October 4, 1924 The Season Begins with Valparaiso
The 1924 team had only 21 members, a definite reflection of the "freshman rule." This is an original photo from Red Robertson which he had for years on his sun porch wall. Red Roberts, the 1924 freshman coach who also assisted on the varsity, is far right, 2nd row. Happy Chandler, later Kentucky's 44th and 49th Governor, a United States Senator and Baseball Commissioner from 1945-51, was an assistant coach under Chief Myers during 1924 and is far right, 3rd row.
The NCAA rules committee met during the winter after the 1923 season and decided that the "man in motion" would no longer be allowed. Previously, a member of the backfield could start running before the ball was centered. This gave him a jump on the defense as he had momentum before the defense could adjust.
Centre's offense had a great number of its plays designed around one or more of the backs being "in motion." That was why center Red Weaver, and following Red, Ed Kubale, had been such vital parts of the Colonels' attack.
Now, Centre would have to revamp its offense. Of course, other teams would have to do the same, but everyone who knew football realized that much of Centre's offensive potency came from the precision of its "man in motion" plays. The team had spent hours each week just working on timing. Now, it would take some time to adapt. The Chief was fortunate to have Covey and several experienced backs returning, but even with the veterans, it was going to take awhile to "unlearn" past habits.
The Chief was able to be on campus when practice began, having simply put his chautauqua duties aside. He knew now that he was the head coach, he could no longer be a "part-timer" in Danville, as before. When the players returned, they found that the "Sloganmeister," as German professor, Dr. Max Diez, sometimes called the Chief, had been at work in the dressing room.
There were still the words that had first been used back at Fort Worth North Side:
But now there were Chief's additional motivational messages painted on boards and placed around the locker room.
YOU CAN'T FIGHT LIKE A MAN WITH LESS THAN 100% LOYALTY AND TEAM SPIRIT
YOU CAN'T DO YOURSELF JUSTICE UNLESS YOU GET AND STAY IN CONDITION
OFFENSE MEANS GO HARD AND BLOCK, DEFENSE MEANS CHARGE AND FIGHT
YOU BETRAY A TRUST WHEN YOU FAIL TO GIVE IT YOUR ALL WHETHER IN PRACTICE OR IN THE GAME
REMEMBER, IF YOU FIGHT AS BROTHERS, NOTHING CAN BEAT YOU
REMEMBER, YOU WIN GAMES ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE, NOT ON YOURS
The seniors read the Chief's slogans and drilled into the newly arrived freshmen that these weren't mere words painted on placards, but were the very reason that Centre had become a power in college football.
"The Chief has always been a winner. If you want to succeed, you read these signs every day until you dream about nothing else, and you- freshman- you'll be a winner! You are now- Centre!!"
They truly believed, as the unfolding of the season would prove so conclusively.
The season opener was with Bill Shadoan's Valparaiso (Indiana) team. Shad had taken over the Valpo program, which was sinking, after having been a star lineman at Centre during the 1921-22 seasons, leaving Centre due to financial strains. He had quickly turned the situation around, going 4-2-1 in 1923. He also had been extremely successful as the school's basketball coach, even though he didn't play basketball at Centre. During the 1923-24 round ball campaign, his team had won 22 straight in going 24-4 for the season.
The 1924 Valparaiso "Crusaders" with Coach Bill Shadoan, former Centre lineman ( 12 )
Shadoan was but one of many Colonels who had gotten into coaching. Matty Bell went to TCU where he was joined by Bill James. Bo had signed on at Centenary and brought Army in to assist him. Tom Moran was hired by Carson-Newman. Ed Diddle went to Western Kentucky. Red Weaver was coaching in West Virginia and Red Roberts had spent a year in Pennsylvania, and now was coming back to Centre as freshman coach.
Ben Cregor had put in time at Centre and was following Uncle Charlie to Bucknell.
Shadoan's 1924 Valparaiso team was such an unknown to the Colonels that the local Danville papers referred to the "Crusaders" as "the mystery team." The local publisher for the game's programs was also in the dark and didn't know how to print the Valpo lineup for the game because no roster was provided. The "Advocate" and "Messenger" both stated that they regretted they couldn't give a "preview" of the season opener because they didn't have any information to pass on except, "Centre's coaches know that Bill Shadoan will bring a team to Danville which will give the Colonels a real fight."
Valparaiso opened the 1924 campaign against Elmhurst College, a liberal arts school in metropolitan Chicago which was only in its 5th year of competing on the gridiron.
Shad's team won easily, 33-0.
Just before the game with Valpo, the Chief received an urgent message by telegram from Chicago regarding his chautauqua business that demanded his attention, "Immediately." He had to rush back to his office and turned the team over to his assistant, Coach Ofstie. Complicating things for Centre also was the fact that two starters, Case Thomasson and Elmer Rabenstein, had injuries which would prevent them from seeing any action.
The starters for the Valparaiso game were:
Position Name Weight Class
LEFT END CLIFTON "HENNIE" LEMON 175 SR.
LEFT TACKLE WALTER SKIDMORE 175 JR.
LEFT GUARD FRANK RUBARTH 170 SR.
CENTER ED KUBALE 180 SR.
RIGHT GUARD ALEX BUSH 175 SOPH.
RIGHT TACKLE HOWARD LYNCH 180 SR.
RIGHT END GEORGE McCLURE 180 SOPH.
QUARTERBACK HERB COVINGTON 160 SR.
LEFT HALF REGINALD WILSON 154 SOPH.
RIGHT HALF ROBERT WALLACE 160 JR.
FULLBACK MINOS GORDY 190 SR.
