Category Archives: Coaches

Rich Ellerson

West Point’s 36th Head Football Coach

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Morris Touchstone

Army Lacrosse Coach

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Col Blaik

Peter Vann ‘s explanation of Lombardi’s Royal “3Fs”; comments about schooling by Vince Lombardi and a letter by Vince’s Son indicating that because of Peter’s success his Dad was able to climb the professional ranks – – is at Peter Vann.

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Col Blaik Looks at Upcoming Season

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Oscar Gallman

Cold Blooded Determination

Coach Gallman and 62 Team Captain Ed Brown

Army Rifle Team Coach 1953 to 1963

Earned 11 President’s Hundred Medals

Retired as a Sergeant Major at West Point in 1963. Fought with the 2d Armored Division in World War II. “Hell on Wheel” patch on shoulder.

Vince Lombardi

Coach Lombardi left West Point after the success of the 1953 Season. A lineman in his playing days, Lombardi’s real success at Army came from the offense he crafted as the Backfied Coach. He was hired by the Giants in ’54 for the position now known as an Offensive Coordinator. In 1958 he left for Greenbay.

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Herman Hickman

The Tennessee Terror

By Mike Gershman

Few men can recite Victorian poetry, wrestle professionally, and coach All-American linemen, but Herman Hickman managed it all with aplomb.

Once described as looking like “Friar Tuck in a high school production of Robin Hood,” Hickman pioneered special teams, was an All-America lineman, and turned out half a dozen more to pave the way for Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis at West Point.

Born in Johnson City, Tennessee, Herman Michael Hickman played fullback at Chattanooga’s swanky Baylor School before entering the university. A small sophomore tackle (5’10”, 203), Hickman switched to guard as a junior and became a standout; however, he had impressed only Grantland Rice enough to be named to an All-America team his senior year.

Then Tennessee played New York University in a charity game at Yankee Stadium. Early in the game, NYU got to the Volunteers’ 5-yard line and ran four plays right at Hickman; they surrendered the ball at the 23, and football writers scrambled to change their All-America ballots. When one said Hickman was “the best guard the South ever produced,” Coach General Bob Neyland snarled, “Herman Hickman is the greatest guard football has ever known.”

After graduation, Hickman won All-League honors with the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers and wrestled professionally as “The Tennessee Terror.” He spent five years at North Carolina State as a line coach (and also lectured on Rudyard Kipling) before moving to West Point,

in five seasons at Army, he developed six All-Americas — center “Casimir Myslinski”, tackles “Tex Coulter” and Al Nemetz, and guards “Joe Stanowicz”, Jack Green, and Joe Steffy.

Hickman became Yale’s head coach in 1948 and, used to larger linemen, immediately dubbed his troops “The Seven Dwarfs.” The next morning, all seven wore strips of tape on their helmets, that read “Sleepy,” “Dopey,” “Bashful,” etc. Captain Levi Jackson, Yale’s first black player, went along with the gag; his strip read, “Snow White.”

Even though Hickman’s teams rarely finished above .500 he had a successful 1950 because Yale beat Harvard, 29-6, in The Game. He said, “We needed that one. It fits into my policy of keeping the alumni sullen but not mutinous.”

When mutiny began to stir, Hickman resigned and became a regular on the Celebrity Time TV game show and a football columnist for Sports Illustrated. A member of AP’s Mid-Century Team selected in 1950, he was named to the Knoxville Journal’s All-Time Tennessee team just before his death in 1958 from surgical complications.

Herman Michael Hickman, Jr.

Guard – Tennessee

HS: Johnson City (TN); Baylor Prep (Chattanooga, TN)

Born: 10/1/1911, Johnson City, TN

Died: 4/25/1958, Washington, DC

1958 Football Team and Undefeated Season

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Bob Knight

awaiting data

Chris Stanat

Coach Stanat

He earned 2 Monograms in Football

Chris Stanat played only sparingly in his final year at fullback, but he did score a couple of touchdowns in games Army had in hand. He felt honored, he said, to be included in discussions of Army football these many years later.

