliable source" was New Or­leans Congressman F. Edward Hebert, chairman of the House Armed Forces Committee.
    Dan Hardesty wrote in the Baton Rouge State Times Advocate that after­noon: Dietzel this morning said he had no comment on a report by a New Orleans sports editor that he would accept the head coaching job at Army. ...
    It was learned, however, that prior to leaving Baton Rouge last Tuesday Dietzel had had discussions with West Point officials regarding the Army job. It was not known whether these discussions had reached the stage of a firm offer of the job.
    One point which has frequently been made concerning the current rumors is that Dietzel this time has not said that he isn't interested in the Army job. He has said only that his interest is in beating Colorado.
    Well-informed persons here in Miami with the LSU party today were inclined to believe the old saying "where there's smoke there's fire."
    It was believed to be certain that as of now the job has not been offered by Army or accepted by Dietzel but in all probability Dietzel and the West Point authorities will hold further discussions after the Orange Bowl.
  • December 31
    The Tigers and Buffaloes went through their final workouts in surprisingly chilly weather - in the 30s in South Florida.
    That night, John Doles, chairman of the LSU Board, released a statement from his home in Plain Dealing LA: There have been some rumors concerning the status of LSU Football Coach Paul Dietzel. I have today been in contact with a majority of the members of the LSU Board of Supervisors. We have the utmost confidence in Mr. Dietzel. He has not requested us to release him and, as far as we are concerned, he has four years left on his contract.
    1,000 miles away in Miami, Advocate sports editor Bud Montet interviewed three of the assistant coaches rumored to be making the move with Diet­zel.
    George Terry: You will have to ask Paul for any information. Pressed fur­ther, Terry added: If Paul goes, I expect to go with him.
    Larry Jones: I don't know anything about the Army situation. I will have to talk to Coach Dietzel.
    Charlie Pevey: Before I go to West Point, I want to know a number of things.
    The last of the four, Bill Shalosky, was unavailable for comment.
    A headline in a Miami newspaper proclaimed, LSU to Give Coach Goodbye Win, provided Dietzel with the theme for his pregame pep talk. He re­called in his autobiography: We always entertained the team with a mov­ie on nights before games. ... But this night was unusual because of the news­paper article, and I decided to do what I always did with my players - tell them the truth. I said, "Fellas, you all read the newspaper article about whe­ther Paul Dietzel is going to take the job at West Point or not. I just want­ed to tell you that I don't want that to have anything to do with your atti­tude. Whether I stay at LSU or whether I go to Army is of no consequence. Just remember all those hours of practice that you've put in, and all the preparation for the football season in the heat and humidity of the summer. Think of all of the summer letters we sent you telling you what you should be doing each week in your workouts. Think back to all the times you felt you were about to die during two-a-days. You just can't throw all that away. This game is about you, it's not about Paul Dietzel. It's about you and LSU. We've had a great year, and we have to cap it off with a win in the Orange Bowl. ... This game is for you, not for anyone else - you and LSU. You'll remember it for the rest of your lives!"
    Later that evening, Paul and his wife Anne ran into outgoing LSU presi­dent, General Troy Middleton and his wife Jerusha.
    Dietzel: He said, "Paul, I want to talk to you. How about coming up to our room."
    I thought, "Uh-oh." So we went up to his room, and General Middleton said, "Paul, I hear you're thinking about West Point."
    I said, "Well, General Middleton, yes, they've offered me the head coach­ing job."
    Then he asked, "Paul, why haven't you come to talk to me?"
    I answered, "General, I was getting ready for a bowl game, but that's not an excuse. I talked with Jim Corbett, and I presumed that he had spoken with you about it."
    General Middleton then said, "Paul, you know that Jerusha and I are very fond of you and Anne, and you have done a superior job here at LSU. We appreciate that, and we don't want to lose you. However, the Army football team is the mirror of the United States Army. West Point has got to have a good football program. They did have a fine one, but in the last few years, it has suffered a great deal. If they want you at West Point, you have got to go!"
  • January 1, 1962
    Bernell Ballard in his "Sports Front" column in the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate listed "quotable quotes" from Paul Dietzel.
    Paul Dietzel in April, 1955 - "I've bought a house here and I told the people in the neighborhood I'd be here quite a while. LSU is not a stepping stone for me."
    Paul Dietzel in December, 1959, when Earl Blaik resigned the Army coach­ing job - "I signed a five-year contract with LSU and I told General Middle­ton and Jim Corbett I wanted to coach here and I intended staying here."
    Paul Dietzel, commenting further on the Army opening in 1959 - "I'm not interested in the West Point job or any other job except the one I have at LSU. And to be even more specific, I would not accept the West Point job or any other job if it were offered me."
    Paul Dietzel, again on the same subject in January, 1960 - "I think it would be presumptuous of me to even discuss it
    (leaving LSU for Army), inasmuch as I have signed a new contract with LSU."
    Paul Dietzel, later reassuring his followers of his intentions at LSU - "I will never leave LSU for another coaching job."
    Paul Dietzel, December, 1961 - "No comment."

