Academy Superintendent General “Gar Davidson” stated that West Point was “rocked and shocked by the resignation of “Earl Blaik”” but the administration moved quickly to name former star of the 1944 team, thirty-six year old Dale Hall, as Blaik’s successor on February 15th, 1959. Everyone knew and remembered Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis but Hall was also part of that famed backfield, an outstanding athlete who was first-team all state as a junior and senior in both basketball and football in Parsons, Kansas. He is still the only Kansas prep athlete to hold this distinction and at the Academy he remained a standout, scoring twenty-three touchdowns for the ’44 West Point National Championship football team, earning a Helms Foundation first team All American selection in basketball in both 1944 and ’45 while leading the Army team to a 29-1 record, and earning seven letters in three sports as a 4.0 student.
Hall adapted to life without Pete Dawkins and Bob Novogratz while the Academy adapted to football without Blaik. Hall made a slight alteration in the Army helmet, removing the previously used side numerals and placing more visible black three-inch Angelus-Pacific type of numerals, similar to those identified with LSU’s team at the time, on the sides of the old gold shell. The black one-inch center stripe was maintained but the larger numbers truly made a difference. With Dawkins gone, Hall utilized veteran QB Joe Caldwell and explosive HB Bob Anderson to help open the offense to best make use of “Lonely End” Bill Carpenter and his opposite flanker, “Don Usry”. Anderson was a true bright spot, but suffered a serious knee injury early in the year. The injury did not prevent him from later serving with distinction with the 101st Airborne and he had a promising season with the Giants in ’63 before suffering a career ending knee injury in ’64. The offense focused on end Carpenter who earned All American mention and who built his own legacy. Catching forty-three passes for 591 yards, the team captain of three sports earned All American honors, election to The College Football Hall Of Fame, and later, a slew of military medals and honors for his service in Viet Nam before retiring from the service as a General. Following the Blaik regime with a 4-4-1 record that included a horrible 43-12 loss to Navy had grads grumbling after Hall’s debut season.
Hall needed to do a tremendous amount of rebuilding for 1960 with Anderson, Carpenter, and Caldwell having graduated but “Dick Eckert” stepped forward at QB to lead a major 9-6 upset of Syracuse. Wrestling champ Al Rushatz led the ground-gainers from his FB spot and end “George Kirschnbauer” moved in to take over the top receiving honors. The improved 6-3-1 record and upset over Syracuse mollified some but a second loss to Navy kept the fire glowing under Hall. DE John Ellerson led a defense that held six opponents to a touchdown or less during the 1961 season but Hall’s new run-pass option series offense was inconsistent, scoring fifty-one points against a weak Idaho team while fizzling against Michigan, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and unfortunately, Navy. Rushatz again was a steady runner and as a physical fitness devotee, later rose to the rank of Colonel and became the Director Of Physical Instruction at the Academy, overseeing the famous “Nautilus West Point Study” in 1973 that provided important research in the area of strength training. Rushatz was the inspiration and driving force behind the Class of 1962 Class Gift – Physical Fitness Room know to this day as Can Do Class Motto or ’62. The final tally of 6 wins, 4 losses and yet another defeat by the Naval Academy cost Hall his job at the end of the season.
As the 1962 season approached, enthusiasm was rampant as “Paul Dietzel” took the reins of the Army program from the departed Dale Hall. Coach Dietzel, new from LSU, had a busy spring. He retired the lonely end, introduced his Chinese Bandits and still found time to beat the southern bushes for the limber-legged halfbacks he used to lure to Baton Rouge. But they won’t help him this year, and Dietzel will have to spread 21 lettermen and some good sophomores over his three units. With typical deference to the defense, he has switched Defensive Halfback “Harry McMillan” to end to team up with John Ellerson, the best of all the linemen. Tackle “Chet Kempinski” and Center “Marty Ryan” become guards, and “Lee Grasfeder” moves ahead of “Mike Miller” at center. Dietzel will depend upon Halfbacks “Ken Waldrop” and “Paul Stanley”, who get to the line fast enough for the inside shots, and “Ray Paske”, a punishing fullback. At quarterback he will choose between “Dick Eckert”, an accurate passer when he is physically right, and “Joe Blackgrove”, who can’t throw but can run.
