Heisman biography offers revealing history

Hopefully you saw a recent post about Bill Chastain’s book about Georgia Tech legend Clint Castleberry. I come to you with another plug for another book about a Tech legend, John Heisman, this one co-written by a friend and former AJC colleague, Mark Schlabach. I confess I read only the parts about Tech, but it provided a lot of information about Heisman that I had no idea about.

Mark wrote it with Heisman’s great nephew John M. Heisman, who had access to the coach’s papers and also interviewed people who had known his great uncle. Mark followed it up with an obviously large amount of research. If you have interest in learning more about the man for whom the most famous American sports award is named, I’d recommend it.

For example, and this is random and probably not terribly flattering, but I learned that the reason he left Tech was because of his divorce. Also, random and again not flattering, but Heisman recruited star Joe Guyon, later to become a pro football hall of famer, to Tech by offering his brother a job on the staff. (I promise the book is not a recitation of unflattering facts about Heisman. I don’t have the book in front of me and those are two I remember off the top of my head. Quite the contrary, the portrait Mark draws is of a principled coach who was ahead of his time.)

You can buy it on Amazon here. Mark, who now is a national college football columnist for ESPN and lives in Madison with his wife Heather and three children, was gracious to answer a few questions for me, included below.

Mark and his co-author, by the way, will sign copies of “Heisman: The Man Behind the Trophy” at Eagle Eye Book Shop in Decatur at 7 p.m. on Thursday. The book store is located on 2076 North Decatur Road and the phone number is 404-486-0307. If you go, I also recommend crossing Clairmont Avenue to the Mediterranean Grill for dinner.

I also suggest asking Mark about the time his dog got onto the field at Sanford Stadium during a game he was covering.

1. How did this opportunity come about?

I was approached about helping John M. Heisman, the coach’s great-nephew, finish a book about 18 months ago. The publisher, Howard Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) also published a couple of my other books over the last few years. John M. Heisman, who inherited the coach’s personal papers and original playbook, had been working on a manuscript for several years. It was really his life’s passion, and I was honored to help him finish the research and writing.

2. In getting to know Heisman through his writings and accounts from the day, what impression did you get?

The most surprising revelation was that Heisman was so much more than a football coach. He also coached baseball at Auburn, Clemson and Georgia Tech, and was briefly president of the Atlanta Crackers, a professional baseball team. He owned an advertising agency and was a syndicated newspaper columnist. While Heisman was coaching at Georgia Tech, he also traveled the country with his summer acting troupe. Although a sportswriter in the early 20th century once quipped that Heisman was “a great football coach but terrible thespian,” he actually was a very accomplished stage actor. He performed throughout the South and even had a couple of nights on Broadway. He cared about acting nearly as much as cared about coaching.

3. A story I found interesting was that he basically had to hire the brother of Joe Guyon (star of the 1917 national champion team and member of the pro football hall of fame) as an assistant coach in order to get Guyon to Tech. If that were to happen today (or, perhaps more accurately, when that happens today), it would obviously raise a lot of eyebrows. How do you place that move in context?

Georgia Tech’s assistant coaches had to persuade Heisman to bring along Guyon’s brother, which certainly would be improper under NCAA rules today and was probably unethical at the time it happened.

Guyon was a Chippewa Indian, who was born at the White Earth Indian reservation in Minnesota, who had played for Pop Warner at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania in 1912 and 1913.

Tech great Chip Robert recalled the incident in the book:

“We gave him a raincoat and a whistle that he hung ’round his neck, and we assigned a manager to keep him far away from Coach Heisman,” Robert recalled. “We wanted him out of sight, out of mind. Every so often, Coach would look down the ranks and see Joe’s brother pacing the sidelines, tooting his whistle and acting the big shot. A small scowl would begin on Coach’s face, but would soon disappear when Joe would break loose for a long run. Then, Coach would seem to almost grin, shake his head, and resume his duties.”

4. What did you learn about the 222-0 win over Cumberland that most fans wouldn’t know?

By 1916, interest in football began to wane on the Cumberland College campus. Cumberland president Samuel A. Coile resigned in the spring of 1916, and the new president, Dr. Homer Hill, eliminated funding for the varsity football team as part of budget cuts.

