Former WSU coach Lone Star Dietz named to College Football Hall of Fame
William "Lone Star" Dietz, who coached Washington State to its only Rose Bowl victory, will be inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in July.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Ninety-seven years after he coached Washington State to its only Rose Bowl victory and a breakthrough for West Coast football, William "Lone Star" Dietz is headed to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Dietz' candidacy as a major-college coach fell short after a campaign in 2005 to elect him to the hall. But Tuesday, he was named in the "divisional" class, which recognizes accomplishments at smaller colleges. Long after he left WSU, Dietz coached at the Haskell Indian Institute of Kansas (1929-32) and Albright of Pennsylvania (1937-42).
"We're proud one of our own made it, even though it's posthumously," said WSU athletic director Bill Moos. "Anytime those that served at Washington State are honored, then Washington State feels honored as well."
Coincidentally, Moos, a former player at WSU, was on the hall's honors court several years ago, when Dietz' candidacy was backed jointly by Pennsylvanian Tom Benjey, who authored a biography on Dietz, and a couple of devout WSU fans, Greg and John Witter, who peppered voters with the case for Dietz.
"You do fear that as time goes on, people aren't that interested in someone that coaches at the beginning of the 20th century," Moos said. "But his story is compelling, his accomplishments are very credible and he's very deserving of being inducted."
Benjey said Tuesday, "I suspect the hall was kind of embarrassed at what happened before and came up with a way of getting him on."
Dietz had a 17-2-1 record at WSU starting in 1915, a season capped by a 14-0 victory over Brown that marked the first triumph for the West in the Rose Bowl.
"That game was enough in itself to be in the hall," Benjey argued. "Prior to that, West Coast football was considered inferior to East Coast football. Dietz put West Coast football on an even footing with the East."
Dietz was half-Native American, the son of a German civil engineer and an Oglala Sioux woman.
About 1919, he was indicted on draft-evasion charges — Dietz had registered as a "noncitizen Indian" — and although a jury failed to reach a verdict, WSU withdrew support for him as a coach and he left the school. Dick Fry, former WSU sports publicist and athletic historian there, told the Times in 2005 the Dietz indictment "was one of those prejudice-laden affairs" based on the patriotic zealotry around World War I.
Dietz went on to coach at Purdue, Louisiana Tech and Wyoming. He died in 1964.
"It's long overdue," Benjey said. "The sad thing is, there's almost nobody still alive that remembers him."
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org