by Frank Haraway
January 18, 1976
Carlson to Enter Hall of Fame
Carlson, 79, completes the group of four to be enshrined at the 12th annual banquet of the CSHF. Previously announced were prep coaching great Adolph H. (Pat) Panek; Joe (Awful) Coffee, one-time Denver fighter and benefactor in area sports circles, and the late Dr. Ervin A. Hinds, former Colorado State University athletic great, and noted surgeon, who will inducted posthumously.
Harry Gordon Carlson, born Nov. 19, 1896, in Jamestown, N. Y., principally served CU in five official capacities in a long career that began in 1926 and ended in 1973. He was athletic director for 36 of his 38 years on campus; baseball coach from 1928-45 (143-41 record for a .776 percentage), dean of men from 1932-58, chairman of physical education for men from 1926-65 and a university regent from 1967-73 following his retirement from the athletic director’s position.
The tall, scholarly Carlson operated with quiet dignity rather by flamboyancy and controversy. He was known affectionately as “The Dean.”
“I have seen 10 generations of students during my stay at CU,” Carlson proclaimed at a banquet honoring him on his retirement in 1965. He saw one more and a half of another during his term as a regent.
CU, a school of about 2,000 students when Carlson arrived on the scene in 1926, achieved much during his long association with the school, much of it directly and indirectly attributable to his efforts. He is perhaps proudest of two things: (1) CU’s admission to the now Big Eight Conference in which he played a leading role and (2) the hiring of Eddie Crowder as football coach – his personal choice to rebuild the Buffaloes’ football fortunes following the dismissal of Everett (Sonny) Grandelius as coach.
“Eddie has done an outstanding job, both as coach and athletic director,” Harry proudly notes.
Although accomplishment and steady direction characterized Carlson’s lengthy tenure, his regime wasn’t free of controversy. By his own admission, he was involved in two situations which were extremely distasteful to him. One was the firing of Dallas Ward as football coach following the 1959 football season, the other the circumstances, events, and attempted assassination of his own character following the firing of Grandelius three years later.
The manner of Ward’s firing was described by Carlson as “a case of the regents not accepting a very positive recommendation by our athletic director (Carlson), the faculty committee on athletics and the president to continue the tenure of our coach,” Carlson said.
Grandelius’ football operation, which produced CU’s only Big Eight football title but led to an NCAA investigation and two-year probation for violation of numerous rules and regulations, brought Carlson his greatest disappointment.
Carlson wasn’t involved in the scandal beyond being Grandelius’ boss, but his efforts to substantiate rumors of wrong-doing by the football staff were fruitless and his hands were tied until charges were filed.
“I was proud of this school’s reaction to the charges. Many universities would try to deny the whole thing and cover it up. But CU told the truth and took the medicine.”
It is significant that when the Buff Club and some individual alumni also demanded Carlson’s scalp along with Grandelius’ that hundreds of students, alumni and friends came to his defense with a flood of letters, telegrams and telephone calls vindicating his integrity.
Carlson played both football and baseball at Ursinus (Pa.) College as a freshman, then transferred to Springfield (Mass.) College where he confined his varsity athletic endeavors to baseball his sophomore and junior years.
He then served in the Marine Corps for a year during World War I before returning to Springfield to play baseball and to earn a bachelor’s degree in physical education. He coached football and basketball at Suffolk School near Springfield, then coached football, basketball and baseball at Milford (Conn.) Prep School. He enrolled at Clark University (Worcester, Mass.) in 1923 for his master’s degree. Following his fling as a baseball player, Carlson became athletic director at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., and two years later moved to Boulder. It was to be his last move.
One of his first projects at CU was to start an intramural program which grew rapidly as did the school’s intercollegiate athletic program – first in the old 12-school Rocky Mountain Conference, then in the Mountain States (Big Seven) Conference and finally in the Big Eight.
Carlson’s baseball program produced 11 conference titles and one winning streak of 25 games. “The Dean” dislikes singling out individual players but when pressed he tabs Denver physician Dr. Dale M. (Pistol Pete) Atkins ( a pitcher), later a regent, as perhaps his greatest. “He could have made it to the majors had he not gone into medicine,” Carlson opines.
Carlson considers Supreme Court Justice Byron (Whizzer) White the greatest all-around man in college athletics he ever met.
“I use Byron as an example for boys who think they want a pro career,” he said. “What a loss it would have been if he accepted a football life.
“No man with that kind of intelligence, character and ability should make athletics his first aim.”
On his retirement, Carlson turned his duties as athletic director over to Crowder and turned his own life toward university work as a regent. He described his term as regent as “one of the most interesting and significant experiences of my life.”
During Carlson’s career he became one of the nation’s most respected men in both athletics and education, a fact further emphasized by his enshrinement in the Helms Athletic Directors Hall of Fame in 1972.
Carlson and his wife, the former Mildred Gustafson of Fort Dodge, Iowa, reside at 772 16th St. in Boulder. They have two children.