He went on to point out that, as a young USMC officer, he was undefeated coaching teams on Okinawa that beat the best the regional Army teams could offer. The details are actually pretty impressive.

Leroy Aliz

I do not know how much of an influence Coach Alitz had on my character. I am not so sure I would have graduated if it were not for Army Wrestling and Coach Alitz. I remember how I felt when he smiled at one of my comments or at something I did. I know how I felt when the night before the match he told me we had to have my win and I failed losing on points. (Army 14 — Lehigh 19). I know how I felt when he put an arm around me as I walked off the mat after bridging for 9 minutes in a loss to an All American. I know how I felt when he put an arm around me and said thanks for my contribution to a win over Navy. (Army 15 — Navy 14) I know that — when after he had repeatedly given me a fresh man every 3 minutes, yelled at me “Hold your head up” as I sucked in huge gulps of fowl air steaming from under my rubber jacket and then as I sat dejected against the wall, came over sat down next to me, put and arm around me, asked me about academics, — he made me just want to give more. Each morning I go to the Y for my routine — I think of him.

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Coach Maloney

Gymnastics coach

Mike Krzyzewski

Army Basketbll Coach

Dale Hall

Football Coach 1959 – 1961

Dale S. Hall 1945 – by E. Douglas Kenna

Dale Stanley Hall (June 21, 1924 – August 23, 1996) was an American football and basketball player and coach. He played football and basketball at the United States Military Academy, where he was a two-time All-American in basketball and was named the Sporting News Men’s College Basketball Player of the Year in 1945. Hall served as the head football coach at West Point from 1959 to 1961, compiling a record of 16-11-2. He was also the head basketball coach at the University of New Hampshire during the 1951-52 season, tallying a mark of 11-9. source: wiki

Kansas Sports Hall of Fame: Hall, Dale, Inducted 2004
There have been many great all-around athletes in Kansas high school history, and Dale Hall was certainly one of them. He was first-team all-state in both football and basketball at Parsons High School – as a junior and a senior – and is the only person in Kansas to receive that honor.
Career Highlights
Hall led the Southeast Kansas League in scoring in both football and basketball for three seasons and held the Parsons High School records for career points in basketball (1,158) and career touchdowns in football (35) more than 60 years after leaving the school.
Hall at West Point
At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., Hall was a Helms Foundation All-American basketball first-team selection in 1944 and 1945 and led Army to a 29-1 record, averaging 23 points a game. He scored 23 touchdowns for the 1944 national champion football team and shared the backfield with a pair of Heisman Trophy winners, Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, who won the trophy the following two seasons. Hall graduated first in a West Point class of over 800 in athletic skills and had a vertical leap of 39 inches. He earned seven letters in three sports at Army and was a 4.0 student. Hall succeeded the legendary Earl “Red” Blaik as Army’s football coach in 1959 and led his team to a 17-11-2 record in three seasons.
He is the only Parsons H.S. football player to have his number retired.

Dale Hall: Forgotten Athlete: Parsons Product Sparkled At Army
Lawrence Journal World, Oct 13 1996

Good summary of Dale Hall and his Army teams



Sport articles provided by Russ “Skip” Grimm – Class of ’76

Dale S. Hall 1945 – by E. Douglas Kenna

DALE HALL arrived at West Point in July 1942 with a big smile; a high school sweetheart in Parsons, KS; and a pocket of scoring records in football and basketball that still stand today. Entering the Academy straight from Parsons High School, he graduated three years later with the same big smile, ranked in the top 25% of his class, captained the basketball team, won the Army Athletic Association saber as the best athlete in his class, and married his sweetheart on 17 Jun 1945.

Dale’s varied and eminently successful career after graduation was shaped by his integrity, intelligence, good humor, loyalty, and extreme competitiveness. Those qualities carried him swiftiy to leadership positions in the Army, athletics, business, and religious life.

Dale was born in Pittsburg, KS. He later moved to Parsons where he attended high school. Considered the greatest all-around athlete ever in the state, he was elected to the Kansas State High School Hall of Fame in 1993. He received an appointment to West Point, entering in July 1942.