Heisman scheduled a game against the Bulldogs out of spite more than anything else. The Bulldogs had defeated his Georgia Tech baseball team 22–0 in the spring of 1916, and Heisman was convinced they’d used ringers to do it. He offered Cumberland College $500 to play a football game against the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta. When the Bulldogs tried to back out of the game a few months later, Heisman told them he would impose a $3,000 penalty for breaking the contract. Heisman seemed hell-bent on getting revenge.

Cumberland College manager George A. Allen, who later served under US president Franklin D. Roosevelt and advised two other presidents, Harry S.Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, scoured the Cumberland campus to assemble a team and sent a ragtag bunch to Atlanta, which is why the score was so lopsided.

5. He reads like a disciplinarian, going so far as to putting curfews on players after games. From an overall coaching/team management standpoint, how do you think he’d fare today?

I don’t think his coaching methods would be very effective today, although many of his early innovations (scoreboard, audible “hike” signal, center snap, padding and scripting plays) are still being used in today’s game. Heisman’s best years came in the post-World War I era, when many of his players were military veterans and were accustomed to his demanding style. During his last coaching stop at Rice Institute, his players nearly rebelled against him because his coaching methods were so demanding. He didn’t have much success at Rice and was forced into retirement.

6. Does he remind you of any current or past college coaches?

It’s tough to draw any comparison, but I think Heisman would be along the lines of Kansas State’s Bill Snyder or former Virginia coach George Welsh. He wasn’t much of a motivator and didn’t really believe in rah-rah pregame speeches. He was more concerned about preparations during the week and making sure every detail was covered. I guess in some ways he’s like Alabama’s Nick Saban in that every potential scenario is addressed.

7. Nick Saban in 1912 and John Heisman in 2012 – who does better?

I think Saban probably figures out how to adjust in 1912. For the reasons I stated above, I think Heisman would have a more difficult time adjusting to the 21st century.

Thanks for reading.

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

54 comments Add your comment

Jacket Detective

October 31st, 2012
6:54 am

Thanks Ken for another book on Tech football history.

Jacket Detective

October 31st, 2012
7:11 am

One of the negatives that befalls any team having a bad year is fans throwing whoever they single out under the bus.
How many coaches will tell u that a team wins and loses as a team?
Uga may well have lost to Florida without the great effort to cause the last fumble by the Gators. Then Uga’s Murray haters would have been out in force because of the picks.
I have pointed out before that had the extra point not been missed and we pulled even with Uga at 35 in the 2010 game, we might well have won that game.
If I did like some, I would go back to that game and study the film, decide whether the snapper, holder or kicker was to blame (probably incorrectly) and “flog” the guy endlessly on these blogs.
Not to mention the missed field goals in the last bowl game.
Boy if u were a QB, u might like to play on a team whose special teams were special more of the time and not just once every 14 years.
I’m going to put an Eastwood quote in Tevin’s mouth.
Would u like that, dude?
“That would be refreshing”.
From “In The Line of Fire”.

Jacket Detective

October 31st, 2012
8:28 am

Heisman’s revenge is similar to Budd Carson’s revenge against Dooley after the beatdown there.
Carson was a great defensive mine as proved by his 4 later Super Bowl rings as D coordinator with Steelers. It helped to have great players there too no doubt.
Carson’s D held Uga to zero points believe it or not in a 6-0 victory.
During Carson’s first three years as head coach, Tech went 4-6 three straight times if memory serves and many fans were fuming. Then he beat Uga twice and came within a fourth down play of making it three in a row.
He failed to do so and the haters came out in force again and got him fired.
I wonder if that was the right move.
Beamer no great shakes at VT his first 6 years and probably fired anywhere else.
What Tech fans disliked about Gailey (among other things) is that he lacked being out for revenge for the 51-7 beatdown.
Instead of being bent on revenge, he always seemed like a deer in the headlights and his teams played that way in the archrival game.

Dadgum.....

October 31st, 2012
8:38 am

Only one GT player has finished 2nd in the Heisman trophy voting. Name the player, year, and who he lost to. Don’t look it up either. That’s blog-cheating.

Jacket Man

October 31st, 2012
8:50 am

Joe Hamilton; don’t remember the year.

Burdell90

October 31st, 2012
8:56 am

@Dadgum…there were two…Joe Hamilton was one. Can YOU name the other? Remember, dont look it up!!!

