Saturday, April 22, 2006

Of Courtillet, Carroll, Collins and the Great 10-10 Tie

Back in the olden days, one would occasionally ask “what ever happened to _____?” Usually, the random thought would evaporate unanswered. Today, the Internet and especially Google provides unlimited opportunity to snoop.

Marcel Courtillet
While doing some quick online look-ups, when I should have been doing more important things, I googled the names of some of my high school classmates from Washington, DC Archbishop Carroll class of 19 long-ago. One of my hits was on Marcel Courtillet, the star halfback of John Carroll's 1966 football team. I found his name on the web site Greatest College Football Finishes. Here is their description of his role in the 1969 Duke – North Carolina game:

“At the end of the 3rd quarter, with the score tied, Duke's Coach Harp called for the quarterback Leo Hart to run to the Duke sideline, placing the ball on the right hash mark for the next play. This was on second and 10 at the Duke 46. Now 3rd and 9 on the 47, without a huddle, Hart feigned tying his shoelace while split end Marcel Courtillet went up to the ball, and the entire rest of the team lined up to the left of the ball, apparently waiting for Hart. Courtillet suddenly hiked the ball and flipped it to wideout Wes Chesson, who ran left behind a wave of Duke players. The UNC players, still in defensive huddle, were taken by surprise and Chesson went untouched into the endzone. Duke then later stopped Carolina on 4th and goal from the 4 to seal the game. Duke 17, UNC 13.”

That’s one of those stories that makes you go “hey, I went to school with that guy!”

Google found another Marcel Courtillet who attended Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland in 2001 and later James Madison University. Young Courtillet apparently was a good athlete. It would be too much of a coincidence for this person not to be related to the Marcel I once knew.

Carroll, Collins and the Catholic League
One line of thought leads to another. Thinking of Courtillet and Carroll High reminds that Carroll in the early sixties was not a prominent sports power, but the school was on the verge of great success. Maus Collins signed on as Carroll's football coach in 1960. By 1965, the team started to make some noise. They (we) beat arch-nemesis top-ranked St. John’s College High School 7–0. The deed was all the more memorable because Marcel, our star halfback, was out for the season for a medical reason I no longer recall. We won that day without our marquee player. The Carroll Lions went on to win the first of many Catholic League championships and were ranked number one that year in some local polls. (Montgomery Blair, led by quarterback Claude Prather, was the other number one team. That was notable because Prather was Black and leading a white team. Rare for the days before the Titans were remembered.)

Maurice "Maus" Collins went on to legendary status at Carroll and in the 1990s at Gonzaga High. He was inducted in the Montgomery College Hall of Fame in 1989 and ended his coaching career in 2000 with an overall record of 322-74-9.

Luis Grillo was a star basketball player at Carroll. He went on to a career as a NBA game official. Carroll with Grillo was getting better, but not the championship caliber that was Mackin High with Austin Carr or DeMatha High with Sid Catlett and coached by Morgan Wooten, the other Catholic League coach then coming into prominence.

DeMatha won the league basketball championship in 1966, as they would do many times under Wooten. Carroll lost both regular season games to them, but Grillo and Lacy Brown, with whom I am still acquainted, managed to upset Carr’s Mackin team, surprising everyone, including the Carroll student body, most of whom skipped the game expecting a loss.

Austin Carr and Sid Catlett played for Digger Phelps at Notre Dame. I attended Michigan State, a football and hockey power at the time. It galled me to see these DC kids playing for the Irish and beating us. Both Carr and Catlett went on to pro careers.