At West Point, Dale Hall excelled in three sports: football, basketball, and tennis. He was a first team halfback on the 1944 National Championship football team, was captain and a first team All-American basketball player in 1945, and played singles and doubles on the undefeated 1945 Army tennis team. He later was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame. He also devoted sufficient time convincing his coaches and fellow cadets that it was possible to enjoy life at West Point.

After graduation and marriage to Laura Faye Stevenson in June 1945, he went to the Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. V-J Day occurred while Dale was at Ft. Knox, and he was assigned to the 42d Cavalry Squadron, 4th Armored Division in Germany in September 1945. Combining military and athletic activity, he later coached the Second Constabulary Regiment to the European Football Championship in 1947. Dale and Faye spent four years in the beautiful Alpine region of Southern Bavaria. Fast friends made during those years earned friends of the Halls all of their lives.

Dale resigned his commission in 1949 and began his football coaching career at Purdue University. While an assistant there, he received a master’s degree in physical education in 1951.

He spent five years at New Hampshire and Florida as an assistant football coach and also was the head basketball coach at New Hampshire. He returned to West Point in 1956 as backfield coach for his mentor, Earl Blaik, whom he idolized.

Upon Blaik’s retirement following the 1958 season, Dale was selected as head coach. Earl Blaik remarked at the time that “Dale Hall and Vince Lombardi had the two best football minds” that he had encountered during his illustrious career.

While coaching at West Point, Dale developed a warm friendship with GEN Douglas MacArthur and spent many happy hours with him. Leaving an outstanding coaching record of 16-11-2 at West Point, Dale entered the business world with the Corning Glass Company. Within a year, he was promoted to general manager of one of Comingâ•˙s largest plants located in Rhode Island.

He later served as administrative director of The Butler Service Group; president of the Thunderbird Boat Company in Miami; president of Pool Boys, Inc., Sun Products Company; president of his own educational training company; president of James Ffyfe Export/Import Company; and as an associate of the Van Houten Real Estate Company. In business, he was an inspirational leader and specialized in reviving troubled companies.

Strong family ties were the hallmark of Dale’s life. After retirement to Sea Colony in Palm Coast, FL, the Halls devoted most of their time to their three daughters and eight grandchildren, visiting frequently and being totally involved in their lives.

One of Dale’s greatest joys was that his grandson, Daniel Grieve, was admitted to West Point in 1996.

After 49 years of marriage, Faye Hall died on 24 Aug 1994. They had been very active in the Trinity Presbyterian Church for several years, with Dale serving as an elder and Bethel Bible teacher. The church became an increasingly important part of their lives in retirement.

At church and at Sea Colony, they both had been close friends of Marcia Kelly, who later became Dale’s second wife. She is a gracious, warm, and loving person and they were beginning to enjoy a life of leisure, travel, and church work when Dale was stricken on 23 Aug 1996. She continues to live in their home in Sea Colony.

Dale is survived by his wife Marcia; sisters Helen and Lucille; daughters Laura Jean Grieve, Susan Wells, and Janet Uhal; and eight grandchildren.

Dale was blessed by many things in his life. We were all blessed to have been his friend, companion, admirer, and classmate.

E. Douglas Kenna

Jim Young

Jim Young became a hero at West Point when he built Army back into a winner after more than a decade of despair. When Young arrived as head coach in 1983, Army had won more than four games only once in the previous 11 years. Young didn’t fare any better his first season (2-9). But after installing a ground-oriented attack in 1984, Army football took off.
Young had only one more losing season before retiring after a 30-20 victory over Navy in 1990, his 51st win at West Point, third-most in academy history.






Sports articles provided by Russ “Skip” Grimm – Class of ’76

Eric Tipton

Baseball & Lightweight Football Coach

A Moment Please

Star Athlete and Coach Eric “Red” Tipton 1915-2001: National College Football Hall of Fame also honored at Duke, William and Mary, and Army. One of fifteen College FB Hall of Fame men who also played ML Baseball – in the top half in seasons (7) and games played (501). A star running back and punter at Duke 1936-1938: 25-4-1 team record, two Southern Conference titles..rushed for 1,633 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. Named a First Team or second team All-America
halfback in 1938.

Duke’s 1938 team went undefeated 9-0-0, and remarkably, did not allow a single point during the season! Lost 7-3 to USC in the 1939 Rose Bowl game one of college footballs most historic games. The most memorable performance of Tiptons football career was the final game of the 1938 season – Duke took on #4 Pittsburgh in freezing, snowy conditions. In the 7-0 win, Tipton kept the powerhouse Pitt offense bottled up with 14 punts inside the 20, including seven of them inside the 10.

Chose a career in pro baseball – 7 seasons in the major leagues with the Philadelphia Athletics and Cincinnati Reds- hit .270 with 22 homers and 151 RBIs in 501 career games. “In 1626 career at-bats in the Major Leagues, he struck out only 127 times (about 7.8%). He finished his career with a .270 batting average (the league average during his career was .265), a .360 on-base percentage, 22 home runs, 151 runs batted in, 20 steals (he was never caught stealing), and a .977 fielding percentage.”

Was an assistant football coach at William and Mary and then hired by Army’s Earl ‘Red” Blaik in 1957 as varsity baseball coach and head coach of the new 150-pound Lightweight Football team. In 20 seasons his baseball teams were 234-201-5 with 3 league titles. In Lightweight FB he was 104-14-1 – a .878 winning percentage with 13 league titles – still unmatched or surpassed!



















1976_ Eric Tipton -100th_101476_NewYorkTimes-1






Excellent bio at

Text and sports articles from Russ Grimm known better as Skip – Class of 1976

Leading 14 to zero it was 4th Down, on their own 38. The play had been sent in. They were operating out of the Texas Wishbone and the 150 quarterback saw that the middle was clogged with defenders. He checked off to a slant pass to his wide open split end. Ten men momentarily stiffened, for if the play failed, each knew they would all be in for punishing comments. Number 51 snapped him the ball, as he raised up to pass Coach Tipton nearly swallowed his cigar; but then was to never say a word as Donnie took the pass for 61 yards to the 1 yard line. The Army defense led by numbers 83 & 67 dominated the field. Number 40 piled up yards resulting in a 41 to 0 score. Glynn Mallory a 150 player, Class of 61 enjoyed the humor when Mrs. Tipton ordered Crab Cakes that evening in Annapolis.

The 1973 Team is at

Doug Blubaugh

Assistant Army Wrestling Coach Late 50s – Early 60s

Doug was to say later “If it were not for Al Rushatz I would never have won my Olypmic Gold Medal”. Al was a Plebe & Yearling who Doug practiced against.

In the shadowed ruins of Rome’s ancient Basilica, Doug Blubaugh battled the world champion from Iran for the Olympic gold medal. Emamali Habibi had never known defeat.
Three times the Persian attacked, each time throwing the young American into danger. Then a swift counterattack from Blubaugh hurled his opponent to his back … suddenly the struggle was ended.
Thus did an Oklahoma farm boy reach the apex of a brilliant athletic career, earning the 1960 Olympic gold medal at 160.5 pounds, and with it recognition as the outstanding wrestler in the world.

Jim Young

Football Coach

Earl Blaik

Earl Blaik’s Teams – National Champions in 1944, 45, 46, Winners of the Lambert Trophy in 1944, 45, 46, 53, and in 58. He was selected Coach of the Year in 1946 and College Coach of the Year in 1953.

Col Blaik – the 1953 Win over Navy – ‘The Return to Glory”

Football’s Greatest Decade – – by Bernie Mcarty

This writer believes West Point 1945 is the greatest team of all time. The 1944 Army team may actually deserve that title, but it was never tested. Army was also undefeated in 1946, 1948 and 1949.

Army’s top stars during 1945-1949 were the effulgent “Touchdown Twins”, Glenn Davis and “Doc” Blanchard, Arnold Tucker, Arnold Galiffa, “Rip” Rowan, Bobby Jack Stuart and Gil Stephenson in the back-field, and up front Joe Steffy, Art Gerometta, Jack Green, Bill Yoemans, Joe Henry “Tex” Coulter, Al Nemetz, and the sterling end duo of Hank Foldberg and Barney Poole.

In 1945 the Newspaper Enterprise Assoc. simply picked the entire Army team as its All-American team, stating no group of All-Americans could beat the Cadets.

Only a world war could have brought together such a collection of players to one institution. But it took the coaching genius of Col. Earl Blaik to mold the players into a cohesive unit.

In truth, Navy personnel was equal to Army’s on an individual basis. The Middies never jelled as a team, however.

The 1951 Army outfit might have been as good as the 1945 Cadets, but the
infamous cribbing scandal wiped out the team.

Joe Steffy said Col Blaik remembered 2 plays that stoodout as special. One was the 93 yard touchdown by Rip Rowan in the A-N game.

The other was a touchdown run to win the game against Navy in 1955. RB Pete Lash ran for 30-40 yards to paydirt during which every Navy player had a shot at him, but he run through them all. Joe said that Lash was a walk-on. Small and played high school FB; Joe said he really did not have the attributes of a great player. BUT, he was tenacious and worked harder than anyone on the team. He succeeded in making the starting team his Firstie year. Went on to become a three star general.

Cadet Blaik – probably 1919 Season

Peter Vann ‘s explanation of Lombardi’s Royal “3Fs”; comments about schooling by Vince Lombardi and a letter by Vince’s Son indicating that because of Peter’s success his Dad was able to climb the professional ranks – – is at Peter Vann.

By WILLIAM N. WALLACE (as edited)
Published: May 7, 1989

Col Blaik was the head football coach at the United States Military Academy, his alma mater, for 18 seasons, 1941 to 1958, and directed a series of superb teams. His teams were named national champions in 1944 and 1945.

See page 88 —,M1

Col Blaik, Army Football Team and the Corps of Cadets

Col Blaik – Coach and Athletic Director

Three of his players – Doc Blanchard, Glenn Davis and Pete Dawkins – won the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s outstanding collegiate player, while Joe Steffy was the only Outland Trophy Winner. Many of his players were All-America selections.

Although a civilian coach and athletic director in his years at West Point, he was always addressed as Colonel, his retirement rank as a reserve officer.

His darkest time came in 1951, when 5l football players were among 90 cadets dismissed from the Academy for violations of the honor code. One was his son, Robert, the starting quarterback. Col Blaik at the urging of General MacArthur chose to stay on at West Point and rebuild the program. That he did, and by 1953 the Army team again was one of the best.

Mr. Blaik’s record at Army was 121 victories, 33 defeats and 10 ties with five unbeaten seasons. He had only one losing season, 1951.

Mr. Blaik graduated from Miami University in his native Ohio and entered the Academy during World War I. He was an All-America End, receiving a degree in 1920, and was named the best athlete in his class.

He resigned from the Army in 1922 and joined his father in a real-estate business in Dayton. He turned to coaching as an unpaid assistant of George Little, who had been his Miami coach, at Wisconsin in 1925. Mr. Blaik went to Army as an assistant coach in 1927 and became head coach at Dartmouth in 1934. His teams there were unbeaten through 21 games, the first of several such streaks for him.

West Point called in 1941 after a series of losing seasons under officer coaches, and he took command.

Col Blaik brought a cerebral approach to football and was an inventive organizer. He kept his distance from the players and chose wisely in naming assistants. Many of them, including Tom Cahill, Paul Dietzel, Sid Gillman, Herman Hickman, Vince Lombardi, Murray Warmath and Bill Yeoman, became successful head coaches.

Col Blaik – 1947

He could be inspiring. Bob Anderson, a fine running back, told of the time Mr. Blaik called him out of the barracks two nights before the Navy game and took him for a walk. Mr. Blaik told young Anderson he would be the key player against Navy. ”I was ready to run through a wall,” said Bob, who turned out to be the hero in the victory.

