Posts Tagged ‘Dickinson School of Law’

Gus Welch Was a Redskin

February 13, 2010

While working on Gus Welch’s chapter for the upcoming “Wisconsin’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals,” I read a letter in his Carlisle Indian School file that he wrote to Superintendent John Francis in June 1917 about his experiences in Reserve Officers Training Camp at Fort Niagara, New York. Most of the letter dealt with the severe headaches Welch was suffering at the rifle range. After fracturing both his cheekbone and the base of his skull in a collision with Ray “Iron Eich” Eichenlaub in the 1914 Notre Dame game, Gus disobeyed doctor’s orders and checked himself out of the hospital prematurely. His physician described his injury as one “…which requires absolute rest to insure a future without invalidism, such as epilepsy, paralysis, deafness or loss of sight, any one of which might develop in after years from recklessness or negligence at this time.” Fortunately for Gus, none of these things happened, but not by much.

Gus also wrote about the standards he held himself to: I have done my best, keeping always in mind that I was a Carlisle man. I also had to remember that I was the only Redskin in camp, and of course my errors would naturally look larger than the other fellows.” It is significant that he referred to himself as a Redskin, something he was proud of being. Welch was no shrinking violet or “Uncle Tom.” When the Federal Government appropriated some of his land for a highway, he didn’t take it lying down. He fought them as hard as he could, using his legal skills learned at Dickinson School of Law and in his years of practice.

This is evidence that, less than 100 years ago, Redskins was not a derogative term. It seems not to have been derogative until some activists “discovered” alternative meanings in the 1960s.

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Minority Coaches

March 28, 2008

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.