The Chief Returns As Coach
In 1917, seven years before, Robert L. Myers had realized his long held dream of becoming the coach at his alma mater.
During his short tenure, he coached Centre College to an October 6 rout of hapless Kentucky Military Institute and a loss on October 20 to DePauw. After that defeat, the Chief decided that the school he loved so much could attain greater glory if he turned the program over to a more experienced and skilled coach, and Bob Myers stepped aside, still devoted to Centre and still helping guide the football program as Director of Athletics, never receiving, as was said at the meeting of the Southern Association of Colleges in Richmond, Virginia, "a farthing" for his efforts.
Now, the Chief had returned to Danville after learning about Uncle Charlie's resignation.
Chief Myers arrives in Danville to assist Centre in finding a new coach
He had come back to Danville in order to help Centre find a new coach, but after he returned, he realized that the players had gotten together and written up a proposal when it was realized that Bo was out of the picture for the coaching position.
The statement that they all signed was an agreement that they would return for the 1924 school year and football season and continue the proud traditions of Centre College, "if Chief Myers is appointed to be the head football coach."
Chief Myers' appointment was in response to the efforts of the returning players
The search committee and administration enthusiastically approved the players' request. The alumni and citizens of Danville and Kentucky were equally positive. Everybody loved Chief Myers.
It was official
Everything seemed to return to normal on the campus. Uncle Charlie's resignation was slowly being accepted and the finalization of Chief Myers becoming the new head coach assured that the football program was going to have continuity and flourish as everyone had hoped.
In the spring of 1924, my junior year, I finally earned my letter in baseball. Maybe it wasn't in football, but it had a gold "C" on it, and I cherished it so much that I later had the certificate on the wall in my office when I started practicing medicine in the early 1930's and have it to this day.
I was a catcher and even though I wasn't one of the 9 starters, Ben Cregor, who was our coach, got me in enough games that I qualified for my letter. Incidentally, Ben was later my broker when he was the manager at Goodbody & Company on 4th Street across from the Brown Hotel in Louisville. Whenever I'd go to Louisville in the 50's and 60's, I'd stay at the Brown and see Ben who always remained not only my financial advisor, but a good friend.
Red Robertson, far left, front row with his catcher's mitt. You can tell the starting players by their uniforms as there were only 9 of the latest type. Ben Cregor is 2nd right on the back row with sweater. Dudley Doneghy, trainer, is in the front.
Red Robertson's coveted letter certificate earned during his junior year in spring, 1924, signed by Coach Ben Cregor
The author played on the same field in the spring of 1960 and 1961 as Red Robertson had nearly 4 decades previously, also lettering and hanging the certificate on the office wall of his home.
1960 Colonels' baseball team, Rob Robertson, Jr., 1st row, 2nd from right with original Young Hall in background, the building where both Robertsons attended science classes decades apart. There were 13 members on the team and a "trainer" and manager, exactly the same number as in 1924. On the first row, far right, is John Oschner Gage, M.D., Robertson's roommate at Centre for 1 1/2 years, a far better person than player. Dr. Kern Alexander, 2nd right, top row, graduated in 1961. He has had a long career in education, serving as the president of both Western Kentucky and Murray State Universities and was presented a Distinguished Alumnus Award by Centre in 2011. He is presently Professor of Excellence at the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois School of Excellence.
The "season" was actually spring, 1960
The return of the Chief set in motion one of the great chapters in the story of Centre's football greatness- the unbelievable season of 1924.
The first thing that the Chief did was to complete his coaching staff for 1924. While Uncle Charlie let it be known that he wouldn't imperil Centre's future by going after its players, he felt no such reluctance about hiring Ben Cregor to become one of his assistants. "Baldy" was going to Bucknell after the 1924 school year ended, and Jim Kendrick had resigned his position as freshman coach. Even before Uncle Charlie's resignation, Centre had lined up Red Roberts as coach of the first year men, and to replace Cregor, the Chief hired Harold Ofstie, a University of Wisconsin star in 1911-13, who had been in coaching since his graduation from the Madison school in 1914. Ofstie's last position had been as coach of the Great Lakes Naval Station where he led his team to the championship of the service league in 1923.
With Red and Ofstie on board, the Chief turned his attention to firming up the schedule and recruiting young men to come to Centre. It must be remembered that there were no scholarships for athletics, but all schools tried to entice graduating high school students not only to attend their institution, but to participate in sports if possible.
The 8-game 1924 schedule was announced and sent out to the media.
Oct 4 Valparaiso Danville
Oct 11 Carson-Newman Danville
Oct 18 Transylvania Danville
Oct 25 West Virginia New York
Nov 1 Kentucky Lexington
Nov 8 Tennessee Knoxville
Nov 15 Alabama Birmingham
Nov 29 Georgia Danville
Toward the end of the 1924 season as it was being played, it was thought that a 9th game would be played as negotiations were going on with Notre Dame for a contest in New York. However, Notre Dame was booked weekly from October 4 to November 29. Centre had an open date November 22, but Notre Dame was locked into a game with Northwestern on that date. The only possibility for the Irish and Colonels to meet would be on the first or second Saturday in December. An organization in New York City had been actively promoting a Centre-Notre Dame game and had announced to the press that a meeting between the schools was getting close to being settled.