    That afternoon, the Bayou Bengals, in Dietzel's words, beat the stew out of Colorado. The final score was 25-7. Several LSU players carried their coach off the field.
    Afterward, Paul finally broke his "no comment" barrier on the Army job.
    Concerning my moving to Army, I put it out of my mind until this game was over. Now I'll give it my full consideration ... I have no further comment. ... He then implied he had been approached by West Point officials. I decided I wouldn't do a thing about the Army offer until this game was over. ... I coached at Army for two years as an assistant, and I know what they have to offer. It is a wonderful athletic setup at West Point. But I like LSU, too. Everyone at LSU has been wonderful to me. I can't say what my decision will be until I've had several days to think about it. I feel like a man on one of those poster in the post office. It's nice to be wanted, but this thing could change my whole life.
    Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported from West Point that the super­intendent hopes to make an announcement this week. Other than that, there can be no comment.
    Dietzel recalled: I was thrilled that we had won the game, especially since I knew it would be my last time to coach the Tigers. I would leave Baton Rouge with a heavy heart knowing how much I would miss LSU, my play­ers, and the many wonderful friends Anne and I had made.

To be continued ...

References: The Fighting Tigers II: LSU Football, 1893-1980, Peter Finney (1980)
Call Me Coach: A Life in College Football, Paul Dietzel (2008)

Paul Dietzel and Jim Corbett celebrate Orange Bowl bid.

Earl Blaik

Dale Hall

Murray Warmath

Vince Lombardi

George Terry

F. Edward Hebert

LSU Dorm Sign

General Troy Middleton

1962 Orange Bowl action

Dietzel carried off by Dennis Gaubatz (53) and Jimmy Field (14) after Orange Bowl victory

Dietzel and McClendon - Episode 1 Part 2

Paul Dietzel and Charlie McClendon

Jim Corbett

Blanton Collier

Bill Keefe as depicted in Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame

Bernie Shively

Biff Jones

George Terry

Bill Shalosky

Larry Jones, who became head coach at FSU 1971-72

Donnie Daye

Dietzel on Howard Cosell's show shortly after becoming West Point coach; Cosell's first question was whether he would have any black players on his squad.

Dietzel at West Point

Top of Page

  • Tuesday, January 2, 1962
    The Tigers remained in Miami another day for additional Orange Bowl activities, including the fishing rodeo competition between the two squads.
    Joseph Cahill, Sports Information Director at West Point, said that, while seven men were in the running for head coach position, Dietzel is definitely the top candidate. Dietzel has expressed interest in the job, but there are still some details to work out. Because of the holiday, we haven't made any definite decisions yet and, of course, Dietzel has been tied up at the Orange Bowl. I don't believe we'll have any announcement to make until later this week.
    That morning, John Doles, chairman of the LSU Board of Supervisors, said he was awaiting a phone call from Jim Corbett from Miami before deciding to call an emergency meeting of the LSU Board. Doles pointed out that board rules required five days notice of a meeting.
    One anonymous board member reported that a majority of the board told him they favored holding Dietzel to the remaining four years of his five-year contract. He also said a majority favored a "reasonable raise" for Dietzel, a move the board contemplated before the offer from Army.
    One board member who permitted use of his name, Tom Dutton, from New Orleans, captain of the LSU football and track teams in 1919, made it clear he was speaking only for himself. I hope the rumors about Paul Dietzel are unfounded. I believe he would be making a very serious mistake. He came to us as an untried coach and, at the time he accepted the position at LSU, he made the statements that he did not intend using the coaching position at LSU as a springboard for any other job. He lately has been quoted as saying he would never leave LSU. I have been informed by members of the committee who selected him as head football coach in 1955 that, in answer to direct questions, he said he would never break a contract or ask for release from a contract. The image of Mr. Dietzel is as a paragon of virtue, and I believe this image would be terribly darkened if he did anything at this time that is not entirely proper. I am irrevocably opposed to releasing him from his contract largely because of his commitments he has made to the recruits and their parents, the freshmen, and the people of this state. I hope he will not destroy the fine record he has made so far, and thus tear down something that is much more precious than money or prestige. I cannot conceive of Paul Dietzel doing this. I discount the statement about him being unhappy if we do not release him. I believe he would continue to try to turn out a winning team with the marvelous material he has, and he will do this for his own record and for prestige, if for no other reason. There certainly would be no prejudice on the part of the board if Mr. Dietzel decides to stay. I'm sure that, as I see it, the board is very much interested in having him stay.
    Another board member also took a hard line. I feel that somewhere some university should take a stand and prove to coaches that a contract is a legal document and not a one-way affair. This is not good for the morale and character they are trying to build in young men they are coaching. Continually universities accept the fact that if a coach wants to walk out on a contract, he just walks out, but if they want to fire him they have to pay him the full value of his remaining years on his contract. I believe they are just as morally and legally bound to a contract as a university.
    Percy Robert of Baton Rouge, vice chairman of the board, said, I sincerely hope Paul Dietzel will remain with us at LSU. He has been highly successful and highly regarded and in my estimation he has a continued brilliant future ahead of him here.
    "One source close to the LSU picture" said that, in the past, when Dietzel was approached by other schools, he made a quick denial and repeated his contention that he would not leave LSU for another school. But he made no such comment amid the West Point rumors.
    Meanwhile, Louisianans bombarded Dietzel with telegrams. Samples: Don't be a fool, don't become an Army mule. And I would rather be a Tiger, tried and true, than an Army brat, would you?
  • Wednesday, January 3
    Bud Montet wrote in his column in the Morning Advocate:
    Tommy Devine, Miami News sports editor, is one of those puzzled about the rumored departure of Coach Dietzel. Said Devine after the game, "Why would Dietzel consider leaving LSU to become head coach at Army?" He speculated that Army couldn't give the Tiger mentor more than a base salary of $20,000, just a bit higher than he's receiving now. He pointed out that there'll always be recruiting problems at Army while at LSU Dietzel has his way in the state.
    There has been speculation that LSU might go to court to stop Dietzel from jumping his contract. That's about as far-fetched as can be. We know the LSU group will not resort to legal action. If they do we think it would be a grave mistake. No top-flight university would want to hold a coach that didn't want to stay and coach.
    There's been no official meeting of the LSU board members nor has athletic director Jim Corbett released Dietzel as rumored in some quarters. The members of the board here have discussed the situation. But as Corbett put it, "Dietzel has not come to us concerning anything about the Army situation."

    An Associated Press article out of West Point quoted Corbett as saying, I expect to be talking to Paul today or tomorrow. If he wants out of his contract, certainly he would mention it to me.
    The Baton Rouge State Times Advocate polled a numbe of people in various occupations and found out the following:
    First, that everybody IS talking about Paul Dietzel ... The discussions over Dietzel can go on for hours ... But these points were gleaned:
    Most of the interviewees believe that Dietzel will leave.
    Most would like to see the LSU mentor stay.
    And a majority of them think that Dietzel should abide by his contract and stay on to lead the Bengals in spite of reported attractive offers from the U.S. Military Academy.
    One Baton Rougean even invoked international politics in his response. How can we expect Russia to live up to agreements if our people don't live up to their contract, particularly those who are thought by the general public to be men of outstanding character? Dietzel has a contract and should live up to it. Period. The head of West Point who offered the job to Dietzel seems to have too little respect for Dietzel's contract, knowing he has four more years to go on the contract. As an officer in the federal government, it seems he, of all people, should have respect for a contract ...
    A governmental executive said: "I hate to see Dietzel go, but I think I might go too. ... I think it's a matter of prestige. He will meet and mingle with some of the top people of the nation there. He will be a big fish in a big pond."
    A lawyer quipped: "I think LSU should send its team on loan to the Navy next year for the Army-Navy game if Dietzel leaves."

