Hugo Bezdek
Biographical details
Born(1884-04-01)April 1, 1884
Prague, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary
DiedSeptember 19, 1952(1952-09-19) (aged 68)
Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
Playing career
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1907Chicago (assistant)
1918–1929Penn State
1937–1938Cleveland Rams
1949Delaware Valley
1919Penn State (interim HC)
1917–1919Pittsburgh Pirates
1920–1930Penn State
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
1918–1936Penn State
Head coaching record
Overall127–58–16 (college football)
1–13 (NFL)
28–37 (college basketball)
166–187 (MLB)
222–123–1 (college baseball)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1954 (profile)

Hugo Francis Bezdek (April 1, 1884 – September 19, 1952) was a Czech American athlete who played American football and was a coach of football, basketball, and baseball. He was the head football coach at the University of Oregon (1906, 1913–1917), the University of Arkansas (1908–1912), Pennsylvania State University (1918–1929), and Delaware Valley College (1949). Bezdek also coached the Mare Island Marines in the 1918 Rose Bowl and the Cleveland Rams of the National Football League (NFL) in 1937 and part of the 1938 season. In addition, Bezdek coached basketball at Oregon (1906–1907, 1913–1917) and Penn State (1919), coached baseball at Arkansas (1909–1913), Oregon (1914–1917) and Penn State (1920–1930), and served as the manager of Major League Baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates (1917–1919). He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1954.

Coach Bezdek is the only Coach to bring three different teams to the Rose Bowl Game; University of Oregon, Mare Island Marines and Pennsylvania State University. Bezdek was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame on December 31, 2022.

Early years

Bezdek was born near Prague, Bohemia (now part of the present-day Czech Republic). His fore fathers had been school-teachers, strong men and athletes. His family emigrated to America in 1891 when he was 6 years old. They lived in Cleveland's Slavic Community. His father James (Valcav), worked at as a butcher in Cleveland. His father, hence Hugo, can be found in the Cleveland City directory at 51 (5787) Portage Ave in 1895.[1] and 156(5500) Fleet Ave. from 1896-98 St.[2] The Fleet Ave. address still stands today. Around 1900 the family, James, Frances and Hugo moved to 4846 South Paulina St., Chicago Ill. where his father continued working as a butcher and 16 year old Hugo is "at school." It appears this structure is also standing.[3] From here, young Hugo launched his Athletic Career. He enjoyed playing sports typical of the day. While he favored football, he also boxed, wrestled and played baseball.[4]

Coaching career

Bezdek (seated, center) with the rest of the coaching staff for the 1925 Penn State Nittany Lions football team

After playing as a fullback at the University of Chicago, Bezdek began his football coaching career at the University of Oregon in 1906, but left after a year to become head coach at the University of Arkansas. Arkansas' athletic teams were known as the Cardinals until after the 1909 season. Near the end of that year, Coach Bezdek called his team "a wild band of Razorback hogs" at an impromptu press conference following his team's victory over LSU. The name was a hit with the Arkansas students, and they voted to change the school's mascot from Cardinals to Razorbacks the following school term. Razorbacks has been Arkansas' mascot since that time. The 1909 team finished 7-0 and were considered the "Champions of the South". After five years at Arkansas, he returned to Oregon for six seasons.

While coaching in Oregon, Bezdek also served as a scout for Major League Baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates, who hired him as their manager in the middle of the 1917 season. He managed the Pirates through 1919, compiling a 166–187 record.

While managing the Pirates, Bezdek continued his football coaching career, moving from Oregon to Pennsylvania State University in 1919. He was head coach there until 1929, amassing a 65–30–11 record that included two undefeated seasons and an appearance in the 1923 Rose Bowl. Bezdek was noted for changing the Nittany Lions' style of play.[5]

Bezdek also served as Penn State's athletic director from 1918 to 1936, was interim basketball coach in 1919, garnering an 11–2 record, and director of the School of Physical Education and Athletics from 1930 to 1937.

In 1937, Bezdek was hired by the Cleveland Rams as their first head coach after the team joined the National Football League (NFL). His career with the Rams was brief, ending three games into the 1938 season with an abysmal 1–13 record. Nevertheless, Bezdek holds the distinction of being the only person to have served as both manager of a Major League Baseball team and head coach in the NFL. [6]

As a college football coach, Bezdek tallied a career record of 127–58–16. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.

Head coaching record

College football

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Oregon Webfoots (Independent) (1906)
1906 Oregon 5–0–1
Arkansas Cardinals/Razorbacks (Independent) (1908–1912)
1908 Arkansas 5–4
1909 Arkansas 7–0
1910 Arkansas 7–1
1911 Arkansas 6–2–1
1912 Arkansas 4–6
Arkansas: 29–13–1
Oregon Webfoots (Independent) (1913–1915)
1913 Oregon 3–3–1
1914 Oregon 4–2–1
1915 Oregon 7–2
Oregon Webfoots (Pacific Coast Conference) (1916–1917)
1916 Oregon 7–0–1 2–0–1 2nd W Rose
1917 Oregon 4–3 1–2 4th
Oregon: 30–10–4 3–2–1
Mare Island Marines (Independent) (1917)
1917 Mare Island 1–0 W Rose
Mare Island: 1–0
Penn State Nittany Lions (Independent) (1918–1929)
1918 Penn State 1–2–1
1919 Penn State 7–1
1920 Penn State 7–0–2
1921 Penn State 8–0–2
1922 Penn State 6–4–1 L Rose
1923 Penn State 6–2–1
1924 Penn State 6–3–1
1925 Penn State 4–4–1
1926 Penn State 5–4
1927 Penn State 6–2–1
1928 Penn State 3–5–1
1929 Penn State 6–3
Penn State: 65–30–11
Delaware Valley Aggies (Independent) (1949)
1949 Delaware Valley 2–5
Delaware Valley: 2–5
Total: 127–58–16

Professional football

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
CLE 1937 1 10 0 .091 5th in NFL Western
CLE 1938 0 3 0 .000 4th in NFL Western
CLE Total 1 13 0 .071
NFL Total[7] 1 13 0 .071
Total 1 13 0 .071

See also


  1. ^ Title U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 Author Publisher Operations, Inc. Publisher Date 2011 Publisher Location Provo, UT, USA
  2. ^ Title U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 Author Publisher Operations, Inc. Publisher Date 2011 Publisher Location Provo, UT, USA
  3. ^ 1900 United States Federal Census Author Publisher Operations Inc Publisher Date 2004 Publisher Location Provo, UT, USA
  4. ^ "Trying Out Hugo Bezdek and a "New Idea" in Baseball". The Ogden Standard. Ogden City, Utah. October 6, 1917. p. 22. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
  5. ^ COACH BEZDEK CHANGES TEAM'S STYLE OF PLAY FOR THIRD TIME TROJANS TO TACKLE A REORGANIZED ELEVEN; Nittany Lions to Take Field With Almost a Completely New Bunch of Regulars. Los Angeles Times, December 27, 1922. Hugo "Spinx" Bezdek, commander-in-chief of the Penn State football squad, which is to meet the University of Southern California in the annual East-West Tournament of Roses New Year's Day game, changes the style of his eleven's play almost as much as a woman changes her mind.
  6. ^ "5 Minutes with Dr. James C. Bezdek | IEEE Computational Intelligence Society". Archived from the original on February 9, 2018.
  7. ^ "Hugo Bezdek Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks –".