I went over and Jim said, "Paul, you know you've still got four years to go on your contract." I replied, "I know that, Jim, and if you won't release me from this contract, if there is going to be a nasty situation, there is no sense in me talking with the Army people."
His answer was, "Paul, I'll tell you right now there's not going to be any fuss. You know I don't want you to go and I don't believe you will go, but I'll assure you that if you would like to leave, I'll release you from your contract."
That night I called back Colonel Adams and told him that I had received permission to talk with him. His reaction was, "Gee, that's great," and he went on to say that they were presently considering three people for the job.
I said, "Wait a minute, Hank. I want you to understand that I'm not a candidate for the Army job. I already have a fine coaching job which I'll not jeopardize. If the board wants to offer me the job and you're going to talk to me and no one else until I accept or decline, fine. But if you are considering other candidates, I'm not interested."
Adams called back to say that the board had agreed to talk to no one else until "you have decided yea or nay." So, while our team was at home during the Christmas holiday, I flew to New York to meet General William Westmoreland, superintendent of the academy, at the International Hotel near Kennedy Airport. He asked me if I was interested in the Army job.
I replied, "General, I'm still coaching the LSU team and I can't get too deeply involved until after the Orange Bowl game. But if we can work out the details we've talked about, I think this is what I'm looking for."
Before we left for Miami, word of my possible departure leaked to the newspapers and I was tried and convicted in the press before I ever accepted the job. It got really rough. I had talked with General Troy Middleton, president of LSU, till this day one of my dearest friends, and he told me, "Paul, this is a great opportunity. I don't want you to leave LSU, but you've got to weigh the great impact that the Army job has."
The night before the Orange Bowl game, a headline proclaimed, LSU TO GIVE COACH GOODBY WIN! Our players saw it and some of them were wondering and mumbling. I told them the truth. I said, "Men, I don't know what I'm going to do. I am going to talk to the Army officials, but that hasn't anything to do with our game. We have paid a tremendous price to get this far and we have a lot at stake. Do you want to throw everything down the drain we've worked for all year long because of something that is written in a newspaper? You're not playing for Paul Dietzel. You're playing for LSU and yourselves." They went out the next day and played like a bunch of wild people.
Well, we beat Colorado, and I remember telling Anne right after the game that we had been forced to leave LSU. It had become so nasty in the newspapers around Louisiana that I didn't really know that I had a choice. I really believed that I had to go.
When I told Jim Corbett that I had decided to take the job at Army if he would release me from my contract, he said, "Paul, I'm surprised. I never thought you'd leave." He went to the Board of Trustees, and apparently there was a pretty good amount of conversation there. But Jim prevailed, and I was released from my contract.