The Great Tie of 1966: Notre Dame @ Michigan State
Thinking of Notre Dame, I am reminded that Coley O’Brien, who was St. John’s star quarterback the year Maus Collins’ Carroll team upset them, went on to play for Notre Dame. He backed up Terry Hanratty of “Hanratty & Seymore” fame. In November 1966 the top ranked, undefeated Notre Dame travelled to East Lansing to square off with second ranked, unbeaten Michigan State. I was in the freshman section of Spartan Stadium fully expecting a replay of Carroll’s upset of O’Brien’s St. John team. O’Brien stepped into the breech to quarterback the Fighting Irish after Bubba Smith put a monster hit on Terry Hanratty, knocking him out of the game. The Spartans jumped to a ten point lead, but O'Brien led the Irish back to tie it up. Thereafter, the game turned into a defensive struggle, albeit of titanic proportion. The true excitement came at the end when Fighting Irish coach Ara Parseghian, with possession of the ball and less than two minutes remaining, decided to run out the clock to preserve the 10-10 tie.

The Spartans and Irish flip-flopped the number one ranking through the season. Both were undefeated coming into this game. The winner would cement its claim for the national championship. In a move both cynical and astute, Parseghian figured a tie would freeze the ranking until Notre Dame played easier to beat Southern Cal the following week. The Irish walloped the Trojans 51-0 or some such ridiculous score, while the Spartans, the only team who could match them, were idle for the rest of the season. Spartan coach Duffy Daugherty famously said "a tie is like kissing your sister."

The Notre Dame game was the season finale for the 9-0-1 Spartans. Big Ten rules at the time prevented the league champion from playing in consecutive Rose Bowls and Michigan State was defending its 1965 title. They never had a chance to throttle some hapless team 56-0 to press a claim for undisputed number one.

It was Notre Dame policy at the time to eschew post season bowl games. So Parseghian was smart not to risk a loss at State and go on to victimize Southern Cal, knowing the sporting press would vote the Fighting Irish number one even if they only beat the Trojans 5-0. Rocky Blier wrote about the game in his book FIGHTING BACK with an excerpt shown here.

Although Michigan State won a share of the national title and despite the tie, casual fans recollect that the Spartans lost that game. My intense dislike of Notre Dame athletics was born then. But, I lost more respect for them when the Fighting Irish boosters seemed to drive the great Parseghian out of coaching, despite all he had done for the program.

Southern Cal's rivalry with Notre Dame went up ten notches after that season when John McKay took umbrage with Parseghian running up the score on them. In 1967, the OJ Simpson-led, national champion Trojans dominated the Irish 24-7 in South Bend. OJ and the Trojans beat the snot out of the Spartans when they visited East Lansing earlier that season.

O'Brien never cemented the quarterback role for Notre Dame. When Hanratty graduated, Coach Parseghian named sophomore Joe Theesman, later "Theisman, rhymes with Heisman," as starting quarterback.

Those 1965-66 football Spartans were the greatest to wear the green and white and the last to challenge for a national title. Today, when you connect the terms "Michigan State" to "national title," you think of Tom Izzo's basketball program.

The 1966 season was the high point of Duffy Daugherty's career. He went 27-34-1 in the six seasons following the "game of the century." Blame the Civil Rights movement for confounding Daugherty. Major schools in the deep south excluded Black athletes, making the region a ripe recruiting ground for MSU and other northern colleges. Daugherty was especially successful in Texas, where he recruited Charles "Bubba" Smith, Clinton Jones, Gene Washington, among others. By the late sixties, southern coaches like Darryl Royal and Bear Bryant had had enough. They opened their doors to their citizen athletes of color. The sight of black men teamed with white men working toward a common goal for revered Southern institutions helped create, in a small but important way, a shift in cultural attitudes about race.

One rare thing Duagherty and MSU did in the sixties was to have Negro quarterbacks (we were all Negroes, then). Jimmie Raye, a Texas recruit, quarterbacked the Spartans in 1965 - 67. Bill Triplett, Charlie Baggett and Tony Banks also quarterbacked the Spartans in the years following. They weren't the only Big Ten school with Black quarterbacks. Tony Dungy was a star QB at the University of Minnesota in the early seventies. Both Dungy and Raye built long coaching careers in the NFL.

