Paul Dietzel made LSU football what it is today. He passed away today, and the whole Tiger nation mourns his family's loss and celebrates his life.
His tenure at LSU was short -- an all-too-brief seven years before he moved on to take the head job at Army -- but his influence on the program was immense. He won LSU's first SEC title since the 1930s, establishing LSU as a major southern power. He won our first recognized national title in 1958. He was the first LSU coach to win 10 games twice, and he owns the best season in LSU history: an 11-0 perfect season.
Dietzel also built the lore that we still enjoy to this day. The Chinese Bandits were his brainchild, as was the three-platoon system. He even designed our uniforms. The yellow helmet and pants, coupled with a white jersey with purple stripes and numbers were his creation.
When we think of what LSU football is, we think in terms that Dietzel created. This is his lasting legacy, and his dream that came true. He built the LSU program out of nearly nothing, and transformed a program that hadn't been truly competitive since Huey Long was governor into an SEC power. He won, but more importantly, he gave LSU an identity.
This is still Paul Dietzel's program. You hear it every time the band strikes up Chinese Bandits, you smell it in the sweat and bourbon wafting through the stands, and you see it on the very field itself. He willed LSU football into being, and it still lives and breathes based upon that image.
This is the team that my parents grew up with. This is the concept of LSU football that they passed down to their children, and we will pass down to our children. It is a game won by playing hard as a total team, down to the last man on the roster. The Chinese Bandits didn't start, but they excelled in their role. We all make a contribution to this thing we all love.
Dietzel returned to the LSU family in 1978 when he took the job as Athletic Director. He retired in 1982 and went on to a career as a motivational speaker and, of all things, a painter. Paul Dietzel was born to create.
His greatest work of art will always be LSU football. We never said it enough, so we say it now: thank you. Thank you for everything, Mr. Dietzel.
Rest in peace.
Coach Dietzel's family has set up a memorial page and asks that instead of flowers, donations be sent to the local chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes