«PAGE 12 In season Caldwell could be grouchy and paranoid. He bawled out one of his captains, Homer Smith, in my presence when he found Smith engaged ...»
In season Caldwell could be grouchy and paranoid. He bawled out one of his captains, Homer
Smith, in my presence when he found Smith engaged in a conversation with me, an innocent
chat. But he did let a television crew set up and film his usual Sunday night squad meeting at
Osborn Field House in which the game film of the previous day's encounter was critiqued by the
coaches. It made for a program fascinating to the few who understood what was taking place.
Ahead of his time was Charlie Caldwell. And his time far too short.
(Editors ! s Note: William N. (Bill) Wallace is a retired New York Times sportswriter who maintains a website (http://www.billwallacesports.com) from his base in Westport, Connecticut.
Mr Wallace is also the author of a soon-to-be-published book on Yale's outstanding 1934 team.)
THE ELMHURST BLUEJAYS
The college is located in the town of Elmhurst, Illinois, an affluent suburb that is about 16 miles straight west of downtown Chicago and along the ageless Chicago and Northwestern Railway line. Founded in 1871 initially as a prepatory school (known at first as Elmhurst Academy) for potential theological and teaching students, it early-on had a very heavy German influence (almost all of the classes being conducted in that language) which was a direct result of a close association with the German Evangelical Church. Athletics became a recognized activity around 1900 when students formed a group called the Student Athletic Association, with the express purpose of funding interscholastic sport teams - initially soccer, baseball, and track.
From the beginning soccer was considered the school's best sport - the faculty deeming American football to be too dangerous of a game - and a series of successful teams were fielded against other high school competition, highlighted by winning the state championship in 1912.
Yet by 1920 the Elmhurst soccer program (the school now converted to a two-year college) was struggling as its teams were considered to be too strong, and many of the nearby colleges had converted to the game of American football. Yielding to pressure from the students, in October 1920 the college's Board of Control gave permission for the introduction of football - but with a series of stipulations that included obtaining a competent coach, each player having written parental consent, and that the team be financially supported by the Athletic Association.
A major change for the college's athletic teams took place in the fall of 1940, as a new nickname
- the Bluejays - made its debut at the Homecoming game against Wheaton after a naming contest among the students. Elmhurst fielded decent teams in 1941 and 1942 -- winning four games each year - but by 1943 the college was struggling with the low male enrollments brought on by wartime service for so many. Amidst reports that many small colleges had dropped football for the duration, Elmhurst continued on and managed to finally field 24 players from the 100 male students on campus. Langhorst was only able to put together a five game schedule that included playing two opponents twice each - the Bluejays battling Wheaton to 19and 6-6 ties in their two meetings - but Elmhurst managed to keep playing football. In 1944 Elmhurst went 2-5-0 - amazing under the circumstances - but in 1945 had to struggle to an 0-4-0 record with just a 21-man squad, of which only eight had played college football previously.
After the war the enrollment at Elmhurst took a major leap to 540 students - an all-time high at that point in school history - and the 1946 season was marked by the school becoming a member of the new College Conference of Illinois (CCI). Langhorst decided to retire as football coach after the 1948 season, although he continued on as AD. and track coach. He was succeeded as football coach for 1949 by William Kastrinos, who proceeded to install the T-formation for Elmhurst and then watched as the Bluejays struggle to an 0-8-0 record for the year.
After four more seasons of so-so teams the bottom dropped out for Elmhurst football beginning in 1954. By late 1956 the Bluejays had a losing streak that stood at 22 straight before a surprising 14-12 victory over North Central in November. Elmhurst then won its 1957 season opener against Concordia by a 20-0 score behind the three touchdowns registered by Bob Castner. But then the Bluejays began another long string that reached 28 defeats - with only a 0-0 tie with Concordia in 1959 mixed in the middle. And not only did the Bluejays just lose a lot between 1954 and 1960, but they often suffered some fearful drubbings. The 1958 season under Coach Harold (Spud) Owen was probably the worst, as Elmhurst was romped by Wheaton (90-6) and North Central (86-0). Some of the games were so bad that the school newspaper did not even mention them, and after the North Central debacle the Elm Bark writer said that, "I ought to be objective and report exactly how North Central scored each of their points but who cares?" These embarrassments were not going to be allowed forever though, and by November 1958 it had turned into a full-scale debate on campus. In the 11/14/58 issue an Elm Bark column said that "a standstill policy no longer will serve to quiet the cries for a change in the football program." Dropping football was deemed to be "not advisable" as the fear was that "such a move might set off a chain reaction that would eliminate all sports." Dropping out of the CCI for just football would not be allowed, and so some program of limited subsidizing of the football team seemed the only practical option. In 1959 Elmhurst had another new football coach in James Stone but the one-sided losses continued on the way to an 0-7-1 record. In early November 1959 the Elm Bark noted that "other member schools of the CCI are either subsidized or have some other method of getting outstanding athletes to attend. Elmhurst, with its stress on academics and now, a new building program, does not want to subsidize. The football problem has become a vicious cycle and its about time that something be done about it."
