This Day in College Football History – May 17th

John Wilce (May 12, 1888 – May 17, 1963) was a player and coach, physician, and university professor. He served as the head football coach at Ohio State University from 1913 to 1928, compiling a record of 78–33–9. Wilce is best known for coaching the great “Chic” Harley and leading Ohio State to their first win over archrival Michigan in 1919. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1954. Wilce was born in Rochester, New York. He lettered in three sports while attending the University of Wisconsin. In football, Wilce was an all-conference fullback and captain of the 1909 team. Following his graduation from Wisconsin, Wilce coached high school football in La Crosse, Wisconsin and then became both an assistant football coach and assistant professor of physical education at Wisconsin.


In 1913, Ohio State began play in the Western Conference, later the Big Ten Conference, and hired Wilce as its head football coach. Wilce’s teams won a conference championship in 1916 with a 7–0 record, and repeated in 1917 (8–0–1) and in 1920 (7–1) when Ohio State played its first bowl game, losing the 1921 Rose Bowl to California, 28–0. Wilce coached the Ohio State Buckeyes football team for sixteen seasons, the second longest tenure in school history after Woody Hayes, compiling a career record of 78–33–9. In 1919, Wilce received his medical degree. He retired from football after the 1928 season to practice medicine. Wilce completed postgraduate training in cardiology at University of Edinburgh in the 1930s and was a professor of preventive medicine at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, specializing in research and treatment of heart disease. He also served as Director of Student Health Services from 1934 to 1958. The John W. Wilce Student Health Center, built in 1969, is named for Wilce.


Wilce’s “combination of medicine and football” and a sense of propriety that reflected his English heritage led him to try to reform the speech of his players on and off the field. He coined the phrase “intestinal fortitude.” Haber (1955) records the story of the coinage, the idea first coming to Wilce on the way to a lecture he was to present on anatomy and physiology at Ohio State in 1916, his first use of the phrase in public in a lecture to his team, and how he began to hear the phrase used by others. In 1954, Wilce was selected for enshrinement in the College Football Hall of Fame and was elected a member of the Ohio State Varsity O Hall of Fame in 1977. His academic honors include the Ohio State Distinguished Service Award in 1956. He died of complications of cardiovascular disease on May 17, 1963, in the Columbus suburb of Westerville, Ohio. Of his departure from coaching he was quoted: “Football was becoming too much of a business. The game was being taken away from the boys. I was a faculty-type coach who believed educational aspects were more important than winning games.” Wilce was survived by his wife, Minerva Connor Wilce, sons Jay and James M. “Jim” Wilce (1922–1988), and daughters Roseanne Wilce Pearcy and Dorothy Wilce Krause, along with many grandchildren, amongst whom are the nationally known sports and outdoors photographer Anne Krause (1952–2006) and James M. “Jim” Wilce, Jr., a linguistic anthropologist at Northern Arizona University.

Ace Parker (May 17, 1912 – November 6, 2013) was an American football and baseball player and coach. He played professional football as a quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) for the Brooklyn Dodgers (1937–1941) and Boston Yanks (1945) and in the of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) the New York Yankees . He was an All-American halfback at Duke University in 1936. Parker also played Major League Baseball during 1936 and 1937 with the Philadelphia Athletics. He served as the head baseball coach at Duke from 1953 to 1966. Parker was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1955 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972.Parker was the son of Ernest and Mabel Parker and grew up near Norfolk, Virginia. He attended Woodrow Wilson High School in Portsmouth, graduating with the class of 1933 and starring in five sports. He enrolled at Duke University as a freshman in 1933.

At Duke, Parker competed in three sports: football, basketball and baseball. From 1934–1936, he starred at tailback, doing most of the running and passing for Duke. He was second team All-American in 1935 and consensus All-American first team in 1936. He placed sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1936. Parker was a great open-field runner and one of the best punters in college football at the time. His 105 yard kickoff return against North Carolina is still a Duke school record. Parker also stood out as a baseball player at Duke, playing in 1935–1936. In his senior season at Duke, he served as team captain for the Duke Blue Devils who went 9–1, captured the league title with a 7–0 record, and finished the season ranked 11th in the Associated Press national poll. He was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1955. He was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1963, the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1972, and was an inaugural member of the Duke University Sports Hall of Fame, inducted in 1975.

Parker was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers as the third pick of the second round in the 1937 NFL draft. Sammy Baugh was the only passer drafted ahead of Parker. Parker, who played for the Philadelphia Athletics of Major League Baseball beginning in 1937, originally had no intention of playing in the NFL. Baseball was the glamour pro sport at the time and the NFL had a rough, vulgar reputation. But perhaps because of his .117 batting average that year, he asked for and received permission from the A’s to play football. Parker thus became a true two-sport phenomenon, playing both Major League Baseball and NFL football in both 1937 and 1938. Parker, playing various infield positions, batted .179 over two seasons with the A’s, scoring 20 runs with 25 RBI over 94 games. Parker was the first of only seven Major League Baseball players to hit a home run as a pinch-hitter in their first at bat.

