“this man Neely,” 1940

It really was an auspicious moment when the Rice Institute hired Coach Jess Neely away from Clemson on January 11, 1940. I can’t help but wonder why Neely took the job, which didn’t obviously look like good one, but here he is with J.T. McCants, then chairman of the powerful Committee on Outdoor Sports, having agreed to take over a struggling program:

In the way of things back then they held a dinner for Neely and the assistants he brought with him. It was held on February 7th in the Rice Hotel ballroom and of course Dr. Lovett spoke on this occasion. To modern ears it might sound simply corny but I’m not embarrassed to say that I find comfort in the order of it. We begin with the expected joke and end with the expected welcome:

Bonus: A colleague unearthed a relic–a kit distributed across campus during an earlier, less serious epidemic, containing hand sanitizers, wipes, and lozenges.

Note: I’m more or less at home for an undetermined amount of time. I plan to keep writing here but just be warned that it could get a little weird.

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6 Responses to “this man Neely,” 1940

  1. Jim Walzel says:

    Melissa, being class of ’59 I was a huge Jess Neely fan. I like to remember when he went on TV on Friday, went to the chalk board, and said ” here are the 3 plays we will be running on Saturday:” ie three yards and a cloud of dust.
    Best, Jim Walzel

  2. Bob Swanson says:

    I look forward to the weirdness.

  3. Galloway Hudson. Wiess '60 says:

    I echo Jim Walzel’s praise for Jess Neely. He, Morgan and Davis were remarkable men and proved to be more than worthy of meeting, and indeed, exceeding, Dr. Lovett’s expectations. I can’t help but recall, however, that Rice hired Bill Peterson away from Florida State with similar expectations.

  4. Wow! What a speech!

  5. Nancy Burch says:

    What a wonderful introduction for three great gentlemen, all of whom I was privileged to know.

  6. William A Cooke says:

    From the words of President Lovett 80 years ago, I can sense the strong desire of the Rice leader to see his university excel “in studies and in sports” and pursue these ideals as did the ancient Greeks. With their eyes on the prize, President Lovett and Coach Neely showed that excellence among one’s peers could be attained in academics as well as athletics. Since the torch has been passed by Lovett and Neely, Rice, to its credit, has continued to maintain its status as a first class academic institution. In the same period, its marque men’s sports teams have been allowed by succeeding leaderships to fall far behind their national and statewide peers to the point of not even being competitive. As a long time follower of Rice athletics who get repeatedly asked to financially support men’s programs – with no clear signs that there is a plan or even a desire to be competitive with our peers – I have to ask myself if giving to Rice men’s athletics today should be viewed as more like giving to a charity? I don’t know the answer, but feel strongly that President Lovett would not be happy with the legacy for athletic excellence that he passed on.

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