Dietzel has changed the old Army game. Urgent on defense, quiet on offense, the Cadets will win more games.
Dietzel was seen as a savior, a former Duke player who had transferred to Miami (Ohio) and who had the pedigree of having been an assistant to both Blaik at West Point and Bear Bryant at Kentucky. When he became the head man at a slumping LSU, he didn’t fare well his first three seasons but in 1958, his unique three-squad rotation which gained fame with the defensive specialists known as The Chinese Bandits, won the National Championship. He was still going strong at 9-1 and a number four national ranking in ’61 and although an Army Air Force veteran, was the first non-West Point grad to become the head coach there.
Known for his emphasis on defense, Dietzel’s ’62 squad shut out two opponents and just missed blanking three more in a 6-4 season that unfortunately included a loss to Navy and their soph QB Roger Staubach. DE “Chet Kempinski” led the charge but the offense was often spotty.
The big change in ’63 mirrored the institution of new NCAA substitution rules which meant the demise of the three-team rotation. Carl “Rollie Stichweh” from Mineola (Long Island) High School was moved from DB to QB to make use of his great speed. Teaming in the backfield with HB and leading rusher “John Seymour” and FB-wingback “Don Parcells” (whose older brother Duane Charles, better known as “Bill Parcells” would later figure in the history of Army football and beyond) the offense still could not match the defense. The result was an improved 7-3 mark that still noted a loss to the Staubach-led Middies.
Facing an oft-injured Staubach and a mediocre Navy team finally brought victory for Dietzel in ’64 in an 11-8 match-up but the 4-6 record was a definite disappointment. He tried a version of the three-team rotation with Stichweh turning in an outstanding season at QB and Parcells a regular at FB. “Sam Champi” provided the end play but the Cadets were again short on offense. Switching to the I-Formation in order to face a more formidable schedule in 1965, the new offense had to try to make-do with an entirely new backfield. It didn’t and the record remained at a mediocre 4-5-1. Champi again was a stalwart at end. The defense held steady behind the play of LB “Townsend Clark” but Dietzel realized that this was not the West Point he had served at as an assistant. The national discord brought by the conflict in Viet Nam was preventing many eligible student-athletes from enrolling and the pool of available talent was at its nadir. Just prior to the start of spring practice, Dietzel announced his resignation and bolted for the head coach and athletic director positions at the University Of South Carolina.
Freshmen team coach Tom Cahill stepped up to fill the void for ’66’s spring practice and did such a good job of it that the Academy brass named him the head coach for the upcoming season. Cahill had come up through the high school coaching ranks, first at upstate New York’s Manlius High School and then at River Dell High School in New Jersey where his most famous pupil was “Bill Parcells”. Cahill came to the Academy as their Plebe coach in ’59 under Dale Hall and was retained by Dietzel. Cahill in turn hired Parcells as an assistant as soon as he was named head coach. Finally blending enough offense with a very good defense led by LB Townsend Clark, Cahill’s “secret to success” in a National Coach Of The Year 8-2 performance was nurturing ECAC Soph Of The Year QB “Steve Lindell” and teaming him with the rushes of FB “Charles Jarvis”.
Despite a loss to Navy, 1967’s repeat 8-2 record marked Cahill as a miracle-worker. QB Lindell threw for over a 50% completion rate and FB Jarvis piled up 780 yards and eight TD’s. The defense was never outclassed with “Ken Johnson” a fearsome linebacker and tackle “Steve Yarnell” outstanding performers. Cahill’s ’68 defense remained stout as the Black Knights Of The Hudson compiled a 7-3 record which kept them near the top of the competitive Eastern Independents that included Penn State, Syracuse, Boston College, Pitt, Navy, and Army as the major players in this grouping. A continuing lack of depth may have contributed to the close 28-24 loss at Penn State but OT “Bill Jackson” and DT “Steve Yarnell” played well throughout. Again, FB Jarvis and LB Johnson were the standouts.