    Meanwhile, a situation at another SEC school impinged on LSU. An Associated Press article began like this:
    MIAMI - Coach Charles McClendon, the former star lineman of the University of Kentucky who, for the past several years, has been considered a top candidate for the Kentucky football head coaching job in the event of the departure of Coach Blanton Collier, today finds himself in the peculiar position of being the prime candidate for two of the finest coaching jobs in the Southeastern Conference.
    McClendon, the defensive line coach of the top-ranking LSU Tigers, is considered one of the prime candidates for the LSU job in case Coach Paul Dietzel goes to West Point as has been rumored for the past five days.
    And McClendon is considered the fair-headed boy to replace Collier at Kentucky as he is one of the most popular graduates of that school in the coaching profession today.
    McClendon ... has nothing to say about the job except "some guy from the AP called me and said Coach Collier has now been ousted from the Kentucky job. Other than that I know nothing of the situation at Lexington."
    McClendon later recalled the rumors about Dietzel's departure. I was the last to know after everybody else had heard it. It was public knowledge by the time of the bowl game. Paul didn't realize the people here were going to be mad and upset. I did realize this. Paul was going to recommend me for the job; to me, that would be the kiss of death. You know, you don't leave people upset and then make a recommendation. So, in all fairness to my family, I had to say that I didn't want the recommendation. Period. Paul meant nothing but the best for me, but I knew I couldn't accept his recommendation.
    The players had carried Mac off the field after the Orange Bowl victory. I think this was their way of saying I had their recommendation, and that's the best.
    A scant crowd of 200 fans turned out at Ryan Airport to welcome the Orange Bowl champions. Dietzel's only comment about the Army job was, I don't have anything to say, I really don't. When asked whether he would fly to West Point the next day, he replied, That's what I read in the newspapers.
    Jim Corbett admitted he talked the situation over with Dietzel and still hoped he would stay. I will do everything within reason to keep Dietzel at LSU. Jim confirmed that the Army AD had called him for permission to talk with Dietzel.
    Army athletic officials had been subjected to nation wide criticism for dealing with a coach with four years left on his contract.
    Along those lines, Board of Supervisor member Tom Dutton sent a telegram to the Army AD with a copy to Army Secretary Elvis Stahr. Taking notice of your press releases this is to advise you that the next regular or special meeting of the Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University, it is my intention to introduce a resolution to ask that immediate legal action be taken to enforce the commutative contract entered into between the Board of Supervisors and Paul Dietzel.
    Board vice chairman Percy Robert added, I'm sure the board would seriously consider further remunerations to keep Dietzel at LSU.
    One board member who asked that his name not be used said, In my opinion, Coach Dietzel has to take the Army job now. He's burned his bridges behind him.
  • Thursday, January 4
    Dan Hardesty wrote in his collumn in the State Times Advocate: Rumor No. 2857X465 - Somebody says LSU has contacted Minnesota Coach Murray Warmath in connection with the Tiger coaching job in the event Paul Dietzel leaves as expected. When asked about this, Athletic Director Jim Corbett hadn't even heard the rumor. He shrugged it off as ridiculous, but just to make it official, he did say positively that it is not true. The thing which few people seem to ... realize is that if Dietzel does leave, LSU absolutely cannot go out and try to hire any "name" coach or any other kind of head coach who is under contract to any school in the country! If they did, they would be guilty of the same thing they're blasting Army for doing in Dietzel's case. In this situation, it would appear almost certain that if Dietzel does leave, his successor must come either from the ranks of the present LSU assistants ... or from the list of unemployed head coaches or the ranks of assistant coaches at some other school.
    Bill Keefe of the Times-Picayune offered a remedy for situations like the one LSU was facing. If the NCAA can enforce rigid regulations barring a college football player from shifting from one school to another, after signing to play for the original school, why can't the parent organization of collegiate football adopt resolutions barring coaching contracts of more than a year or, if a coach insists on a three or five-year contract, pin him down to fulfillment of said contract. "You insist on a five-year contract?" the coach could be asked. "O.K. then sign it, but if you break it you will not be eligible to accept a coaching job elsewhere."
    Meanwhile, in Lexington KY, a committee worked secretly to select a successor for Blanton Collier. Speed appeared essential because recruiting of high school seniors is in full swing. Collier lured in 10 schoolboy prospects before the athletics board said it was buying the three years remaining on his contract. Athletic director Bernie Shively said the secret committee probably would meet every day until a coach is selected. ... Meantime speculation brought up numerous names as possible successor. These included Ermal Allen and John North of the Kentucky staff; Jerry Claiborne, head coach at Virginia Tech; Charley Bradshaw, Alabama assistant, and Charlie McClendon, Louisiana State aide.
