By Dr. Ken
Just four blocks from our nation's White House, George Washington University has carved a reputation as one of the nation's leading academic institutions. One of the first universities in the U.S. to grant doctoral degrees, their distinguished list of graduates and attendees is as disparate as it is impressive. As might be expected, many familiar names through history that were involved with the government of the United States were educated at GW and in an interesting twist, perhaps due to the superb reputation of the law school, they can lay claim to having been on all sides of a number of government-related scandals. During the Watergate scandal, both President Nixon's Chief Counsel Charles Colson and the government's Special Prosecuting Attorney Leon Jaworski were George Washington grads as was J. Edgar Hoover, the Director Of The FBI. Add the U.S. Solicitor Kenneth Starr who investigated the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Colin Powell, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and the beautiful Jacqueline Bouvier who later became Jackie Kennedy and then Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and it is obvious that GW has always been a rather special place to procure one's education. Most however, will not recall that into the 1960's the Colonials also played football in the Southern Conference and competed with league rivals West Virginia, Virginia Tech, and The Citadel for conference supremacy. Of course, those days are long past, the Colonials dropping football after the 1966 season and in effect "trading" it for excellence in basketball, baseball, and women's athletics. However, there was a time that football was "big time" and they competed on the national level. They can even boast of having a Pro Football Hall Of Famer. Alphonse "Tuffy" Leemans who was the MVP in the 1936 College All Star Game and the second overall pick of the Giants in the first NFL draft. He was first or second team All Pro in each of his eight seasons and remains one of the N.Y. Giants' all time great running backs having led the NFL in rushing as a rookie. That was decades ago, and when I was attending high school I knew none of this, not even as a Giants fan that sat in the back of every high school classroom and compulsively memorized the height, weight, college affiliation, and statistics of every player on the current squad.
As a former educator and with a fourth child preparing to attend college, I have certainly been aware of the many excellent aspects of George Washington University as it is a popular choice for students with extremely high standards. However, when I was in college and looked at our schedule and saw "George Washington" I really had no idea where it was located nor anything about their football program. I was informed that they were breaking new ground in socially significant ways which caught my interest. Present generations do not recall nor understand that racial segregation was standard procedure up until the mid-1960's, even on the football field, and in areas of the United States other than the South. Many northern schools had quotas for racial minorities or limited them to specific positions. In the NFL, it is agreed upon by many of the old-timers that "stacking" was a common practice with the unstated but definite quota of African-American players often kept at two or three positions and not played otherwise. West Virginia University brought in FB Dick Leftridge and OG Roger Alford as their first Black varsity football players in 1963. At the same time, Gary Lyle, Norm Neverson, Clifford Reid, and Kenny Doyle entered GW together as members of the 1963 freshman team and thus, both universities were in the forefront in integrating the conference.  The '63 George Washington freshmen team were a close-knit group and played great football, beating Maryland of the  Atlantic Coast Conference and their one-hundred member freshmen team by a score of 6-0, indicative of their high level of talent.

Evaluating the GW Colonials for the '64 season, Street And Smith's College Football Yearbook noted that "The appearance of four promising Negro sophomore prospects, first of their race to seek positions on the varsity, was timed with the appearance of enough talent that (head coach) Jim Camp sought to groom three units in Spring practice." One of these players was Garry Lyle, a running back out of Verona, PA who had starred on that freshman team in '63. He was even better as a soph, moving to the QB position before the season was over, and finishing at 5-4. Lyle was definitely the guy to stop and as the first African-American to be named to the All Southern Conference team he was a marked man. With the change in substitution rules the year before, many schools were switching to platoon football but at both Cincinnati and GW, there were plenty of players still going both ways and Lyle was also a very effective secondary man as well as a kick and punt returner. Two-way guard Doug McNeil was their stud lineman with Lou Astolfi a player we needed to control. Another outstanding player was  halfback Mike Holloran.