The Knights' invitation was eventually declined
However, both schools eventually decided they didn't want to extend their regular seasons into December, even though Notre Dame later went to the Rose Bowl on January 1, 1925, beating Stanford, 27-10.
( Notre Dame didn't go to another post-season game until January 1, 1970, when the Irish lost to Texas in the Cotton Bowl. It wasn't because the school didn't have eligible, worthy teams, but because the university discouraged any such appearances.)
The Chief sent out another one of his folksy letters on May 24, 1924.
It went out under the letterhead listing him as coach, and Harold F. Ofstie as assistant coach.
CENTRE COLLEGE OF KENTUCKY
ATHLETIC BOARD OF CONTROL
Robert. L. Myers, Head Coach Harold F. Ofstie, Assistant Coach
Have you had a chance to talk over at home about going to Centre next year? Better write to President R.A. Montgomery at Danville, Kentucky pretty soon for a catalogue so you can look over the courses. Decide as quickly as possible so you can reserve your room at Breckinridge Hall. Every year, we have a large number of applicants, and it has to be a case of first come, first served.
On the square, wouldn't you like to be seen prancing around in our big new stadium right now, kicking the dirt up on your back and maybe getting the gable end of your pants smacked around in front? By the way, we have a practice field for the varsity, another for the freshmen, the regular game field in the enclosure, all with plenty of grass. We have an "up-town" gym about forty yards from the gate. We have a houseful of equipment with plenty of new stuff coming on. We use only the best. Some of the gang look all dressed like a mule in a buggy harness, but just the same, they step high, wide, and handsome. You bet I'll be glad to crack down on the old boys again. I'll be so full of pep, I'll sound like someone tearing shingles off a roof
You'll get the same coaching as the varsity gets. Besides your own coach, there is a separate freshman schedule. Say, you ought to have seen our "fish" mop last fall ( twice on Kentucky State last year. ) They felt their oats so strong they gave the varsity the "heebie jeebies" every time they tangled up. Big boy, our freshmen are game enough to climb naked up a honey-locust tree with a wildcat under each arm; they'd fight a shark on the bottom of the ocean with an anvil in each arm, or get a hair singe in a gasoline shower. It's gotten so we've almost had to wrap burglar-proof safes around our varsity men to keep the frosh from crippling them. I'll guarantee you'll have the time of your life on Centre's yearling football team.
The Chief then typed in the upcoming varsity schedule for 1924, and continued his letter.
I've got a lot of things to talk to you about besides football about the grandest old college of them all. Meanwhile, get all set to be with us for there are wonderful things ahead of you.
Yours in Old Centre,
Robert L. Myers, head coach
In July, Chief Myers sent out another letter which closed with the following;
It's no wonder that we're feeling fine and "sittin pretty" at Centre. The old gang will all be back, the old rootin', tootin', fightin', bunch of brothers which will keep on mowin' 'em down in the future, just as they've been doing in the past, and don't let any one-hitch guy with a bee in his pants tell you any differently.
We'll be looking for you old timer. The latchstring will be on the outside, and we'll be proud to have you with us on the square. What better luck could you wish for than to be a Centre Colonel?
Finally, on August 22, the Chief sent out one more letter, this time speaking about the qualities which he felt made Centre so perfect for a young man's education.
He spoke about Centre's physical plant being up to date, how the college had the best equipment, a modem science building, a "splendid" library, and a distinguished faculty.
And then the Chief spoke from his heart, with none of the light-heartedness and cliches of his previous offerings.
Centre has the ability to fill her halls with picked men from many sections; to give them noble ideas and to send them out trained to lead in the battle of life.
Old Centre's traditions run back over a hundred years. She has had an illustrious history. Because Centre is a small college, she can teach you more of the things that you ought to know. The influence of the fine men on our faculty on your character will be pretty near the biggest thing in your life, really bigger, better, truer, than your books, your social life, or your sports.
The older I get, and the more I see of other institutions, the better I appreciate Centre. When you become a Centre man, you in a way confer knighthood upon yourself. We want you to come and be one of us and keep Old Centre's name out in front, and when you do come, we want you to keep your eye on the main things, and resolve to get everything that is good.
Hoping to welcome you to Old Centre in September, I am Sincerely,
Robert L. Myers, Head Coach
The final event of the school year was the 1924 Centre College Carnival and the choice of the King was met with enthusiasm when was it was announced.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present the King of the 1924 Centre College Carnival, the honorable Minos Thomas Gordy from Abbeville, Louisiana!"
Minos "Cajun" Gordy
The Queen was Porter Hudson, a beautiful young lady who later married Army Armstrong.