    That night, Dietzel took to the air over WBRZ to make what was immediately labeled "the longest no comment in the history of sport." He failed to clarify his position in respect to the Army position during a length discussion in which he traced the history of his coming to Baton Rouge. He said that former LSU coach Lawrence "Biff" Jones had recommended him for the post. Dietzel in effect accused some board members of hypocrisy by pointing out that, when he was hired by LSU in 1955, he still had a year to go on his contract at West Point. Some of the Board members who hired me knew about that at the time and some of those members are still on the board. He said Coach Blaik told him he wouldn't stand in his way if he landed the LSU job. Paul said any decision he makes would be made in the interest of myself and my family. He also termed any possible decision as one that has not been jumped at. I have thought it over many hours and many days ... Dietzel also got in a shot at the press. They have said that everyone but me was responsible for the success of the Tigers, but I believe I had a little to do with it.
    Following the telecast, Dietzel told the Morning Advocate, I don't think it's fair to others involved for me to say anything else.
  • Friday, January 5
    The Board of Supervisors met as a committee of the whole behind closed doors for 3 1/2 hours and at 1:35 PM released Paul Dietzel from his contract obligations and authorized AD Jim Corbett to negotiate for a new coach. The board first voted down, 8 to 5, a motion by Tom Dutton that Dietzel's request for his contract release be denied. Joe LaSage Jr. of Shreveport immediately made a motion that the board honor Dietzel's request. Dutton then asked the board to follow a long established precedent by adopting LeSage's motion unanimously. Percy Roberts then addressed Corbett: With you at the helm of our athletic program, we could not be in finer hands. We want to go on record as commending you most highly for the services you have rendered this university. Those sentiments were put in the form of a motion and adopted by acclamation.
    Dietzel, called "the master of the double-talk" by Montet, said, In my heart, I think it was the only decision I could make. You can't be at West Point and not have something rub off on you. Deep in my heart, I have always wanted to be head coach at West Point. Army has a special place on the American scene as far as I am concerned. He insisted that money had nothing to do with his decision. I will make a financial sacrifice to go to West Point. I will go at the salary that is traditional at West Point. Asked about the players who had just signed athletic scholarships at LSU in December, he replied that they signed because of LSU, not me. Dietzel defended his decision to leave. If LSU were down, I might feel differently. But the situation being what it is, I don't feel I'm deserting the ship. He revealed that he had been contacted when legendary Army coach Earl Blaik retired in 1958. A member of the West Point screening committee had contacted me, and I asked him to remove my name from consideration. Frankly, at the time, I felt I hadn't fulfilled my obligation to LSU. Now I think LSU is on a sound foundation, and any intelligent person will do a good job.
    That last remark by Dietzel would come back to haunt his successor. McClendon: I'm sure Paul didn't mean it like it sounded. But it didn't read good, I'll put it that way.
    Reminded of his pledges of stability, he explained, From time to time, I have told LSU people that I would never leave LSU, and when I said that, I was sincere. When Dale Hall filled the Army job in 1958, I never thought the job would open again, and I put it out of my mind. I thought I'd just coach at LSU until I was ready to retire. It was during this period that I made those statements. Now that it's open again, I feel it is a tremendous challenge - one I can't refuse. West Point has long had a special place in my heart. Both of our children were born at West Point. My decision was based on what I feel is best for me personally and my family. He also admitted another factor that influenced his decision. Honestly, I worry about our national defense every day. These Cadets are dedicated people. I've always hoped my son would go to West Point. Recruiting at West Point is a different kind of thing. You're not just hunting for football players. You're hunting for boys who want to serve their country. I believe there are enough around who want to be champions and at the same time serve their country. He admitted leaving LSU with great reluctance because I have many deep roots in Louisiana. Regarding the LSU football team, I told the boys Friday that I was the loser, not they. I'm losing the opportunity to coach one of the finest teams in the country. He smiled and added: I'm thrilled at the prospect of joining "The Long Gray Line" ... there's no way to avoid it or not to say - I love West Point.
    Paul confirmed that the four assistants who had been mentioned for weeks as following him to West Point would indeed do so: backfield coaches George Terry and Charlie Pevey and line assistants Bill Shalosky and Larry Jones. Dietzel brought all but Terry to LSU.
