Tonight, the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, DC holds a reception to kick off its new exhibit, “Best in the World: Native Athletes in the Olympics,” to celebrate the athletic achievements of Native Americans on the 100th anniversary of the 1912 Stockholm Games that featured legendary performances by Jim Thorpe and Lewis Tewanima. I am attending because Bob Wheeler, Jim Thorpe’s Boswell, is to speak there. While making preparations for attending this event, I received some unexpected news.
The National Football Foundation (NFF) released its selections for induction in the College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2012 and Lone Star Dietz was finally on the list. As blog followers probably know, Greg and John Witter, first cousins and rabid Washington State football fans, and I campaigned to get Dietz placed on the Hall of Fame ballot some years ago. Getting his won-loss record corrected was the key to getting him nominated but there were larger obstacles yet to come.
Lone Star Dietz died in 1964 and there are few people still alive that knew him. Also, he coached at schools with smaller alumni bases and less clout than the major football factories. Washington State, for example, couldn’t muster the support for him that, say, Ohio State could for John Cooper or Michigan could for Lloyd Carr. While both these recent coaches had very good careers, neither had the impact on the history of the game as did Dietz. It’s one thing to inherit a strong program and be a good steward, but it is quite another to rebuild a floundering program from the ground up, something that Lone Star did multiple times.
The closest he came was in 2006 when the selectors chose Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno instead of the people who were on the ballot. A couple of years ago, when Lone Star’s name was dropped from the ballot, I gave up all hope of him ever being selected. I didn’t even know that his name was on the Divisional ballot this year, so was shocked when I started receiving phone calls from reporters on Tuesday afternoon.
All I can say is that it’s long overdue. Although he’s being brought in through the back door, so to speak, he will finally be in. He’s the first Carlisle Indian to be inducted as a coach; the rest were as players. Whether this honor is enough to offset the many indignities Dietz suffered and mollify the Lone Star Curse is yet to be seen.