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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Bible years, 1929-36

Monday, September 9, 2013

Coach E.E. Bearg (at NU 1925-28), by most standards, had been successful at Nebraska in his four years of coaching the Cornhuskers.

His teams had improved each year, culminating in Nebraska's first ever Big Six Championship in 1928. But the Cornhusker fans wanted more, and there were grumblings around the state, "Bearg teams did not use deception and strategy," relying instead on raw power. By the end of the 1928 season Bearg decided he'd had enough and tendered his resignation as Cornhusker head coach, choosing to return to Washburn University, where he was more appreciated.

University officials first turned to the east, where they attempted to lure Knute Rockne away from Notre Dame. Rockne turned them down, but suggested that Dana X. Bible, head coach at Texas A & M, would be a good fit for Nebraska. How right he was!

Dana Xenephon Bible was born in Jefferson City, Tenn. in 1891, the son of a professor at Carson-Newman College, a Baptist College, in Jefferson City. Bible was an outstanding member of the Carson-Newman football team and graduated from the college in 1912.

After coaching on the prep level, then at Mississippi College, Bible moved to Texas A&M in 1917. Bible took leave from A&M in 1918, during World War I to serve as an Army Air Corps pilot.

Bible was immediately successful at A&M., coaching basketball and baseball as well as football. His 1919 team was undefeated, untied, and outscored its opposition 275-0. They were named National Champs; but Bible is best remembered for establishing a tradition that continues to this day.

In 1922, in a game with the No. 1 Praying Colonels of Center College, in the Dixie Classic Bowl game (which the next year became the Cotton Bowl), three key players on the Aggie team went down with injuries, reducing Bible's squad to 15 members. Fearing additional injuries, Bible went into the press box, to ask E. King Gill, a reserve fullback, who had been assigned to help reporters during the game, to don a uniform, to be ready to play if needed. A&M won the game (an upset). Gill was not called upon to play, but the "Twelfth Man" tradition was born that day. For more than eight decades A&M students dutifully stand throughout the game, ready to "go into the game if needed," to defend the honor of their school.

Dana Bible came to Nebraska in 1928 and continued the string of successful seasons that Fred Dawson and E.E. Bearg had established. His record at Nebraska was impressive. In eight years he compiled a record of 50 wins, 15 defeats and 7 ties. During his tenure the Cornhuskers won six Big Six titles in eight years.

Bible has been credited with "selling" the Cornhuskers to the state. One of his first acts as head coach was to tour the state from one end to the other, explaining what he was trying to do, and asking for support. The result was that the Nebraska people no longer thought of the Cornhuskers as the "University's Team," but looked upon them as "Our Cornhuskers"!

Bible was privileged to coach four All Americans while at Nebraska -- Hugh Rhea a tackle from Arlington, Nebraska, in 1930, Lawrence Ely, a center from Grand Island in 1932, George Sauer, a halfback from Lincoln in 1933, and Sam Francis, a halfback from Oberlin Kansas in 1936.

Bible's best team was probably the 1933 team, which was led by George Sauer. Sauer was a fleet halfback. He was born in Stratton, Nebraska, but played his high school football at Lincoln High in Lincoln Nebraska.

The '33 Huskers lost only to Pittsburgh, and Sauer was chosen as a consensus All American.

Bible positively glowed when he talked about George Sauer. "... He was great at carrying the ball and was one of the best on defense. He simply rolled up his sleeves and met the ball carrier head on."

Sauer went on to play with Green Bay in the NFL, but retired after the Packers won the 1936 League Championship and Sauer turned to coaching where he had a great career at New Hampshire, Kansas, Navy and Baylor. In 1961 Sauer became General Manager of the New York Jets. He was instrumental in the signing of Joe Namath to the team, and soon after signed George Sauer, Jr. to a Jet contract, where he became a favorite target for Namath's passes.

In 1936, Sam Francis was chosen to the All America team. Francis was born at Dunbar, Nebraska, but grew up in Oberlin, Kansas. He was the type of player that comes along once in a coach's lifetime -- if he is lucky. He has been named to innumerable Top 10 Cornhusker Athletes lists, and recently was voted to be the finest athlete that ever competed for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

As a prep star, Francis won the All Class Gold Medal at the 1933 Kansas State Track Meet. At Oberlin High he led teams in football, basketball, and track to three consecutive Northwest Kansas League Championships.

At Nebraska, Francis led the Cornhuskers to two Big Six Championships in his three years on the team. He also competed in the Shot Put in track for the Huskers. In 1936 and 1937 he won the Big Six shot put title both indoors and outdoors.

In 1936, Francis qualified for the Olympic Games and sailed to Europe to compete in Berlin -- the Hitler Olympics. He finished fourth in the Shot Put.

In 1936 Francis was named to the All America football team, and was also named All American in track -- only three other athletes have achieved these dual honors at Nebraska. In the balloting for the second Heisman Trophy, Francis finished second to Yale's Larry Kelley. He led the voting for the Chicago College Football All Star Classic following his graduation in 1937.

World War II cut short Francis' career in the NFL, where he played four years with the Chicago Bears and three other teams. He went into the Army as a second lieutenant.

In 1947 Francis accepted the head coaching job at Kansas State. That year is just as well forgotten. Suffice it to say that following that one season Sam Francis resumed his illustrious career in the Army, retiring as full Colonel in 1965, at the age of 52.

In retirement Francis took his boundless energy in a different direction. Francis was a product of the Great Depression, and World War II. He was determined to do what he could to help disadvantaged youth, in the Army and out.

He spent the rest of his life fighting poverty in America. He organized one of the first anti-poverty programs of its kind, directed at developing skills of low income young men and women in the work place and education centers.

Under Sam Francis' guidance thousands of Nebraska and Missouri idle teenagers were given the skills needed to become successful, productive men and women with good jobs.

After eight seasons at the University of Nebraska, and a 50-16-7 record, Dana X. Bible returned to Texas, this time to the University of Texas, turning over the reins of the Cornhusker football program to Major Lawrence "Biff" Jones.

Bible continued his winning ways at the University of Texas, taking the Longhorns from last to first in the Southwest Conference. He retired from coaching in 1946, but remained at UT as Athletic Director of the school until 1956.

The list of honors garnered by this legendary coach is long, but include his Charter membership in the National College Football Hall of Fame, and serving as President of the American Football Coaches Association for 25 years.

Dana X. Bible died in 1980 and is buried at Memorial Park, Austin, Texas.

Source: Kansas' top 150 athletes, My Homage to Sam Francis by Francis Packman, University of Nebraska Athletics.

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Walt Sehnert
Days Gone By