    The departing coach also said he recommended McClendon, his top assistant, to replace him. I think he will be head coach at either LSU or Kentucky. ... I have a spot for him at Army, but I don't think he can afford to go.
    In Mobile for the Senior Bowl, the TP's Bill Keefe reported a conversation with "a very famous coach who asked that his name not be brought into the controversy." Maybe LSU will be able to coax some big time coach from a job just as they coaxed Dietzel for the Army coaching staff. I know many a coach who would jump at the chance of pitching his tent at LSU, with the stream of fine talent that is funneled into that school. Unless LSU wants to take a chance on a young inexperienced coach, it will have to be lucky enough to have a big time coach's contract run out or will have to entice a man away from a job. The real sufferers will be the boys who signed with LSU assured that Dietzel will remain there. Other than that, I can't see it's a deal that calls for an extra session of Congress.
    Senior FB Donnie Daye said of his coach's decision: I have all the respect for him in the world. It is his decision, and whatever he wants to do is best. A younger Tiger added, I think that's the way all of the boys will look at it when they think about it awhile.
    Corbett laid out his plan for finding a new head coach and replacing the departing assistants, which he said would take some time. He would notify men he was interested in and ask them to come in for interviews, keeping the number to a minimum.
    One of the possible candidates, Charlie McClendon spent the day in Lexington with Kentucky's screening committee. Charlie was the first candidate to be acknowledged by the committee as being interviewed. University President Frank Dickey said the committee would make a report to the athletics board on Sunday.
    Kentucky offered McClendon their job. I told them to give me a day to think it over, Charlie recalled. At first, LSU gave me the impression that they were going to look around, but that I was on the list. I didn't have anything more definite than that at the time. ... I had several telephone conversations with the people there that weekend. On Sunday afternoon they had their Regents together, and I was to phone them and tell them my decision.
    The irony of Mac's situation was that Dietzel would have had the Kentucky job in 1954 when Bear Bryant left had not Blanton Collier, an assistant with the Cleveland Browns, changed his mind at the last minute. Dietzel had coached under Bryant in 1951-52 when Charlie was a graduate assistant. Their wives became great friends. If Paul had gotten the job at UK, he undoubtedly would have made Mac a full-time assistant on his staff. Instead, Mac went to LSU and invited his friend Dietzel to apply for the head coach job in Baton Rouge when Gaynell Tinsley departed after the 1954 season.
  • Saturday, January 6
    Dietzel left for New York that morning to complete arrangements with academy officials. He signed a contract at 11 PM after his flight was delayed in Atlanta and then grounded in Washington because of weather. Paul made the last leg of the journey by train.
    Bud Montet in the Morning Advocate: Now a big job has been laid upon the shoulders of Athletic Director Jim Corbett who has been instructed to secure and recommend a head mentor ... One thing that complicates the situation is that Charlie McClendon, Tiger line mentor, who will get consideration is up at Lexington, Ky. talking to the Wildcat officials. McClendon is highly popular at Lexington and a sports reporter we talked to last night informed us that there was a lot of sentiment for McClendon to take the job. Several days ago McClendon told us that if he had the choice he would prefer LSU. However the Kentucky people might offer him the job tomorrow and none could blame McClendon if he took the bird in hand over those in the bush.
    "Sources close to the university" revealed that McClendon was grievously hurt by not even being consulted when Dietzel made his move.
    McClendon telephoned Corbett from Lexington to apprise him of his situation with UK. Charlie, come on back to Baton Rouge and we'll talk, said the AD.
  • Sunday, January 7
    Keefe thought Dietzel had made a big mistake. Regardless of anything that can be said about Paul Dietzel - whether he is wrong or right in leaving LSU - the fact remains that in leaving the lucrative, highly promising job where he could count continued success a sure thing, he is showing rare courage.
    He should know as well as anyone else that the difficulties in recruiting football players for West Point is vastly different from recruitment at LSU. Not to say that scholastic standards at LSU are low; but at West Point they are very high - just as high as any university.
    Accepting such a challenge may be a mistake. He'll hardly find West Point Cadets as easy to handle as young civilians on scholarship. ... Not being a West Pointer, he most likely will run into the social barrier that old line Pointers refuse to slacken. ... Then, for a man who takes so much pride in his success as a football coach, it will sorry him if he suffers a lack of football talent, or if he finds that some of the boys he recruits and gets appointments for cannot make the West Point grade. He has taken a big leap and, I repeat, regardless of how much glory and glamor he attaches to going to West Point, I think he is making a mistake. So, too, do a lot of veteran coaches with whom I have discussed the matter.
