Beating Navy has never seemed so important to West Point and is the main reason why Dietzel was hired. At LSU, during even his lean years, his teams always managed to beat or at least tie the school's traditional rival, Tulane. Dietzel does not predict a Navy victory. Indeed, in the manner of all coaches, he high-rates his opponent, casting scorn on comparative scores that give the analyst grounds for thinking Army is stronger: Army 9, Syracuse 2; Navy 6, Syracuse 34; Army 9, Penn State 6; Navy 7, Penn State 41.
"We're not a catch-up football team," he says in outlining his strategy against Navy. "We have to play plodding, defensive football because we can't afford to get three touchdowns behind, hoping to explode for five. In football you don't win—you keep from losing." As has been the pattern at West Point in the past few years, Army is suffering grievously from injuries as the Navy game approaches, having lost, among others, its captain and right end, John Ellerson, and Linemen Marty Ryan, Al Scott and Dick (Dusty) Rhodes. A fullback succumbed to bad marks.
Quite reasonably, Dietzel is worried about Navy Halfback Johnny Sai ("a squirting type of runner who seems to float past tacklers"), Quarterback Staubach ("an amazing quarterback for a sophomore—big and runs and passes well. Staubach makes them go") and Fullback Pat Donnelly. He credits Navy with having greater depth than Army ("Three athletes come to Navy for every one that comes to Army—I take my hat off to their recruiting program"), a deathly passing game with Staubach and Ron Klemick throwing ("We've been an easy team to pass against") and a great deal of spirit. "Navy will have lots of momentum going for this game," he says. It will also have actor-player Stewart, who is, despite his lack of height (he is only 5 feet 8 inches tall), the team's best pass catcher.
Army does not have a skittering breakaway runner, though Halfbacks Ken Waldrop and John Seymour are fast and Fullback Ray Paske is sometimes hard to stop on plunges. But Army also has the Bandits, who many people think are a better defensive team than Navy's best; and, a team which depends on kicking as a tactical maneuver, it has one of the country's best punters in Dick Peterson, who kicks for distance or out of bounds with equal facility. "We may rely a lot on Peterson," says Dietzel, pointing out in the next breath that Navy has a good punter, too.
To add to his problems, Dietzel expects a wily trick to come from Navy Coach Wayne Hardin who, besides fooling Pittsburgh with his fake-injury play, fooled Boston College passers a few weeks ago by having his team show up in uniforms almost identical with Boston's, collecting more than enough interceptions to win the game. In last year's game against Army, the Navy halfbacks, fullbacks and ends wore helmets painted with orange fluorescent paint so they would stand out for the Navy passers to spot.
Last week, possibly trying to gain a psychological advantage over tough Southern California, Hardin shocked USC's Coach John McKay by accusing the latter's team of using a number of illegal maneuvers, including one to draw the opponents offside. "I will be very surprised," says Dietzel, "if Wayne does not come up with some gimmick in Philadelphia. Maybe it will be a platoon of Waves parachuting onto the field to disconcert my boys. The only way to handle a psychologizer like Hardin is to expect anything and stay loose." If Dietzel has something up his sleeve to disconcert Navy, it is, naturally, a top military secret.
Dietzel, in fact, is full of gimmicks himself, most of which are calculated to inspire and some of which boost his team's efficiency. At "the proving grounds" (as Dietzel calls the practice field) is a board on which the names of the players are hung in their proper positions on the team they have qualified for. The Bandits' names are on a red background, the Go team's on gold, the Regulars' on black. At games the Bandits sit on a red bench, the Gos on gold and the Regulars on black. The position of each player is indicated on the bench, so that the right guard, say, always sits in the same spot.
Dietzel is the first coach to use a color system for rating his players. Monday morning a Christmasy chart is posted showing players how the coaches rated their performances in the previous game.
When films—on which Dietzel relies even more than most coaches—are shown, members of each team sit in specified locations in the projection room, near the coaches most concerned with their particular platoons. (Dietzel's coaches are called associate rather than assistant coaches.) Between halves of games, rather than give pep talks, Dietzel shows quickly developed still pictures of players' moves (the bad ones, mainly) made during the first half. "A picture is worth 10,000 words," he says pleasantly, quoting a phrase attributed to Confucius. "You can tell a player what he's doing wrong and he may not believe you. Show him a photo and he'll believe you."
Whatever criticism may be leveled against Dietzel—his breaking an earlier Army contract to become head coach at LSU, his breaking an LSU contract to become head coach at Army, his allowing (or so opponents claim) Army cheers at the Point's Michie Stadium to be amplified, demoralizing visiting teams—his teams do seem to have fun playing football. This is partly because of his three-platoon system, which guarantees nearly every player a chance to get into the game; it is partly his outgoing, peppy personality, unusual in a football coach and particularly in an Army football coach; and it is partly his reliance on gimmicks, which former Head Coach Earl (Red) Blaik, an occasional user of them himself, deplores (SI, May 28).