Ol'JacketFan

October 31st, 2012
9:16 am

Billy Lothridge to Roger Staubach

Phenix City Jacket

October 31st, 2012
9:18 am

Clint Castleberry

gt fan

October 31st, 2012
9:22 am

eddie lee ivery finished 8th in 78 I think…

collegeballfan

October 31st, 2012
9:23 am

Castleberry.

NEJacket

October 31st, 2012
9:28 am

Ken, I suggest picking up a copy of Dress Her in White and Gold or giving it a re-read. A lot of good stuff in there on Tech football and baseball, including the Heisman divorce, etc.

GTfan2012

October 31st, 2012
9:32 am

Joe Hamilton finished 2nd to Ron Dayne.

www

October 31st, 2012
9:35 am

if rumors of pete carrol going to cal in 2013 hold any substance, i’d love to see georgia tech make a run at the guy.

http://www.lostlettermen.com/why-pete-carroll-will-coach-cal-in-2013/?

Burdell90

October 31st, 2012
9:39 am

OJF is the winner!!!!

I love Jan Kemp

October 31st, 2012
9:52 am

Carroll would never work at Tech, I dont want more probation either. Ken, why did they get a Ga spanker to write a book on Heisman? They shouldve got you! “Slack-back” HATES Tech!

jabster

October 31st, 2012
10:24 am

Heisman’s divorce is old news. Basically, he gave his ex the choice to stay in ATL or leave town (for propriety’s sake), and he would do the opposite.

Habersham Dawg

October 31st, 2012
10:31 am

Back in the early 1900’s, giving a recruit’s brother a job wasn’t scandalous, it was just smart recruiting.

www

October 31st, 2012
10:53 am

1963 – billy lothridge 2nd in hesiman voting to roger staubach

1999 – joe hamilton 2nd in heisman voting to ron dayne

www

October 31st, 2012
10:53 am

1963 – billy lothridge 2nd in hesiman voting to roger staubach

1999 – joe hamilton 2nd in heisman voting to ron dayne

Booze Hound

October 31st, 2012
11:15 am

Paul Johnson will be fired after Georgia Tech loses to Maryland and its fifth-string quarterback this weekend.

www

October 31st, 2012
11:17 am

not a chance of either happening.

thanks for trolling, though!

Booze Hound

October 31st, 2012
11:22 am

Yeah, and there was no way Georgia Tech would lose to Middle Tennessee State, either.

Dan GT

October 31st, 2012
11:23 am

CC finished third in 1942 as a Freshman.

BL and JH are the correct answers.

just finished “jackrabbit” last night, great read, history all over the pages. a must read.

Aerojacket

October 31st, 2012
11:30 am

One of Heisman’s best quotes (maybe not exact, but close), delivered with his theatrical embellish during a team meeting as he holds out a football: “Gentlemen, this is an oblate spheroid. Better for you to have died as a small child than to fumble it on the field”.

Still words to live by.

GTBob

October 31st, 2012
11:48 am

Paul Johnson will be fired after Georgia Tech loses to Maryland and its fifth-string quarterback this weekend.

Who is going to fire him?

VR Jacket

October 31st, 2012
11:51 am

When Joe finished 2nd in 99, Mike Vick finished 3rd as a Freshman. I believe, at the time, the only other 2 Freshmen to finish 3rd were Clint Castleberry and Hershel Walker.

Jacket Detective

October 31st, 2012
11:57 am

I posted a Lothridge memory from 29-21 loss to Auburn.
Partly to reveal how the gameplan though somewhat sound made him perform poorly.
The gameplan would not let him respond to Sidle’s picking Tech’s defense apart with passes yet it called for a pass from the endzone where he was tackled for a safety.
Yes I am speculating he felt shown up and that affected his play once he was finally asked to pass late in the game.
I also speculate in the present that all our negativity has affected Tevin’s play as he can throw the ball a lot better than he did vs BYU.
Tevin has his degree and is one of two in the 2000 yard rushing, 2500 yard passing club at GT.
He should tell all his critics where to go.
Then we can find out how great the messiah is with a full game against Uga.
But he is a better man than DRAD and won’t jump off the sinking ship like that.

fuzzybee78

October 31st, 2012
12:08 pm

@GT Bob — LOL!!!

5150 UOAD

October 31st, 2012
12:14 pm

FB78 mostly correct. I would like to see more of the Spread Option that has a more passing element, but We have not developed a QB to run more passes. i think VAD can do that. I think VAD can be like a Joe Hamilton. Vad can run the triple Option, Spread Option and Kill you with his legs on the QB keeper when the pass is not there.

headley lamar

October 31st, 2012
12:18 pm

Heisman scheduled a game against the Bulldogs out of spite more than anything else. The Bulldogs had defeated his Georgia Tech baseball team 22–0 in the spring of 1916, and Heisman was convinced they’d used ringers to do it. He offered Cumberland College $500 to play a football game against the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta. When the Bulldogs tried to back out of the game a few months later, Heisman told them he would impose a $3,000 penalty for breaking the contract. Heisman seemed hell-bent on getting revenge.

And Tech has been classing it up ever since.

Like Mark Bradley said. Its getting serious for CPJ at Tech.

And now the guy who hired him is gone.

He better start winning. Talking about fish fries or punching UGA fans wont get him out of this one.

www

October 31st, 2012
12:21 pm

oregon is doing a lot right.

maybe we can get their assistant AD in here as our new AD.

or one of their offensive assistants as our offensive coordinator.

or one of their assistant cheerleading coaches as our cheerleading coach.

http://cfbsection.com/2012/05/8492/

www

October 31st, 2012
12:22 pm

headey llamar is obsessed with georgia tech football.

i, for one, am glad to have you on board, sidewalk fan!

Ken Sugiura

October 31st, 2012
1:15 pm

I love Jan Kemp – i’m guessing because mark is a talented writer/reporter with experience writing books. if he hates tech, and i don’t think he does, he did a good job of hiding it in the book.
even if johnson were to be fired, and for a lot of reasons i don’t think it will, pete carroll is way out of the budget and i don’t know how mutual the interest would be.
NEJacket – thanks for the suggestion. i’ll put it on the list.

Buzzer

October 31st, 2012
1:18 pm

Got my copy at Amazon. Good read

http://amzn.to/SeQfYY

jacket time

October 31st, 2012
1:39 pm

Heisman >> Saban

5150 UOAD

October 31st, 2012
2:05 pm

Mark S doesn’t HATE TECH but he is more invested in the SEC. He is a reporter/writer and takes his writing seriously just like KEN does.

5150 UOAD

October 31st, 2012
2:08 pm

www OREGON has Phil “NIKE” Knight backing them too. That counts for a lot. paying Asians $.001/ shoe produced then sold the it Ghetto Moe Rons for $250+ keeps them flush with money to buy new people all the time. LOL

www

October 31st, 2012
3:07 pm

no, i don’t see paul johnson leaving georgia tech anytime soon, nor do i see pete carroll coming to georgia tech but then again i don’t see much of a reason for him to go to cal either.

time to change things up a little bit.

who was recruiting for pete carroll when he was pulling in all of those all-americans at usc? find some of those guys and offer them a raise to come to atlanta.

...Take The Wheel

October 31st, 2012
5:38 pm

@Jacket Detective
I also speculate in the present that all our negativity has affected Tevin’s play as he can throw the ball a lot better than he did vs BYU.
Tevin has his degree and is one of two in the 2000 yard rushing, 2500 yard passing club at GT. He should tell all his critics where to go.

——————–

I have said this for weeks! How can all the negativity “not” have an affect on him. I cant imagine his spirit not being completely broken after the boos this weekend. Sure everybody loves winning, but there should be certain boundaries that we just dont cross – like booing our own players. The infighting is toxic. Its just unimaginable coming from your own school!! You expect that from opposing schools but at home?? And dont think that Vad and Justin dont see how fickle this fan base can be.

Tevin has amassed record yardage in less time than others in the same categories. Lets not forget that he’s 2 TDs away from breaking Nesbitts TD record. This young man has stepped up done what was asked of him, never brought shame upon the school, played hard, won some, lost some, graduated and continue to work hard for his team. That should at least be worth the decency of not booing when he is struggling. Damn it happens to the best!

o'keefe

October 31st, 2012
7:06 pm

I agree 100% wheel

Thomas Brown

November 1st, 2012
6:26 am

I’ve said that all along, many times; so, it is no revelation to me nor anyone who has ever read one of my posts, having done this research myself and having posted it numerous times on the AJ-C back when Mark Schlabach wrote for the AJ-C and many times in the many years since.

