Lloyd Eaton

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Lloyd Eaton
Sport(s) Football
Biographical details
Born (1918-03-23)March 23, 1918
Died March 14, 2007(2007-03-14) (aged 88)
Nampa, Idaho
Playing career
1938–1939 Black Hills State
Position(s) End
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1940 Black Hills State (line)
1949–1955 Alma
1956 Northern Michigan
1957–1961 Wyoming (DL)
1962–1970 Wyoming
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
1970–1980? Green Bay Packers (dir. of player pers.)
Head coaching record
Overall 104–53–5 (college)
Bowls 1–1
Accomplishments and honors
Championships
2 MIAA (1950–1951)
3 WAC (1966–1968)

Lloyd W. Eaton (March 23, 1918 – March 14, 2007) was an American football player, coach, and executive. He served as the head coach at Alma College (1949–1955), Northern Michigan University (1956), and the University of Wyoming (1962–1970), compiling a career college football record of 104–53–4. Eaton then worked as the director of player personnel for the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League (NFL). He was involved in the 1969 incident "Black 14", serving as the coach of the team.

Early years[edit]

Growing up in Belle Fourche, South Dakota,[1] Eaton was an outstanding football, track, and boxing athlete at Belle Fourche High School. After High School, he graduated from Black Hills State Teachers College where he played end and became captain of the team in his junior year.

Professional career[edit]

Eaton remained at Black Hills after graduation, becoming the line coach there for one year. He then coached football at DuPre High School for several years leading up to his service in World War II.

Following the War, he returned to coaching at Bennett County High School in Martin, South Dakota, and then earned a master's degree at the University of Michigan. While at Michigan, he coached the 150-pound football team.

He began doctoral studies at Indiana University Bloomington, then moved on to coach football at Alma College in Michigan. There his teams won the 1950 and 1951 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship titles, and he compiled a record of 40–20–2. His influence there was felt by player Denny Stolz, who later became a successful coach.

Eaton was a detail-oriented disciplinarian who made a name for himself by introducing new techniques that helped smaller defensive linemen. "[Smaller defensive linemen] became very popular as a result," recalled Paul Roach, Eaton's assistant at Wyoming. "I think this became somewhat of a springboard for him to be elevated as a head football coach, and he certainly had an outstanding career as a head football coach".[2]

Eaton left Alma in 1956, and coached at Northern Michigan University for one year before. From 1957 to 1961, Eaton served as defensive line coach at the University of Wyoming, and in 1962, he succeeded Bob Devaney as head coach there. In that role, he became one of the university's most successful coaches, compiling a record of 57–33–2. His greatest success came in the 1966, 1967, and 1968 seasons. In those three years, the team posted back-to-back 10–1 seasons, including a 14-game winning streak from November 5, 1966 to January 1, 1968, then followed this by going undefeated through the 1968 regular season. His teams won the 1966 Sun Bowl and played in the 1968 Sugar Bowl.

In 1969, he dismissed 14 Wyoming players from the team for planning to wear black armbands during a game against BYU. The situation known as the "Black 14", caused harmful repercussions for the University and he was eventually forced to step down after he went 1-9 the next year.[3]

In 1972, the NFL came calling, and Eaton became the Director of Player Personnel for the Green Bay Packers,[4] before being demoted to a scouting position four years later. He later served as the western regional director for the BLESTO player rating service of the NFL, before retiring in the mid-1980s.

In 1973, he was elected to the Alma (College) Athletic Hall of Fame, and in 1984 to the Wyoming Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

"Black 14" controversy[edit]

Eaton was the head coach in 1969, during the "Black 14" incident, in which he dismissed 14 black Wyoming players from the team for planning to wear black armbands during a game against the Brigham Young University (BYU) Cougars. At a victory against BYU the previous year, players from the Cougars had subjected them to racial epithets.[5] A week before the upcoming game, the team's black members were reminded of the incident and also informed about the racial policies of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which owns and operates BYU, and which at that time excluded black people from the church's priesthood) by Willie Black, leader of Wyoming's Black Student Alliance, and challenged them to do something about it.[5] The day before the game, the players approached coach Eaton to tell him that they were planning to wear black armbands during the game in protest; Eaton forbade it.[5] The players then arranged to meet with Eaton, intending to discuss with him the terms of their protest.[5][6] According to Joe Williams, a team co-captain before he was suspended from the team, "We wanted to see if we could wear black armbands in the game, or black socks, or black X's on our helmets. And if he had said no we had already agreed that we would be willing to protest with nothing but our black skins."[6]

Eaton took them to the bleachers in the old fieldhouse.[5] Eaton says he listened to their suggestions for ten minutes before deciding to fire them.[6] Williams gives a very different account: "He [Eaton] came in, sneered at us and yelled that we were off the squad. He said our very presence defied him. He said he has had some good Neeegro boys. Just like that."[6] Defensive end Tony McGee said that Eaton "said we could go to Grambling State or Morgan State ... We could go back to colored relief. If anyone said anything, he told us to shut up. We were really protesting policies we thought were racist. Maybe we should've been protesting there."[5] John Griffin, a flanker, corroborates McGee's memory.[5]

At San Jose State University, the team voted to wear multicolored armbands against Wyoming in support of the 14, and groups at other Western Athletic Conference schools demanded that Wyoming be dropped from their schedules. At the time of the incident, the team was undefeated (4-0) and ranked 12th in the nation. Even though Wyoming beat BYU 40-7 and San Jose State (the next game) without the players, it would lose its last four games of 1969 and went 1-9 the next year, which prompted the school to fire Eaton.[7] Black athletes stayed away from the college athletic programs for the following decade.

The "Black 14" incident spurred the court case Williams v. Eaton, with the issue of free speech against the principle of separation of church and state. Litigation was lengthy for this case and ended on October 31, 1972.[8]

Personal life[edit]

He was once married and divorced, living purposefully without a phone.[9] Eaton died at the age of 88 on March 14, 2007 in Nampa, Idaho.[1]

Head coaching record[edit]

College[edit]

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Alma Scots (Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1949–1955)
1949 Alma 5–2–1
1950 Alma 6–2–1 4–1 1st
1951 Alma 7–2 4–1 T–1st
1952 Alma 4–4
1953 Alma 7–2
1954 Alma 6–4
1955 Alma 5–4
Alma: 40–20–2
Northern Michigan Wildcats () (1956)
1956 Northern Michigan 7–0–1
Northern Michigan: 7–0–1
Wyoming Cowboys (Western Athletic Conference) (1962–1970)
1962 Wyoming 5–5 2–2 T–2nd
1963 Wyoming 6–4 2–3 5th
1964 Wyoming 6–2–2 2–2 4th
1965 Wyoming 6–4 3–2 3rd
1966 Wyoming 10–1 5–0 1st W Sun 15
1967 Wyoming 10–1 5–0 1st L Sugar 5 6
1968 Wyoming 7–3 6–1 1st
1969 Wyoming 6–4 4–3 T–3rd
1970 Wyoming 1–9 1–6 T–7th
Wyoming: 57–33–2 32–19
Total: 104–53–5
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth

References[edit]