Books
9:20 am
Tue November 6, 2007

Wallace Wade: Championship Years at Alabama and Duke

This book is for fans, and I might say, fans only. It is loaded with statistics and relentless game-by-game, quarter-by-quarter, score-by-score, and even play-by-play summaries. Let me say simply that the statistics are incredible. Alabama teams went up to twenty games without a loss, without even been scored upon. In 1930, Alabama scored 247 points, opponents 13.

Wallace Wade: Championship Years at Alabama and Duke

The subtitle of this volume is pretty accurate. This is not a life of Wallace Wade. This book is a summary of what his teams did, at the U of A and at Duke, while he was their coach. And they did very well, indeed.

After a childhood in Trenton, Tennessee, where he was born in 1892, Wallace Wade played football at Brown, in the Ivy League, and then coached in a couple of prep schools before becoming a coach at Vanderbilt, which was then a football powerhouse. He was assistant to the great Dan McGugin, who inspired his team before a game with Michigan by reminding them, "In that [nearby] cemetery sleep your grandfathers. . . . And over there are the grandsons of the Damn Yankees who put them there." Ah, you just don't hear exhortations like that any more. I think.

Coach Wade began at Alabama in 1923 and his success here was phenomenal; his teams won 80% of their games. Everyone, including Coach Paul W. Bryant, agrees that Wade began the tradition of prominence in football at UA. In fact, he was such a demanding coach his players called him "The Bear." During his time here, Alabama won its first four conference titles and its first three national championships.

Coach Wade ran intensive, relentless practices, with drills changing every fifteen minutes. He, like the other coaches of his day, knew the evils of water, so he forbade it at practices. When the team took the train to the 1926 Rose Bowl, however, Coach Wade had barrels of Alabama water brought on the train. (No use taking chances with out-of-state water.) The Alabama team beat the "Yankees" of Washington 20-12, in one of the most celebrated football games ever played.

This book is for fans, and I might say, fans only. It is loaded with statistics and relentless game-by-game, quarter-by-quarter, score-by-score, and even play-by-play summaries. Let me say simply that the statistics are incredible. Alabama teams went up to twenty games without a loss, without even been scored upon. In 1930, Alabama scored 247 points, opponents 13.

Wade's achievements did not go unrewarded. In 1929, when the average full professor was earning $5,158, the average head coach $6,107, Wallace Wade earned $8,000 at Alabama and left for Duke at the end of the '31 season for $12,500 plus a percentage of gate receipts.

Wade was just as successful at Duke. In his first eight years there, Duke's record was 61-13-3. In Tuscaloosa, there is a street named for Wallace Wade. At Duke, the stadium is named for him.

Most Alabama fans will quit reading when Wade moves to Duke, I assume, and, at that point, Duke fans will commence reading. They will be pleased. In 1938, Duke was unbeaten, untied, unscored upon.

Wallace Wade, the man, must have been a complicated and multifaceted individual. In the first World War, he rose to the rank of Captain in the field artillery. In the second World War, he enlisted at the age of forty-nine, fought in the European Campaign across France, was under enemy fire for nine continuous months, and was promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel. The French government awarded him the Croix de Guerre with palm, and our government awarded him the Bronze Star and four battle stars. I could have read a lot more about Wade the soldier, Wade the father-husband-citizen, but this is an unrelentingly focused football book. Bowling is more interested in presenting summaries of games played than in psychological insights or, I am sad to say, graceful writing.

After the war Wade went back to coaching but without his previous success. Earlier he had been quoted as saying to a player complaining of a broken leg, "Well, you've got another, haven't you?" and "I don't believe in surrendering, and a fair catch is a surrender, like raising a white flag." After the war, football just didn't seem as important. As Wade himself said, "When you just try to stay alive for two years, football doesn't amount to much."

Tags: 

Related Program