Col. Blaik’s teams were in many famous games. In 1935, a Dartmouth team beat Yale for the first time; another of his Dartmouth teams upset Cornell in the famous ”fifth-down game” in 1940. There was the 0-0 tie Army played with Notre Dame in 1946, and the end of a 32-game unbeaten streak in a defeat by Columbia in 1947.

Mr. Cahill, who was Army’s coach from 1966 to 1973, said of “Col” Blaik”: ”His impact on the game was outstanding. No one had greater respect. He was caring and kind to everyone and he felt very strongly about West Point and the Army.”

Coach Earl Red Blaik is survived by two sons, Robert and William. He will be buried at West Point.

Published: October 1, 1995

There they were, the fabled Mr. Inside, Doc Blanchard, and Mr. Outside, Glenn Davis, standing in front of the grave of their coach, Col. Earl (Red) Blaik, not far from Michie Stadium, where they became perhaps the greatest running tandem in college football history.

West Point

There, too, at the West Point Cemetery stood Barney Poole, who may have been the only player to have been named an all-American at two different schools: the United States Military Academy and the University of Mississippi. Close by were three other former all-Americans: guard Joe Steffy, who lives only 13 miles away in Newburgh, and quarterbacks Doug Kenna and Arnold Tucker.

Fifty years after winning the second of three consecutive national championships on what Blaik proclaimed as his best team ever, Davis, Blanchard, Poole, Steffy, Kenna, Tucker and 41 other players from the 1940’s — the glory days of Army football — were reunited today under a brilliant sky. Among them were 6 retired generals, including Blanchard, and 16 colonels.

In a weekend celebration that began with a reception aboard the 154-foot yacht Taipan on the Hudson River on Friday night, the players, along with five former team managers and three coaches, began the day with the visit to Blaik’s grave. There, Davis and the retired four-star Gen. Bennie Davis, a tackle on Army’s unbeaten 1948 and 1949 teams, laid a wreath beside Blaik’s football-shaped tombstone. Acting as a spokesman for the players, Kenna, the quarterback of the ’44 team, told the morning gathering of about 150 that Blaik was “the most challenging and demanding person I have ever met, but also the most caring person I ever knew.”

From Blaik’s gravesite, the returning players were bused to The Plain, the Academy parade ground, where they stood as guests of honor at the traditional pre-game march of the Corps of Cadets. Later, they were introduced to the near-capacity crowd of 39,069 at halftime of the Army-Rice game, which ended in a 21-21 tie when the Army place-kicker J. Parker kicked a 44-yard field goal as time ran out. As a further tribute to the former players, the current team wore “throwback” jerseys similar to those worn by the great Army teams of the ’40’s.

“It was a wonderful period that I’ll never forget,” said Davis, now 70, who, like the 71-year-old Blanchard, was an all-American on the ’44, ’45 and ’46 teams. “My days at West Point stay with me everywhere I go. And they mean more than anything to me.”

Playing before the introduction of platoon football, the 6-foot, 175-pound Davis led the nation in scoring in 1944 and played safety on defense. The 6-foot, 210-pound Blanchard led the nation in scoring in 1945 and played linebacker. “I averaged 58 minutes in 1946, my last year,” recalled Davis, who also averaged 11.5 yards a carry in 1945 and whose 8.26 yard career rushing average is still a National Collegiate Athletic Association record. Together, Blanchard and Davis scored 97 touchdowns. Blanchard won the Heisman Trophy in 1945 and Davis won it in 1946.

Only a scoreless tie with a Notre Dame team led by Johnny Lujack at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 10, 1946, prevented Army from going unbeaten and untied for three straight seasons. Over that span, the Cadets won 27 games, 13 by shutout, including 59-0 and 48-0 victories over Notre Dame in 1944 and 1945. After losing two games in 1947, following the graduation of Davis, Blanchard, Tucker and Poole, the Cadets went unbeaten over the next 26 games before losing to Navy, 14-2, in the last game of the 1950 season.

For Blanchard and Davis, it marked the first time in more than a decade that they had appeared together at West Point.
It was Steffy, a regular at Army home games, who served as the catalyst for this weekend’s reunion. “We’re not getting any younger, and I thought it would be nice to get as many people as possible back from those teams in the ’40’s,” he said. “And it’s great that so many came back, including a lot who haven’t been at West Point in many years.”

For most, the weekend was as much a tribute to Blaik, a West Point graduate and the Army coach from 1941 through 1958 (when he retired after another unbeaten season), as it was to them.
“He was a super coach and a very nice person,” Steffy said of Blaik, who died in 1989. “He never, ever raised his voice.”

Maggie Dixon

Maggie Dixon contributed much to West Point athletics
By RUSTY WILKERSON — Class of 62 Can Do

Back on March 14, I wrote about my quandary when the Army women were about to meet the Lady Vols in the NCAA tournament and what I predicted would happen. As one of my readers wrote, my forecast was right on target. Army got clobbered, both teams played with heart, and Candice Parker got not one dunk but two – and I watched the whole game from start to finish.

What I didn’t foresee – and no one else did – was the sudden and unexpected death of Maggie Dixon, the Army coach, of a heart problem at 28.

I didn’t know Dixon, but like a lot of other West Point grads I followed the whole, sad saga of her death as best as I could on the West Point Web site, ESPN, etc.

In these days death is a fact of life for the cadets and faculty at West Point. That same week a young captain (and pilot of an Apache gunship) was killed in Iraq.

Somehow though, Maggie Dixon’s death was even more tragic, if that can be. After all, the military academy is in the business of training young men and women to lead our soldiers into harm’s way. But a basketball coach – and one who wasn’t much older than her players and in her first year as a head coach? It shows us how life can be totally unpredictable (and unfair).

The superintendent said she stood out as a leader in “a house of leaders” and that she left behind 20 more “Maggies.” One of her favorite comments to her players was “Adversity, ladies, learn to deal with it.” From their comments at her funeral and memorial services, she has made a lasting impression on all of them that they will carry for the rest of their lives – not a bad thing for someone starting a military career.

I would bet they’ll be the team to beat in the Patriot League next year. Instead of winning one “for the Gipper,” it’ll be “win this one for Maggie.”

But why, other than the obvious sadness of a life cut so short, the major impact on the West Point community and, more to the point, someone like me, who is so far removed? I’m a little slow, but I finally figured it out.

Army, in the last 30 or 40 years has not been much of a “player” in the collegiate sports world as compared to the “days of old” as my kids call it. The days of the lonesome end, and Heisman award winners Dawkins, Davis and Blanchard are long gone. Most of the major stars in the world of college athletics probably couldn’t make the grades to get in one of the service academies. Even if they could, they can’t compete for the “big bucks” as a professional for five years after they graduate.

Then, not from the football field where one would expect – and seemingly out of the blue – comes a young, first-year head coach who brings, of all things, through the Army’s women’s basketball program at a predominantly male institution, excitement back into Army athletics, something no coach has been able to do in decades. (I read in one of the columns eulogizing her that she was “a Pat Summit in training.” Her brother, Jamie Dixon, coach at Pitt, said after she was buried, “They’ll never look at women the same way here.” He may be right.

Maggie Dixon was buried in the West Point Cemetery with some familiar (and not too familiar) names: Gens. Winfield Scott, George Goethals (Panama Canal), Lucius Clay, George Custer, William Westmoreland, “Molly” Corbin (“Molly Pitcher” of Revolutionary War fame), Col. Ed White (astronaut), and a lot of others that most of us have never heard about (including one of my roommates).

Maggie Dixon’s grave is next to Glenn Davis (of Davis and Blanchard fame) and Earl “Red” Blaik. Not bad company for a coach to spend eternity with!

Rusty Wilkerson is a Kingsport resident. E-mail him at Article reprinted with permission from the Kingsport Times News, Kingsport, TN.