Rocky Mountain News

AD at Colorado for 37 years

Carlson to be inducted into Sports Hall of Fame

Harry Carlson, a quiet, reserved man, will hear the applause of his peers on Feb. 9 when he is inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.An easterner by birth, but a Coloradan by instinct, Carlson will be enshrined during ceremonies at the Regency Inn of Denver. Previously announced 1976 inductees will be high school coaching great Pat Panek, Joe “Awful” Coffee, one-time Denver prizefighter and long a booster and benefactor in area sports circles, and the late Dr. Ervin Hands.

The tall, scholarly Carlson walked softly during his 37 years as director of athletics at the University of Colorado. But he has been loudly acclaimed as the man who channeled the school’s athletic program into the mainstream of national prominence.

In reality, Carlson’s career was marked with quiet dignity rather than by flamboyance and controversy. But his lengthy regime was not without its moments of turmoil. Through it all, Carlson retained a low profile and a touch of class.

Carlson was an able athletic administrator, but he was much more to a struggling university. Appropriately, he was more often referred to as Dean Carlson rather than athletic director Carlson.

Named Dean of Men at CU in 1939, the unassuming, but energetic Carlson exercised a strong influence upon the lives of many of the young men he coached and counseled.

Carlson, now 79 and still a resident of Boulder, arrived at Colorado in the fall of 1926 as director of physical education, a position he retained when he was named director of athletics a year later.

Upon his retirement in 1965, Carlson turned his duties as athletic director over to Eddie Crowder, Carlson’s choice to rebuild CU’s crumbled football fortunes after the school had been placed on probation in 1962.

Following his retirement, Carlson served a six-year term as a member of the CU Board of Regents which he terms “one of the most interesting and significant experiences of my life.”

Among Carlson’s most satisfying achievements was Colorado’s acceptance into the Big Eight (then the Big Six) Conference in 1948. It was a move to project CU into national athletic stature and climaxed nearly a decade of dedicated devotion to a task which he felt was necessary to maintain prestige for a growing university.

Carlson’s career at Colorado was not without its difficult moments, however, and he was embroiled in two situations which were extremely distasteful to him.

One was the firing of Dal Ward as football coach following the 1959 season. It was a great injustice in Carlson’s estimation and the manner in which the dismissal was treated was particularly galling.

“This was 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 says emphatically.

The other unpleasant incident concerned an investigation conducted by the school and the National Collegiate Athletic Association of coach Sonny Grandelius and the CU football program.

Following the investigation, Colorado was placed on probation for two years for violating numerous NCAA rules and regulations.

Colorado was also barred from participating in bowl games and other televised contests and Grandelius, the man who had succeeded Ward as coach, was dismissed after his team had brought Colorado its first and only Big Eight football championship in 1961.

Carlson was born Nov. 19, 1896, in Jamestown, N. Y. He received his early education in Jamestown and attended high school in both Jamestown and Cleveland, Ohio, participating in baseball, a sport at which he later excelled in both college and professional circles.

Carlson coached football and basketball at Suffolk High School while in college and later coached three years at Milford (Conn.) Prep School.

He then enrolled at Clark University in 1923 and received his Master’s degree in physical education the following summer.

Following his post-graduate work at Clark, Carlson became director of physical education and intercollegiate athletics and coached football and baseball at Hamline University in Minnesota. Two years later he began his career at Colorado.

One of Carlson’s first projects at CU was initiating an intramural program. The program grew rapidly as did the school’s intercollegiate athletic program, first in the old Rocky Mountain Conference, then in the Mountain States Conference, and finally in the Big Eight.

Carlson personally coached the CU baseball team to 11 conference titles.

Once described as “an athletic purist in a sea of sinners,” Carlson has mellowed through the years although steadfastly maintaining athletics should continue to be a legitimate part of the educational program under the umbrella of health education.

Carlson and his wife, Mildred, reside at 771 16th St. in Boulder. The Carlsons have two children, Mrs. Carol Chapman of Menlo Park, and Dave Carlson, who is with the Department of Continuing Education at CU.

The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.