In 1965, GW again was looking to challenge for the conference title but Lyle was injured in the season's opener and could do little more than place kick. I had the pleasure of speaking with GW's former two-time All Southern Conference and Honorable Mention All American defensive back and wingback Tom Metz, originally out of the Philadelphia area and now living comfortably in Colorado. He and George Washington's archivist Mr. Lyle Slovick provided a great deal of information, and our conversations continued to return to the 1964 game. The biggest victory of 1964 was against a thirty-five point favorite Cincinnati team, the Missouri Valley Conference co-champion. The 1964 and '65 Bearcat contingents were loaded with great athletes, most notably QB Brig Owens and HB Al Nelson, two future pro stars. Against Tulsa in the '64 contest, a 28-23 UC win that determined the conference title, both offenses rolled up and down the field in an offensive shoot-out that matched Tulsa's pass-catch duo of Jerry Rhome and end Howard Twilley with UC's Owens and Nelson. Metz noted the superiority of UC's athletes, and that they had a lot more team size and speed. "We were outweighed twenty pounds per man and Cincinnati had great athletes" but in the films of the Tulsa vs. UC game, played the week prior to the GW tilt, and the film that Head Coach Camp had the squad focus upon, GW made a startling discovery. All-MVC RB Nelson, if running to his right, would place his right hand on the ground. If Nelson ran to his left, his left hand would go to the ground. Metz said that as obvious as this was, once pointed out by his coaching staff, it was never altered by Nelson nor the Bearcat staff. This allowed the focus to fall upon Nelson and the defensive signal would be yelled as "Cincy left" or "Cincy right" dependent upon Nelson's hand placement. The front wall of the Colonials would then slant to the side of the tipped-off run, stifling the UC rushing attack and pulling off one of the greatest upsets of the season and one of the biggest in GW history. Metz stated that "You were big favorites, but we realized that Nelson's movement was predictably consistent and we helped ourselves with a bit of 'trickery.'"  Metz explained that "Without a huddle, after the first kickoff, GW lined up with a very unbalanced line. Both guards and tackles lined up on one side, so the only lineman left of the center to the narrow side of the field was the tight end. Everyone else was on the wide side of the field. Garry received the ball from the center and simply ran to the wide side of the field, with the entire team blocking for him. When the tackle was finally made, GW lined up with the unbalanced line the other way, to the wide side, again without a huddle. Garry ran again. On the third play, he scored. It was unbelievable." Despite the effectiveness of the unorthodox alignment, Cincinnati with all of its talent was winning with two minutes remaining in the game by a score of 15-14. The Colonials forced and recovered a fumble and Mark Gross came on to kick a field goal for a 17-15 GW victory. Metz summarized the great performance, dogged play, and "most memorable upset" by stating that "It was an unbelievable tribute to Jim Camp's coaching talent." Metz also pointed out that one of GW's key players and one of his close friends, LB Tom Reilly, had to go against one of his relatives, UC's dominant tackle Bob Taylor and afterward, let Taylor know the specifics of how the upset was constructed.
Unfortunately, Lyle's early-season injury in '65 reduced the team's effectiveness and the 5-5 finish was considered to be quite admirable in Camp's estimation due to an inordinate number of injuries. UC traveled to DC to play the 1965 contest and somewhat avenged the '64 upset loss with a 13-3 win and a rushing output of 236 yards. Metz was a two-way star who stood out as a DB and also caught thirty-two passes for 340 yards, but Lyle was relegated to doing little more than place kicking and left school prior to the '66 season. He was drafted in the third round by the Bears and enjoyed a productive seven-year pro career as a DB and kick return man. Garry's son Keith was a star at the University Of Virginia and played DB in the NFL, primarily for the Rams. Although some saw the 1957 Sun Bowl team's performance as the program's high-water mark, GW competed well in the Southern Conference and Camp was coach of the year a number of times. A decision was made to drop football when a new president came in. Despite playing at the NFL Redskin's stadium, small crowds and dwindling finances brought about the decision and a major initiative was started to enhance the campus infrastructure and academic programs. Both goals were successful as George Washington achieved a deserved reputation as one of the nation's premiere universities with a beautiful campus. The "Buff And Blue" Colonials of GW always looked great with their white helmets, gold center stripe, and two flanking stripes in navy blue. On their white visiting team jerseys, the helmet striping was matched by the same shoulder insert and sleeve numerals which gave a great look to the entire uniform. The navy blue home jersey with white front, back, and shoulder numbers and white knit sleeve trim matched well with the nice looking helmet that had the players' identifying numerals placed at the back of the headgear. As one of the last of the major universities playing in a large urban setting, the demise of GW's football program was, in retrospect, a view of the sport's future as many of the mid-level entries were forced to either de-emphasize or eliminate their programs or make a major commitment to playing "big time" football. While many mourned the loss of football, GW made its passing work for them as it became a leading academic institution.



Photos: Garry Lyle
Garry Lyle game action
1966 game action, Bob Schmidt
Lyle place kicking
Tom Metz, DB and WB