(1) John Heisman assembled a football team 1917 made-up of players who now are in the College Football Hall of Fame listed as members of TWO (2) TEAMS. Joe Guyon is but 1 of those players. There are others I have documented as well here. He cheated. Take this guy Joe Guyon for example, shall we ? He played at Carlisle in 1912 and 1913 and he MADE the College Football Hall of Fame for Carlisle. 5 years later, he joins John Heisman at Georgie tek ? UGA did not field a football team that season; in fact, many did not. We were in France, our coach and players fighting World War I. That nc is as tainted as any in the history of college football. Georgie tek did exactly the same thing in World War II, gathering up players none of whom were college students at Georgie tek, and fielded a team then too. Again, our Heisman Trophy Winner and his teammates were again off fighting in World War II, and when the war was over, came back and got to play just a few games before their college careers were over.

(2) This Cumberland crudola, again, is debunked in this blog by Ken and once again it 100 % collaborates every word I have forever on Access Atlanta and AJ-C for all these many decades here that Cumberland did not have a football team October 7, 1916 which everyone knows, and knew long before this blog. Georgie tek, as described again in this blog 100 % collaborating every word I have ever said about Cumberland, BEAT Georgie tek in Baseball in 1916 and you FORCED Cumberland to field some guys on what you called a football team who had no record for 1916 and were NOT a football team. They had no football team, and here you are told the team was disbanded. 1916 Cumberland had no football team. It had been disbanded after 1915 season was over. There was no team and no schedule and no opponent which Cumberland played in football in 1916. They didn’t have a team, as detailed again in this blog collaborating every word of my posts for those wanting references – use this blog.

Thomas Brown

November 1st, 2012
7:09 am

_________
Ed Orgeron
_________
www October 31st, 2012 3:07 pm

“who was recruiting for pete carroll when he was pulling in all of those all-americans at usc? find some of those guys and offer them a raise to come to atlanta.”
______________________________________________________

Ed Orgeron was Pete Carroll’s Defensive Line Coach and Recruiting Coordinator and Assistant Football Coach under Pete Carroll at USC who recruited all those guys and after a brief bad stint at Ole Miss, he is back at Southern California now under now Lame Kitten as again Defensive Line Coach and again Recruiting Coordinator. After his utter failure as head coach at Ole Miss, he went to the New Orleans Saints. He was replaced at Ole Miss by Houston Nutt of Arkansas, and now he is replaced at Ole Miss by Hugh Freeze, who was the Tight End Coach and Recruiting coordinator himself for Ed Orgeron. In fact, Hugh Freeze was interim head coach when Ed Orgeron was fired at Ole Miss, too.

Ed Orgeron makes $ 650,00 at Southern California.

Tech Fan in Athens

November 1st, 2012
8:35 am

Yes, Thomas Brown, I have to admit – that National Championship from 1917 seems like a LONG Time Ago…. ALMOST as Long as 1980

Thomas Brown

November 1st, 2012
8:50 am

Nothing about UGA Consensus 1980 National Championship like is written on this blog about 1917 you claim one in.

Remind me again what year it was Georgie tek was AP Poll # 1 National Champions ?

I can’t seem to remember that year, now ?

Tech Fan in Athens

November 1st, 2012
9:44 am

Hey Man – if a Shared NC isnt considered “Legit” maybe the system needs to be changed to like a…. I dunno… Playoff or Something. Hang On to that AP Poll, Oldtimer – you’ll need it when the playoffs start. Polls are like Opinions… Everybody has One. Whether it’s 1917, 1980 or 1990

Thomas Brown

November 1st, 2012
10:20 am

________________________________________________________________
“if a Shared NC isnt considered “Legit” maybe the system needs to be changed”
________________________________________________________________

6 National Championships Georgie tek :

http://www.nationalchamps.net/NCAA/database/georgiatech_database.htm

Thomas Brown

November 1st, 2012
10:21 am

________________________________________________________________
“if a Shared NC isnt considered “Legit” maybe the system needs to be changed”
________________________________________________________________

6 National Championships UGA :

http://www.nationalchamps.net/NCAA/database/georgia_database.htm

Shared National Championships is fine with me : 6 each, right ?

Want that reference ?

Seriously

November 1st, 2012
11:08 am

Seriously? It had been known forever that he left Tech because of his divorce. I’m surprised that was news to you.

Thomas Brown

November 1st, 2012
11:19 am

And, that while he was there briefly at Georgie tek, he cheated.

Please note also in 120-years of Georgie tek history in college football, it has never won the Heisman Trophy.

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