When Parker joined the Dodgers in 1937, Brooklyn had been a perennial NFL cellar-dweller in the East Conference since 1930. With his running, passing, and punting ability, he brought them instant credibility. He led the team in passing in 1937 and every year he played. In 1938, he led Brooklyn to a 0.500 record and led the NFL in passing yards with 865. When legendary coach Jock Sutherland joined the Dodgers in 1940, Parker’s career took off. In 1940, he threw for 817 yards and 10 TDs, rushed for 306 yards, caught 3 passes, including 2 for TDs, and led the league in points after touchdowns. The Dodgers finished only one game out of first, with an 8–3 record, and Parker was named the NFL MVP. In 1941, Parker continued to shine, but the Dodgers again finished second to the New York Giants, despite beating their New York rivals twice during the season. Parker’s NFL career went on hold in 1942, as he, like many NFL players, left football to enlist in the Armed Services. After serving for over two years, Parker returned to the NFL, this time with the short-lived Boston Yanks, but at age 33, he took on a minor role. He rejoined the former owner of the Dodgers, Dan Topping, in 1946 as part of the New York Yankees of the new All-America Football Conference (AAFC). Coached by former Washington Redskins coach Ray Flaherty and led by Parker, the Yankees won the AAFC East, giving Parker his only division title in pro football. The Yankees met the powerful Cleveland Browns in the championship game. The Yankees played well, but eventually succumbed to the Browns. Parker was 8 of 18 passing, for only 81 yards and an interception. Parker retired after the game, completing a fine career at age 34. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1972.

After his playing days, Parker became the head baseball coach (1953–1966) and assistant football coach (1947–1965) at Duke University. He was manager of the Durham Bulls from 1949 to 1952, serving as player-manager for the first three seasons and finishing with a record of 303–266 (.533). He was Piedmont League manager of the year in 1949 and 1951. He was also a founding member of the Elizabeth Manor Golf and Country Club in Portsmouth, Virginia. On August 13, 2008, Parker was part of the inaugural class inducted into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame, honoring athletes, coaches and administrators who made contributions to sports in Southeastern Virginia. At the time of his death, Parker was the oldest living member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the oldest living former professional football player and the last living person to play on the same major league baseball field as Baseball Hall of Fame member Rogers Hornsby. On May 7, 1937, Parker appeared for the Philadelphia Athletics while Hornsby played one of his last games for the St. Louis Browns. Before his death, Parker and Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr were the last men to play on the same field as baseball immortal Lou Gehrig. Parker died the morning of November 6, 2013 at the age of 101. He is the first and so far only member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to have lived past their hundredth birthday.


Harold “Brick” Muller (June 12, 1901 – May 17, 1962) was a professional football player-coach for the Los Angeles Buccaneers during their only season in the National Football League in 1926. He was also an American track and field athlete who competed mainly in the high jump. Muller competed for the United States in the 1920 Summer Olympics held in Antwerp, Belgium in the high jump, where he won the silver medal. Muller grew up in Dunsmuir, California and later attended the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to attending Cal, Muller attended San Diego High School. When Clarence Price was hired by Cal coach Andy Smith as one of his Cal assistants, he encouraged his San Diego High School players to accompany him to Berkeley. Muller and six other graduates from San Diego High School later played on Cal’s undefeated, untied 1920 “Wonder Team”. In the 1921 Rose Bowl, he completed a touchdown pass to Brodie Stephens that went at least 53 yards in the air. He was later voted the Most Valuable Player of the game. Muller became a star end at Cal and was the first player in the western United States to receive All-American honors in 1921 and 1922. Muller was also a member of the California track and field team. The Bears won the ICAAAA championships in 1921, ’22, and ’23, and also won the second NCAA championships. Muller placed second in the Broad Jump, third in the High Jump, and fourth in the Discus Throw.

After graduating from Cal, Muller wanted to become an orthopedic surgeon. He was accepted into the University of California’s Medical School, but was in need of money. To help supplement his income while in medical school, Andy Smith hired Muller to coach the ends on the Cal varsity. While in school Muller coached from 1923–1925, until Smith died from pneumonia in 1926. After he became a physician, Brick played in the first East-West Shrine Game. During the game, he caught a 27 yard pass for a touchdown. Ed R. Hughes of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in his column: “Remember Muller has been out of college for three years, but right now he is by far the greatest end in the West, and probably one of the best that ever played!!” This led to Muller being signed by the Los Angeles Buccaneers. He soon became the player and head coach of the team. He led the Buccaneers to a 6-3-1 record in 1926. The team later folded in 1927.

After playing with the Buccaneers in 1926, Muller became an orthopedic surgeon. During World War II Muller served with the Army Medical School with the rank of Major, and in 1956 he served as the Head Team Physician for the United States Olympic Team. However the honors kept coming. In the late 1940s, Colliers Magazine senior editor James N. Young, who had compiled All-America data for almost half a century, chose Muller on his All-Time, All-America eleven. In 1953, Muller was also inducted by the San Diego Hall of Champions into the Breitbard Hall of Fame honoring San Diego’s finest athletes both on and off the playing surface and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.

The Brick Muller Award, which was first given in 1949, honors Muller and is awarded to the most valuable lineman on the Cal team. Players who won the award three times include Ralph DeLoach, E (defense; 1977-79), Harvey Salem, T (offense; 1980-82), Majett Whiteside, NG (defense; 1985-87); Andre Carter, DE (defense; 1998-2000), and Mitchell Schwartz, left tackle (offense; 2009–11). ”


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