It's important to note that Daugherty's welcoming of Black athletes did not carry over the Michigan State as a whole. When I arrived on campus in 1966, I was one of only 400 "Negro" students out of a total population of 44,000. Not that I experienced open hostility, but there were stereotypes. I frequently had to explain that "no, I was not attending on an athletic scholarship." The kids from Michigan, even those from Detroit, had little to no direct exposure to black people. They seem to think we were white people with dark skins. They never quite "got" all the civil rights agitation. Even with that, I was more welcome at MSU than I would have been at the University of Maryland at the time.

Memories. One thought leads to another. One sentence leads to a thousand word essay! This essay grew from a random thought about Marcel Courtillet.


Anonymous said...


I am a Redskins fan who happened across your blog and this entry about Carroll High School Basketball in the 60's was of particular interest to me. Both my father and uncle played for Carroll during that time and about a year ago, I discovered numerous newspaper clippings from that era including the original Washington Post stories of games/players you mentioned: the Mackin upset (Carroll 36, Mackin 35), the Catholic title game (Dematha 75, Carroll 66) and the 1966 Washington Post All-Met Squad (with Luis Grillo, Austin Carr, Sid Catlett, Ernie Austin, Billy Gaskins, Harold Fox, Willie Allen, Louie West, Will Hetzell and John Hummer). Who is Lacy Brown? I did not see a mention of him in either the text or box scores any of the clippings.

Master4Caster said...

Wow! Thank you for the comment. Lacy Brown was Class of 1964, two years ahead of Grillo (and me). Who are your dad & uncle? I was the quiet nerdy kid who did not play sports. But there's a good chance I remember them.

Master4Caster said...

I reread my article and realized I made a brain fart. Lacy Brown was not part of Carroll's 1966 basketball team. Thanks for point that out.

Anonymous said...

Saw Marcel today along with many other former Carroll players, coaches and teachers. Maus Collins and Bob Dwyer were inducted as the first members of the ACHS athletic hall of fame. A couple of hundred attendees. It was great to see a lot of the old timers.

Anonymous said...

Coley O'brien graduated from St. John's in June 1965. St John's was 10-0 his final season and topped ranked in the DC metro area. Jim Fisher was the quraterback when Carroll won 7-0 in the fall of 65.

Master4Caster said...

The mind is the second thing to go. Thanks for the corrections. Now that you point that out, I do recall it as you say it.

Still like the thought that the '66 football team beat O'Brien, though.

1966, was that really 40 years ago? Wow.

ofaolain said...

Sid Catlett and Austin Carr preceded Digger Phelps at Notre Dame. Their coach was Johnny Dee.

Another interesting Notre Dame angle is that Fr. Edward "Monk" Malloy was a basketball teammate of John Thompson, Jr., the former Georgetown coach, at Archbishop Carroll High School. Malloy would play hoops at ND, while Thompson would play at Providence.

ofaolain said...

One more thing: Collis Jones, from St. John's, played on that ND team with Carr and Catlett. As seniors, they teamed up to stun mighty UCLA, which wouldn't lose again until 88 games had passed and Notre Dame -- this time under Digger Phelps -- would beat them. The latter ND team was was led by John Shumate, Gary Brokaw, and Dwight Clay, along with Adrian Dantley, a freshman from DeMatha.

Anonymous said...

Interesting read. I found it while researching Maus Collins. One small point I'd like to correct is that Claude Prather played under the legendary Roy Lester at Richard Montgomery, not at Montgomery Blair. And RM was not "a white team", but rather a mixed race team that was predominately white. RM had many outstanding black athletes (Butch Isreal, Squeaky Hebron and Billy Summerour come to mind) before Claude but he was probably the first to have such a big leadership role as quarterback.

Anonymous said...

I was just about to write that Prather played for RM. Additionally, he was quite a basketball player there as well.

Unknown said...

Marcell C had appendicitis. Joe H., Carroll class of 1964.