Centre's officials were pleased with the attendance for the season opener. Valpo was too far away to bring any fans and certainly wasn't a big name which would attract Centre's alumni from out in the state. The 4,000 who witnessed the game were primarily composed of locals and students from Centre and K.C.W.
What they saw was a hard fought game in which Centre dominated but couldn't score. Valpo never got closer that the Colonels' 35, and picked up only 5 first downs, two due to penalties on Centre.
The Colonels' were able to pick up 8 first downs, none by penalty, and got close enough for Hennie Lemon to attempt 4 field goals. Two missed badly. Two missed barely. The game ended, 0-0.
A less than stellar opening of the season
It wasn't exactly an auspicious start, but Bill Shadoan had prepared his "mystery team" well, and the "Crusaders" went on to post a 4-3-2 record for the season.
THE GAME THAT WASN'T- CARSON-NEWMAN OCTOBER 11, 1924
The archives for Carson-Newman list Tom Moran as the coach for 1924, but he wasn't. According to what I was told by Tom's daughter Ann, he had been replaced by a recent graduate of the school named Lake Russell, who was related in some way to the college's president.
During the week after the Valpo game, Centre received a letter from one of its alums who lived in Syracuse. It contained a clipping from the Syracuse "Journal" stating that four young men from the city were playing football down in the South at a small college named Carson-Newman. The article pointed out that three of them had played for the Syracuse Orange the previous year.
Carson-Newman was asked by Centre to wire a list of players who were eligible to play football and would be coming to Danville. When the dean, Dr. John D. Everett, responded, his wire revealed there were no players listed as being from Syracuse, and a follow-up phone call to the dean established that there weren't even any students enrolled who were from Syracuse, playing football or not.
Centre became suspicious that something strange was going on.
After the Carson-Newman team got to Danville on the Friday before the game, a Centre supporter checked the registration cards at the Gilcher Hotel and found no one had listed Syracuse as their hometown.
Coach Lake Russell was asked to meet with Dr. Montgomery and members of the Centre athletic board.
"Do you have players on your team who are from Syracuse?"
“Yes, we have three players from that city.”
"Are they students who are enrolled in classes?"
"My understanding is they are, yes sir."
"Did you know that your dean, John D. Everett, says that there are no students from Syracuse enrolled in classes at Carson-Newman?"
Coach Russell had no answer. It was apparent to Centre that the Praying Parsons were bringing in "ringers" to try to register a win which could put their program on the map.
Centre cancelled the game. October 11 is listed as an open date. It was 1948 before the two colleges played again.
TRANSYLVANIA STEPS BACK INTO THE PICTURE-OCTOBER 18, 1924
Centre's next game was with old in-state rival, Transylvania. It was 45 years ago that the two colleges had first met, and the 1924 contest was the first since the 98-0 pasting in 1921 which caused Transy's administration to have its football team take a breather for a couple of years after five straight defeats by a combined 302-3 score.
The schedule had been made out so that the Colonels would have three relatively easy games prior to going to New York to take on West Virginia on October 25. Things hadn't exactly worked out as planned. Valparaiso proved tougher than expected. The Carson Newman game was cancelled. At least Transy would play the role that had allowed it to be penciled in for the October 18 game in Danville.
"Roundy" Rabenstein and Case Thomasson were healthy again and back in the lineup.
Centre won easily, 43-0.
A reporter apparently felt that by "only" losing 43-0, Transy had scored a moral victory.
Fighting gallantly against a much superior team, Transylvania held the Centre College football team to 6 touchdowns and a field goal in a game played Saturday afternoon. Things have changed a lot since 1921. Then, Centre ran over a hapless Crimson crew, running the score up to 98 points, and devoted the later part of the game to practicing drop kicks and not attempting to make touchdowns.
The Chief played each of the 25 men who had dressed for the game.
Covington scored 3 times, with one being on a pass from Rabenstein. Lemon, Rabenstein and Gordy also scored. Lemon kicked a field goal and he and Covey each kicked two extra points.
Centre was 1-0-1.
The coaching staff had concern about taking on the Mountaineers of West Virginia with only two games having been played. However, the Transy game had given the subs some experience, and the team came out of the contest with no injuries.
It became unseasonably cold after the Transylvania game which prompted a story in Centre's newspaper.
The Centre College "Cento" was put out by the students. It cost $1.00 annually. The paper was very supportive of the college as there was no adversarial relationship in the least. Nonetheless, the "Cento" sometimes used satire to point out conditions at the school which it felt should be addressed.
The First Presbyterian Church was neglectful in warming the sanctuary sufficiently one frigid morning for chapel, prompting a story from one of the "Cento's" reporters.
TERRIBLE TRAGEDY OCCURS FRIDAY
WELL LOVED CENTRE BOY MEETS UNTIMELY DEATH; MOURNED BY ALL
A pall was cast over the entire student body of Centre College Friday morning following the announcement of the death of one of the best loved boys in the entire school, Rodney Piffiick McNutt.
McNutt came to school on the morning of his death in the best of health, but the frigid atmosphere in the chapel was too much for the frail lad, and he slipped into a doze from which he never awoke. Jack Rowland, who was sitting next to the late McNutt in chapel, stated that he himself was asleep as was his usual habit, but well wrapped in three overcoats, and thus did not notice the cold so much. He is suffering from a nervous breakdown caused by the shock of awakening and finding McNutt stone cold dead at the close of the chapel service.
Rodney McNutt was born at Avenstone, Kentucky, just eighteen years ago and came from the famous Kentucky McNutts. His career at Centre, though short, was brilliant, enhanced by his ability to shoot craps.
There was a statement issued by Centre's dean of students which concluded by saying, "At least he didn't die of starvation."
Young McNutt has three brothers who plan to come to Centre in the future and see if they too can die from freezing. It looks likely that they will be successful in their endeavor.