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By: CUBuffs.com
Dal Ward was a three-year letterwinner for Oregon State (left) before coaching Colorado from 1948-58.
Dal Ward Had Oregon State Roots Prior To CU Arrival
Release: September 23, 2013
By: B.G. Brooks, Contributing Editor

BOULDER – Dal Ward’s name is attached to one of the most prominent buildings in University of Colorado athletics, and it could just as easily occupy a position of prominence on the campus of the Buffs’ first Pac-12 Conference opponent.

Ward, the Buffs’ football coach for 11 seasons (1948-58) and a CU athletic administrator for another 12 years, holds the distinction of Hall of Fame membership at two schools – CU and Oregon State. The Buffs open 2013 Pac-12 play Saturday (1 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network) against the Beavers in Corvallis.

In his tenure as CU’s coach, Ward directed the school into the Big Seven Conference, which evolved into the Big Eight and finally the Big 12. Wins and losses usually define a coach’s success, and Ward was unquestionably successful by that measure; his record of 63-41-6 included the school’s first bowl win (27-21 against Clemson in the 1957 Orange Bowl).

But numbers didn’t define Ward. Below the large etching of him in the lobby of CU’s Dal Ward Athletic Center is this inscription: “Son, you are here to get an education and play football, in that order.”

Dal Ward is a member of Oregon State's Hall of Fame, playing for the Beavers from 1924-26
Photo Courtesy: Oregon State Sports Information

Ward’s players knew he meant it, and most never forgot it.

“He valued education,” said his daughter Barbara Ward Spengler, one of Ward’s five children who grew up in Boulder and will be among about 15 family members in attendance Saturday in Reser Stadium. “He was a wonderful father. He was strict with us and people on the outside might have thought of him as rough and gruff, but most of his players thought of him as a father figure.”

At a family reunion on what would have been Ward’s 100th birthday – Aug. 11, 2006 – his only grandson, Brian Kettler of Denver, remembered his grandfather like this:

“As much as life is full of people who make excuses, life is full of people who do not embody what they talk about.  What I've learned about Dal, he was not this way. I assume his uncommonly favorable legacy comes from his understanding of this principle. People have told me that Dal was this type of man who spoke with a great deal of authority, an authority that I want to believe came from his own experience of the principles he valued.

“For instance, as a coach, he could tell his players not to make excuses, because he lived this way; he could tell his players to work hard, because he lived this way; and he could tell his players to be honest because he lived this way.  There is incredible power in a life arranged in this manner.  It's the way I want to live and I'm grateful for the legacy in this regard.”

Under Ward, the Buffs finished second in the Big Seven twice and third four times. He was credited with revitalizing the CU football program, and at the end of his coaching career he became an assistant athletic director overseeing facilities as well as teaching in the physical education department.

Given a letter of recommendation by Knute Rockne, Ward had begun his teaching/coaching career in Minneapolis at Marshall High School and later joined the football staff at the University of Minnesota (1936). The Gophers didn’t forget him; after CU won the ’57 Orange Bowl, Minnesota and Southern California approached him about filling head coaching vacancies.

Because of his fondness for Boulder and a belief that CU’s coming seasons would be even more successful, Ward declined. His 1956 team had finished 8-2-1, but his 1957 and 1958 teams were 6-3-1 and 6-4, respectively. And in January of 1959, the school’s Board of Regents asked for Ward’s resignation. He refused, the regents reconsidered, then apparently bowed to outside pressure and upheld their original decision.

“After he was fired, he was offered a couple of other opportunities but he wanted to stay in Boulder,” said Barbara Ward Spengler, a CU alumna who now lives in Lander, Wyo. “CU was deep in his heart. We thought it was ironic, because after dad came (coach) Sonny Grandelius and the slush fund (1959-61) and then Bud Davis for a year (1962). But we never felt he was bitter against CU. He stayed on and taught and had tenure as a professor.”

Dal Ward was 63-41-6 as Colorado's coach from 1948-58.

Ward’s CU legacy earned him induction into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1985 and CU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008. In 1997, Oregon State inducted him into its Hall of Fame, citing his three-sport (football, basketball, baseball) career in the mid-1920s. He earned the distinction of being a team captain in all three sports, was awarded 11 letters and was honored with membership in five organizations for his academic achievements.

Barbara Ward Spengler said her father, who died in 1983, grew up “in a fairly poor family” on Oregon’s eastern slope. “His father was a sheepherder and getting an education meant a lot to (Dal). It was a wonderful opportunity for him to go to college . . . to excel was nice, too.”

Four of Ward’s children – Barbara, Mary, Martha and Mark – will be traveling to OSU for Saturday’s game, along with two or three grandchildren and two great grandchildren. All but one is a CU grad.

Four members of the extended Ward family live in Corvallis but, according to Barbara Ward Spengler, all are fervent Buffs fans. She said their friends in Corvallis are certain where their allegiance is on every fall weekend – except this one: “They’ll be wearing their Black and Gold on Saturday and they said everyone understands.”

NOTABLE: After a weekend off, the Buffs returned to practice Monday morning to continue their preparations for Saturday’s matchup against Oregon State. Head coach Mike MacIntyre admitted to the media after practice that slowing down a team with the nation’s third-ranked passing attack will be a tough challenge for his defense. He said Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion “makes a lot of great plays. We just have to try to keep them at bay and hopefully we can disrupt that passing game.” . . . . MacIntyre watched Oregon State’s win over San Diego State on Saturday from his home and was impressed with what he saw offensively from the Beavers. He believes Oregon State’s consistently high scoring offense is a testament to long-time head coach Mike Riley and his coaching staff. “They do a great job,” MacIntyre said. “They’re stable and those kids want to be successful.” . . . . MacIntyre acknowledged that the team’s three-week layoff between games in the middle of the season is the longest such layoff of his coaching career. “I’ve never had a break this long during the season and I never want it to happen again,” MacIntyre said. “It kind of reminds me of bowl time. I’d rather be playing games. I’d like to have a week off but not three.” . . . . MacIntyre is happy that the team has not used the extended layoff as an excuse to relax. “In our situation I think (this situation) has actually motivated them,” MacIntyre said. “I have not seen them slack off or miss meetings or be late or not hustle in practice.” . . . . MacIntyre also announced that freshman defensive lineman Timothy Coleman, Jr. has a torn Achilles and will have surgery, therefore missing the remainder of the season. Coleman did not play in the team’s first two games . . . CU's Oct. 5 home game against Oregon will kick off at 4 p.m. and be televised by the Pac-12 Network.

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU

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