    McClendon met Corbett and incoming president Dr. John Hunter. I told them, "Fellows, I wanted you to know. I've decided to go to Kentucky." Jim said, "Wait a minute," and he started telephoning several Board of Supervisors members. It was kind of funny; we were talking in a bedroom, and they maneuvered me behind the bed and wouldn't let me get to a phone where I could call Kentucky. When Jim had finished talking to some Board members, he told me the LSU job was mine. I called Kentucky and told them I was going to stay at LSU.
    Corbett recalled talking all day Sunday in his home. We discussed all aspects of the job. It was a frank, free-wheeling conversation in which Charlie and I exchanged views. By sundown, Corbett decided that the 38-year-old native of Lewisville AK who had contributed heavily to LSU's football success deserved a shot.
    Years later, McClendon still reflected in amazement on the first week of 1962. The only two jobs I had wanted, LSU and my alma mater, both came open and were offered to me the same day. It was unreal.
  • Monday, January 8
    Corbett called a surprise press conference for 1 PM to announce the signing of 38-year-old Charles Youmans McClendon as LSU's 22nd head coach. His four-year contract called for an annual salary of $18,000 - exactly what Dietzel would have made and 50% more than Mac was making as an assistant.
    Jim indicated that he had reviewed the list of available coaches and decided that the man he wanted was right there on the campus. As a result, he had not contacted anyone else about the vacancy.
    Charlie started his remarks like this: No use expressing how happy I am to have the opportunity to coach LSU. The way I feel, the music has started, so my job is to keep in step. I was in on the organization of the three-team setup, and it's been good to LSU. So there's no sense in changing it. The White Team, the Go Team, and the Chinese Bandits are part of LSU football. Our players believe in it, and so do I. I was a part of that three-team system and I like it. McClendon said he told the squad at a noon meeting that he intended to continue the three-team system.
    Corbett added that the team gave their new coach a rousing ovation and that each player shook hands with their new coach as they filed out of the room. Jim said the players were very happy with the selection of Coach McClendon.
    Jim continued: I feel that the appointment of Coach McClendon is one of confidence in a man who played a major role in the success we have enjoyed the past few years. He knows our personnel and is well known throughout the state. For the past nine years, he has been one of our finest coaches, and I feel sure that under his guidance our football program will continue and progress. The AD explained that the new head man would have to await a February 10 meeting of the Board of Supervisors for final approval.
    McClendon would have to replace the four assistants who went to Army with Dietzel plus himself. I hope to get the very best assistants that are available. And we're not to be in a hurry about it. We have time and will take it to get the very best we can.
    As it turned out, Pevey had a change of heart at the NCAA meeting the following week and decided to stay at LSU as Mac's first assistant.
    Corbett told the Advocate that Texas coach Darrell Royal called him. Jim, you have hired a "coaches' coach." Congratulations!
    Dan Hardesty of the afternoon States Times wrote approvingly of the selection. Since the day he came to LSU in 1953, McClendon has been one of the most popular members of the Tiger staff with players, university officials, and the grid fans of Louisiana. And along with his popularity has been a solid and widespread recognition of his knowledge of football and his ability to coach it.
    For the past three days, McClendon certainly must have felt like the luckiest young man on the face of the football world. He has turned down several opportunities to move on to head coaching jobs in the past few years because they weren't quite what he wanted and in some cases probably weren't even as desirable as the job he had as chief assistant at LSU. ...
    Kentucky offered McClendon a rather fabulous contract for a man who never has been a head coach. It was the kind of thing a school might offer the likes of Paul Bryant or Bud Wilkinson or Darrell Royal to try to entice them away from their big jobs. The Wildcats wanted McClendon - but so did Jim Corbett. Tigers everywhere are happy that Mac made the decision to stick here.
    McClendon, years later: People don't believe me, but honest, when I got the job, I went to the LSU record book and looked up the coach with the worst record at LSU. My first ambition was that I wasn't going to be the worst coach of the Tigers. As I moved ahead of each one, I thought, well, that's one more I've passed. But it never occurred to me back there that I would ever beat Bernie Moore's victory total at LSU. It never entered my mind.
  • References: The Louisiana Tigers: LSU Football, Dan Hardesty (1975)
    Eye of the Tiger: A Hundred Years of LSU Football, Marty Mule (1993)
    Tales from the LSU Tigers Sideline, Lee Feinswog (2013)

