Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News
Legendary LSU football coach Paul Dietzel, who led the Tigers to their first modern day football national championship in 1958, has died. He was 89.
LSU confirmed his death Tuesday after a brief illness. WAFB in Baton Rouge quotes Scooter Purvis, a member of the legendary LSU 1958 championship team, who said Dietzel died with his son, Steve, and two grandsons by his side.
Dietzel served as head coach at LSU from 1955 until 1961.
His 1958 team, including future Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon, concluded an 11–0 season with a win over Clemson in the Sugar Bowl and was a consensus national champion.
Dietzel's handprint on LSU football is unmistakable. 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 1958, a new era emerged and with it a culture of winning and the expectations.
When Dietzel left LSU 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. Prior to that, he served as athletic director at South Carolina and Indiana University Bloomington.
After leaving LSU in 1982, he and his wife remained in Baton Rouge, as Dietzel tapped into other talents, including writing, painting and serving as a motivational speaker.
According to a profile marking his induction into the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame Dietzel began his football career as a player for Duke but only played one year before serving in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. After his service in the military, Dietzel competed for Miami of Ohio where he earned All-America honors as a center.
After graduating from Miami, a call came from LSU inviting him for an interview.
"I was an assistant coach at West Point when the LSU job became available," said Dietzel in 2010. "LSU invited me down to be interviewed, and I came down not knowing much about LSU at that time."
In 1955 at age 29, he moved his family to Baton Rouge and became the nation's youngest head football coach.
Dietzel was the last living member of the 1958 LSU National Championship coaching staff. One of his last major public appearances came at the opening of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame building in Natchitoches. He was inducted into the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.
Funeral services will be held Friday at First United Methodist Church, 930 North Blvd., Baton Rouge. Visitation will begin at 9 a.m. followed by the service at 11 a.m.
-- With reporting by WAFB