Emil Liston
Biographical details
Born(1890-08-21)August 21, 1890
Stockton, Missouri
DiedOctober 26, 1949(1949-10-26) (aged 59)
Baldwin, Kansas
Playing career
c. 1912Baker
1914Emporia Bidwells
1916Wichita Witches / Colorado Springs Millionaires
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1911–1913Baldwin HS (KS)
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
1916–1918Michigan Mines
Head coaching record
Overall107–69–18 (college football)
239–211 (college basketball)
Accomplishments and honors
7 KCAC (1922, 1927–1928, 1934, 1937, 1941–1942)
Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1975 (profile)
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006

Emil Smith "Liz" Liston (August 21, 1890 – October 26, 1949) was an American athletic coach and administrator. He coached basketball, football and baseball at Wesleyan University and Baker University. He was the founder of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, organized the NAIA college basketball tournament in 1937 and served as the first executive director of the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball (predecessor to the NAIA) from 1940 to 1949. He was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975.

Early years

A native of Stockton, Missouri, Liston attended Baker University in Kansas. From 1916 to 1918, he was the athletic director at Michigan College of Mines (which is now known as Michigan Technological University). According to some accounts, he also played football at Michigan College of Mines.[1]


In September 1918, Liston was hired by Wesleyan University as coach of the school's football team.[2][3] He left Wesleyan in June 1919 to play professional baseball for the Wichita, Kansas team in the Western League.[4] After spending the summer playing baseball in Wichita, Liston returned to Wesleyan as the head football coach in the fall of 1919.[5][6] In two years as Wesleyan's football coach, Liston compiled a 10–3 record. His .769 winning percentage at Wesleyan remains the highest of any Wesleyan football coach with at least ten games as coach.[7] Liston also coached the basketball and baseball teams at Wesleyan.[8][9] In April 1920, Liston announced his resignation from Wesleyan.[9]


After resigning from Wesleyan, Liston announced he was through with the coaching profession and that it was his intention to move to Kansas to work on the farm of his father-in-law.[10]

He returned to coaching in 1920 with Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas. He coached both football and basketball at Baker. He was the coach of the basketball team from 1930 to 1945 and led the school to Kansas Conference championships in 1930 and 1937.[11] He also coached Baker's football teams and was for many years the school's winningest football coach with 97 wins; the career wins record was broken in 1992 by Charlie Richard.[12]

The university named their football stadium Liston Stadium in his honor.[13]


Liston was also the founder of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics,[14] organized the NAIA college basketball tournament, and a close friend of James Naismith.[11] In 1945, Liston resigned his coaching position at Baker University to become the NAIB's first executive director; he held that position until his death in 1949.[11] He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975.[14] Liston's biography at the Basketball Hall of Fame states: "With sheer initiative, drive, and foresight, Emil Liston fought for uniformity and equality in college athletics. A dedicated administrator, Liston envisioned a small college, national tournament and organized the NAIB (now known as the NAIA). The first NAIA tournament was played in Kansas City with an eight-team field in 1937."[11]

Later years and death

Liston died of a heart attack, on October 26, 1949, while reading at his home in Baldwin, Kansas.[15]

Head coaching record

College football

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Wesleyan Methodists (Independent) (1918–1919)
1918 Wesleyan 4–2
1919 Wesleyan 6–1
Wesleyan: 10–3
Baker Wildcats (Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference) (1920–1937)
1920 Baker 5–4 4–3 T–5th
1921 Baker 5–3–1 4–3–1 T–6th
1922 Baker 8–1 7–1 1st
1923 Baker 4–1–4 3–1–4 T–4th
1924 Baker 4–5 3–5 T–11th
1925 Baker 4–3–1 3–3–1 T–8th
1926 Baker 3–3–2 2–3–2 10th
1927 Baker 7–0–1 6–0–1 T–1st
1928 Baker 6–0–2 5–0–2 1st
1929 Baker 5–3–1 2–2–1 3rd
1930 Baker 5–4 4–1 2nd
1931 Baker 2–5–2 1–2–1 T–4th
1932 Baker 4–4–1 2–2 3rd
1933 Baker 2–7 1–3 4th
1934 Baker 4–4–1 4–1 T–1st
1935 Baker 3–4–2 3–1–1 2nd
1936 Baker 2–6 1–4 5th
1937 Baker 5–4 4–1 1st
Baker Wildcats (Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference) (1940–1942)
1940 Baker 5–3 4–2 2nd
1941 Baker 7–2 5–1 1st
1942 Baker 7–0 6–0 1st
Baker: 97–66–18 74–39–14
Total: 107–69–18
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth


  1. ^ "Liston to Coach Wesleyan". The New York Tribune. August 22, 1919.
  2. ^ "E.S. LISTON TO HELP COACH AT WESLEYAN". The Christian Science Monitor. September 26, 1918.
  3. ^ "LISTON MAKING GOOD AS WESLEYAN COACH: Received Brief Trial with Hartford Club Last Season". The Hartford Courant. March 12, 1919.
  4. ^ "LISTON LEAVES WESLEYAN". The Christian Science Monitor. June 18, 1919.
  5. ^ "START WORK AT WESLEYAN.; Many Veteran Players Take Part in First Football Practice" (PDF). The New York Times. September 3, 1919.
  6. ^ "SELECTED TO COACH WESLEYAN FOOTBALL". The Hartford Courant. August 23, 1919.
  7. ^ "ALL-TIME COACHING RECORDS". Wesleyan University. Archived from the original on June 1, 2010. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  8. ^ "Wesleyan For Basketball". The Christian Science Monitor. December 14, 1918.
  9. ^ a b "Liston to Leave Wesleyan" (PDF). The New York Times. April 20, 1920.
  10. ^ "Wesleyan Baseball Coach Quits" (PDF). The New York Times. June 19, 1920.
  11. ^ a b c d "Hall of Famers: Emil S. Liston". Basketball Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on July 8, 2017. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  12. ^ Andrew Hartsock (September 13, 1992). "Wildcats win return of Sheldon, Richard". Lawrence Journal-World.
  13. ^ Newton, Allysha (October 28, 2011). "Liston name lives on". Baker Orange. Archived from the original on June 12, 2013. Retrieved April 1, 2013.
  14. ^ a b "NAIA founder added to Hall". Gadsden Times. April 29, 1975.
  15. ^ "Emil S. Liston Dies". The Kansas City Times. Kansas City, Missouri. October 27, 1949. p. 39. Retrieved July 7, 2017 – via Newspapers.com open access.