    New Army coach meets military brass: (L-R) Generals William Westmoreland, Omar Bradley,
    and former President and General Dwight Eisenhower
    Record-Setting Performances: Incredible Five Quarters

    Charlie McClendon

    Charles Alexander

    Steve Ensminger

    David Woodley

    Carlos Carson

    Kelly Simmons

    Jerry Murphree

    Willie Gunnels




    Willie Teal

    The worst thing that happened to the Rice Owls as they prepared to play in Baton Rouge in their third game of the 1977 season actually occurred the week before.
    • Charlie McClendon's Tigers began the season with a disappointing perfor­mance at Indiana.
    • LSU seemed to have the game well in hand, leading 21-10 heading into Q4. But just as they were ready to put the game away at the Hoosier 8, junior TB Charles Alexander fumbled. The Hoosiers drove 88y to cut the lead to four.
    • As time ticked away, the home team put together a 70y march in the last minutes to pull out a 24-21 win and deny the Tigers their first out-of-state win since November 1973.
    • The Big Ten team battered the young Tiger D for 282y rushing and 194y passing.
    • LSU gained 280y on the ground, but two sophomore QBs, Steve Ensminger and David Woodley, netted but 40y through the air.

    As always happens, the LSU coaching staff chewed the players' butts all week long.

    • The result was a bunch of Tigers hungry for some Owl meat in the home opener Saturday night, September 24, 1977, before 67,844.
    • LSU started fast, continued rapidly, and ended with alacrity.

    Tiger Stadium 1976

    Sophomore WR Carlos Carson, who hadn't caught a pass as a freshman, had the dream game of a lifetime.

    • Q1: Carson snagged two TD passes from Ensminger, the first from the 22 to end an 80y drive with the opening kickoff. The other traveled 29y to culmi­nate a 78y march. LSU 14 Rice 0
    • Q2: The Ensminger-Carson connection struck again for two more six point­ers. The first covered 63y, the second, 20. The four TD passes thrown and caught put both the QB and the WR in the LSU record book. LSU 28 Rice 0
    • Q3: The roof caved in on the Owls as the Tigers put 35 on the board in 15 minutes.
      FB Kelly Simmons joined the scoring parade with a 3y run and another TD jaunt from the 19.
      Then Woodley took a turn throwing to Carson, hitting the speedy WR for a 67y TD.
      Backup TB Jerry Murphree, a sophomore, romped in from the 3.
      Then Woodley did the honors himself on an option play from the 8.
      LSU 63 Rice 0, one point better than the Tigers' three triumphs over Tulane (1958, 1961, and 1965).
    • Q4: Murphree punched over from the 1 for his second TD of the evening.
      Sophomore DE Willie Gunnels topped off the scoring with a 12y fumble return.
      LSU 77 Rice 0

    The game produced these new records.


    • Total offense: 746y - still stands today
    • Rushing: 502y - didn't last the season as the Tigers pounded Oregon for 503
    • Points in a quarter: 35 - tied with Tulane 1948 Q4 - still stands
    • TD passes: 5 - tied with the 1946 Tulane game (broken in 1989 against Ohio - 7)
    • Touchdowns: 11 - still stands
    • PATs: 11 - still stands


    • TD passes: Steve Ensminger - 4; has been tied ten times
    • Yards gained receiving: Carlos Carson - 201; first broken by Eric Martin in 1983
    • Yards per catch: Carson - 40.2 (5 for 201); tied by Devery Henderson against Kentucky in 2002
    • Most points: Carson - 30; tied by Kevin Faulk vs Kentucky 1997
    • Most touchdowns: Carson - 5; tied by Faulk

    Two oddities

    • The 77 points didn't set a record although broadcasters referred to it as the most "in the modern era." LSU scored 93 against Southwestern Louisiana in 1936.
    • LSU's outstanding TB Alexander didn't tally a single point although "Alex­ander the Great" gained 155y on 16 carries.

    The Tigers continued their point barrage during the first half the following week. The visiting Florida Gators, who had beaten LSU three straight, provided the first SEC opposition of the young season.

    • For the third game in a row, the Bengals marched to a TD the first time they got their hands on the football.
    • Alexander finished the 80y, 15-play drive by taking a pitchout around LE from the 6.
    • Lightning struck the Gators on the ensuing kickoff, when Willie Teal belted Tony Green and recovered the fumble at the 10. Three plays later, Ensming­er skirted LE from the 2 to score standing up.
    • Before the period ended, a short punt put the Tigers in business at their 48. Ensminger did the honors again, this time from the 3.
    • In five quarters, LSU had scored 98 points.
    • Carson grabbed another TD pass in Q2, Woodley on the other end from the 15. The PAT was blocked.
    • The onslaught continued when the Tigers tackled RB Willie Wilder in the EZ to increase the lead to 29-0.
    • LSU coasted from there to a 36-14 victory.

    The '77 Tigers finished 8-3 to gain the school's first bowl bid in four seasons.