Minority Coaches

Yesterday I came across a December 8, 2007 article in The News Tribune out of Tacoma, Washington. In it reporter Todd Miles wrote, “Not since 1917 have the Washington State Cougars had a minority head coach in football.” Putting aside the fact that Washington State’s teams weren’t called the Cougars in 1917, the statement is still incorrect. Yes, Lone Star Dietz coached the 1918 Mare Island Marine team that was featured in WSC’s yearbook because ten players were from WSC. And, although Dietz considered it Washington State’s second Rose Bowl team, it didn’t wear crimson and gray. The major error is that not one but two minority coaches were overlooked. This is why we study history.

When Dietz was unceremoniously dumped in early 1919, WSC wanted another coach who was steeped in the Warner system because Dietz had been wildly successful with it. So, the administration looked for someone with experience, not just with the single and double-wing formations but with the whole system. Recall that Ace Clark thought that the way Lone Star conditioned his players and reduced the amount of scrimmaging left them in better shape for the games. Albert Exendine was a logical choice but he was under contract at Georgetown. Eventually Gus Welch was tracked down on a former battlefield in France and recruited for the job.

Gus Welch was Chippewa from Wisconsin and Al Exendine was Delaware and Cherokee from Oklahoma, but they have a lot of similarities. Both attended Carlisle Indian School and starred on its teams, Exendine at end and Welch at quarterback (blocking back in Warner’s single-wing). Both got their law degrees from Dickinson School of Law (now part of Penn State) across town from the Indian school. Both had long careers of coaching football in the fall and practicing law the rest of the year. Both were inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as players. And both coached Washington State. Welch led the team from 1919 through 1922 and Exendine took over in 1923, lasting through the 1925 season. Each has a chapter devoted to him in Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs.

So, Washington State has a history of hiring minority head football coaches, just not lately.

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