Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Cleveland Rams’ Hugo Bezdek: The Original Hellraising Would-Be Reformer of College Football

Bezdek with the Rams

Hugo Bezdek (far right) opens training camp with the 1937 Cleveland Rams in Painesville, Ohio. (Photo courtesy the Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Hugo Bezdek

Stockily built, Bezdek was at heart an academician, a pedagogical purist, and a creative thinker. (Photo courtesy National Football Foundation)

Like sex, outrage over the high financial stakes of college football is something every generation seems to think it invented.

The latest example comes from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, whose football program has been deemed not financially unsustainable and so will be dismantled. Public reaction to this news has been predictable: university president Dr. Ray Watts is persona non grata in Birmingham.

But it always has been thus. Concern that college football has become too money-soaked and untethered from a university’s academic mission dates at least to the 1920s. So do attempts to reform it.

Among the most notable and earliest would-be reformers of college football was Hugo Bezdek, the NFL Rams franchise’s first-ever head coach. As a college athletic director and coach, Bezdek nearly single-handedly attempted to “de-emphasize” football at powerhouse Penn State University in the late 1920s and 1930s by eliminating player scholarships, returning to the university an athletic building that had been built by and for the football team, and drawing his player roster from the general student population.

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9 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the NFL’s Rams Franchise

Rams banner

The Rams are the only NFL team to win championships in three different cities: Cleveland (1945), Los Angeles (1951) and St. Louis (1999). (Photo courtesy Sports Road Trips)

In doing research for my book on the Cleveland Rams I repeatedly come across an old, amusing sports column in the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s archives titled “It’s New to Most of You” — as in, this may not be a world-beating exclusive but here you are. In the spirit of that unpretentious name, here are 9 things you may not have known about the Rams, one of the NFL’s oldest and most nomadic franchises. It begins with the biggest one: where the team actually was founded.

Rams letterhead

A distinctive Rams logo appeared on letterhead within days of the team’s acceptance into the NFL in February 1937. (Courtesy Pro Football Hall of Fame)

1. The Rams did not start in Los Angeles. And they certainly didn’t originate in St. Louis where they currently reside. The Rams began in Cleveland in 1936 as an American Football League team, joined the NFL in 1937, moved to Los Angeles in 1946, and moved again in 1995 to St. Louis. (And they may well move again, back to L.A.)

2. The Rams originated the NFL’s first helmet logo. Thank Cleveland / L.A. running back Fred Gehrke for that; he had an art degree and worked as an aircraft illustrator before he designed, and personally painted on every single Rams helmet, the iconic ram’s-horn logo.

3. The Rams are the only franchise to win NFL championships in three different cities: Cleveland (1945), Los Angeles (1951) and St. Louis (1999). Continue reading

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