October 24, 2014

Paul Dietzel dies at 89: USC football coach who also wrote school fight song

Former University of South Carolina head football coach and athletic director Paul Dietzel has died, according to a statement from his former school.

Dietzel was honored by USC in 2012 (FILE)

Dietzel was honored by USC in 2012 (FILE)

Dietzel passed away early Tuesday morning at the age of 89 after a brief illness, according to a release from the Louisiana State University sports information office. Dietzel won the 1958 national championship at LSU before his time at South Carolina.Dietzel served as coach and athletic director at South Carolina from 1966 until 1974, winning the school’s only football conference title in 1969. However, he resigned five years later with an overall 42-53-1 record.

As athletic director, Dietzel oversaw the school’s departure from the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1971. However, his biggest contribution to the school may have been writing USC’s new fight song during the 1968 season. Dietzel penned new lyrics to the Broadway show tune “Step to the Rear” and asked the band to play the new version. “The Fighting Gamecocks Lead the Way” remains the school’s fight song today.

An Ohio native, Dietzel played college football at Duke University before serving in the Army during World War II. After the war, he played football at Miami University of Ohio. He became an assistant coach at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point before being named head coach at LSU in 1955.

In 1961, he became the head coach at West Point. He remained at Army until accepting the USC job five years later.

He returned to LSU as athletic director briefly from 1978 to 1982.

After first retiring to North Carolina, he eventually did some radio and TV work on football broadcasts in the Southern Conference and helped with the creation of the Samford University athletic department in Birmingham, Ala.

Dietzel, who was the last living member of the 1958 National Championship coaching staff, eventually returned to Baton Rouge to live in 2003. One of his last major public appearances came at the opening of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame building in Natchitoches. He was inducted into the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.

He is the second former South Carolina football coach to pass away this month. Another coach Warren Giese died on September 12, according to Dunbar Funeral Home. Giese coached the Gamecocks from 1956 to 1960.