In 1968 Elmhurst joined the eight team College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW), and the school's home football field was renamed as "Langhorst Field" in honor of the long-time coach. The next several seasons were mostly so-so - highlighted by a 6-3-0 record in 1972 before Elmhurst hired Tom Beck away from St Procopius as its new head coach in 1976. Beck was a fiery and emotional coach with a talent for producing a high-powered offense, along with the ability to attract some very capable athletes to the campus.
After a couple seasons under Beck, the "completely unheralded" Bluejays exploded in 1978 with one of the top small college teams in the Midwest. Behind halfback George Donald (who had led the CCIW in touchdowns in 1977) and quarterback Stan Walker, along with a fleet of speedy backs and receivers, Elmhurst rolled to an 8-1-0 record (one of the three best in school history) and earned a conference co-championship - the first in school history - and a final #17 national ranking from the NA1A.
Donald and the Jays gave a hint of things to come in the season opening 27-24 win over Wheaton, as the speedy halfback turned in probably the greatest individual performance in school history as he scored four touchdowns (three on long plays) while rushing for 156 yards on 24 carries.
The season featured wins over Illinois Wesleyan (21-0), Millikin (38-12), with Donald scoring four TDs and rushing for 158 yards, North Central (24-22), and Carroll (28-21). The season was marred by a 16-13 loss to Augustana at home after blowing a 13-0 lead, and the Bluejays were forced to share the title with Millikin. Donald ended the season with 1167 rushing yards despite missing almost two complete games with injuries, and was named the school's first Little All-American.
Most of the team was back in 1979 but Elmhurst could manage only a 7-2-0 overall record and a second place tie in the CCIW. With Donald leading the way, the season included big wins over Wheaton, North Central, and Augustana, but everything was marred by disappointing losses at Illinois Wesleyan (14-13) and Millikin (33-12). Beck fielded another offensive powerhouse in 1980, but again there were disappointing losses to Augustana (22-14) and at Carthage (33-30). Yet Elmhurst's 6-2-0 CCIW mark (7-2-0 overall) was good enough for another co-championship - this time with Illinois Wesleyan. The 1980 season closed out Donald's career with the Bluejays, as he finished with a career mark of 3496 rushing yards and numerous individual school records.
Elmhurst logged another overall 8-1-0 mark in 1981 (7-1-0 in the CCIW), but this was the start of the dominating teams at Augustana that would advance to the Division III national championship game for five straight seasons beginning in 1982 (winning four times) and the Jays had to settle for a second place finish. After a 6-3-0 record in 1982, Tom Beck ended his successful run at Elmhurst in 1983 when he accepted an assistants job with the new Chicago USFL pro team He was succeeded as head coach by Bruce Hoffman, who led the Bluejays to an overall record of 20-7-0 from 1983-1985, before his 2-6-1 team of 1986 shocked the country by holding eventual national champion Augustana to a 0-0 tie to snap the Vikings' 37-game winning streak After a 5-4-0 record in 1987 the so-so football teams returned to Elmhurst for the next 15 years, with Hoffman leaving in 1989 which began a coaching merry-go-round at the school.
Finally, in the 2003 season, winning football returned as the Bluejays posted a 6-4-0 record for Coach Paul Krohn. Led by the brilliant passing combination of quarterback Dominic Demma and speedster end Juan Quesada, the Elmhurst season was highlighted by wins over Chicago (24-0),, Carthage (21-0), and Illinois Wesleyan (40-20). The CCIW is now regarded as one of the top small college football conferences in the country, and every season sees Wheaton, Illinois Wesleyan, and Augustana almost automatically installed as the preseason favorites. After 85 years of football at Elmhurst College this probably spells out a lot more hard-fought games for the