Legendary LSU football coach Paul Dietzel passes away

Published: Sep. 24, 2013 at 12:52 PM CDT|Updated: Feb. 3, 2014 at 5:05 PM CST
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Paul Dietzel
Paul Dietzel
LSU head coach Paul Dietzel and running back Billy Cannon
LSU head coach Paul Dietzel and running back Billy Cannon

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Paul Dietzel, "the artist, the coach, the legend," is dead at 89.

Dietzel's handprint on LSU football is unmistakable. He coached the Tigers to their first modern day national championship in 1958.

Scooter Purvis said Coach Dietzel's passing was very peaceful. His son, Steve, and two grandsons were by his side.

Fans and former LSU players shared memories of the legendary coach as they heard the news of his passing.

"He was one of the forerunners in terms of bringing so much high quality and notoriety to Louisiana State University," said Collis Temple Jr., former LSU basketball player. "So, me being an ex-athlete, I didn't play football, but we all reveled in the fact that he was such a great leader."

"It leaves a mark on everybody who is a big LSU fan," added Holly Whitstine.

"Coach Dietzel meant a lot to the LSU community," explained Carl 'The Cat' Dunn. "First national championship he brought to the university, architect of what we got now."

The famed Chinese bandits and his three-team platoon system were his creation. What came to be the LSU look, virtually unchanged since 1955, was his idea.

It was Dietzel who thought up uniforms of yellow gold helmets and pants and white jerseys with purple numerals and stripes. Old gold had been used previously.

Dietzel inherited a program down in the dumps and not much changed in his first three seasons. But, when the Tigers went to number one in '58, a new era emerged and with it a culture of winning and the expectations.

When Dietzel left LSU after another great season in 1961, people were shocked. Stops at Army and South Carolina followed, but the ultra success found at LSU was never duplicated.

And, LSU was never out of his system. He returned as athletic director in 1978 for a five-year run.

This time, though, when that ended, he and his wife, Anne, remained in Baton Rouge, as Dietzel tapped into other talents. He wrote a book and was in demand as a motivational speaker, but what he really threw himself into was his passion for painting.

It's fitting that Dietzel was born in the same year LSU's famed Tiger Stadium was built, 1924. It was his time in Tigertown that cemented his can-do, box office star reputation.

Dietzel's funeral will be held Friday, September 27th at First United Methodist Church, 930 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.  Visitation will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. with the service to follow.

In lieu of flowers, Dietzel's family has asked that donations be made to the Baton Rouge Chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

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