With a lengthy career spanning many schools and decades, William Henry Dietz provided a foundation for football success at many universities across the nation. He served as the
head coach for 19 seasons at seven institutions and enjoyed a distinguished career as an assistant coach, helping College Football Hall of Fame coach Pop Warner prepare Stanford for two Rose Bowl appearances.
Dietz launched his head coaching résumé in 1915 by leading Washington State to a 7-0 mark and a Rose Bowl victory over Brown. He led the Cougars to a 17-2-1 record for three seasons until the school discontinued football for World War I. After a one-year stay at Purdue in 1921, Dietz pushed
Louisiana Tech to an 11-3 record from 1922-23. Dietz then coached three seasons at Wyoming from 1924-26, where he also spent time leading the baseball team. He coached at the Haskell Indian Institute for four seasons, enjoying a 26-15-2 record, until the school de-emphasized sports following
the 1932 season. George Preston Marshall, owner and founder of the Boston Braves in
1932, sought to rename the franchise in 1933 after leaving the stadium they shared with the baseball team of the same
name. He chose the name Redskins in honor of Dietz, who is of the Sioux Nation.
Taking over the Redskins Dietz was joined by five Native American players on the roster. The publicity-minded Marshall had the entire team pose in headdresses and war paint on the first day of practice, and he made much of Dietz’s heritage. Dietz had a
penchant for using trick plays which often didn’t work and were resented by some of the players.
The team broke even at 5-5-2 to finish third in the Eastern Division in what was the first year of divisional play in the NFL. But in this first year of liberalized passing rules (and a more streamlined ball), the Redskins ranked eighth of the ten teams in passing offense.
Expectations were higher for 1934 thanks to an influx of promising rookies, and there were hopes of challenging the Giants for the division title. But the team again went .500 with a 6-6 record. While the club did better at the gate, owner Marshall chose to make a change after the season,
dismissing Dietz in favor of former Harvard star Eddie Casey.
Dietz played tackle at Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pa., before graduating after the 1914 season. He contributed to the World War I effort by coaching the Mare Island Marines from 1918-19, claiming a 20-3 mark as the head coach of the Marines and guiding the squad to an
appearance in the 1919 Rose Bowl. Dietz was also an accomplished artist, contributing sketches for the Walt Disney picture Bambi.