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Undefeated since 1941: A History of Gonzaga Football: Case 5: Gus Dorais

Case 5: Gus Dorais and the Golden Age

Gonzaga’s star coach, Charles “Gus” Dorais, signed up as coach and director of athletics on May 29, 1920. Dorais had been the quarterback for Notre Dame during his college days and then went on to play professional football for the Massillon Ohio team. Before coming to Gonzaga, he coached at Columbia College, was Director of Sports at Camp MacArthur during his stint in the army, and then acted as the backfield coach at Notre Dame. When Gonzaga offered Dorais a three-year contract for $8,000, he could not turn it down. Under Dorais, Gonzaga football saw its golden age. Talented athletes coupled with Dorais’ experience and expert coaching skills helped put Gonzaga on the map. “Gus Dorais was a man of profound football knowledge, with infinite patience and a sound teacher. He was a generous man with his time when working on football problems” stated Edmund J. Barbour in the book The History of American Football by Allison Danzig. Dorais spent four years coaching the Bulldogs. After the undefeated 1924 season (known as the best year in Gonzaga football history), Gus Dorais left for the University of Detroit.

 

 

Gus Dorais, c. 1920

 

 

Gonzaga vs West Virginia, December 25 1922

On Christmas Day,1922 in San Diego, Gonzaga represented the West in a national game against the East (represented by undefeated West Virginia). By the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs were down 21-0. In the last ten minutes, Gonzaga was able to score two touchdowns to make the final score a respectable 21-13. While Gonzaga may have lost the game, they won the respect of the nation. Spokane was proud of its new coach and proclaimed him as the best coach in America. With the new publicity, scheduling games for the football team was not difficult.

1924 Team Photograph

Left to Right. Seated: Don Jones, Cy Lynch, Houston Stockton, Joe Hillier, Francis McCormick, John McKenzie. Kneeling: Mel Ingram, Del Cary Smith, Puggy Hunton, Matt Bross, Paul Treanor. Standing: Tiny Cahoon, Hec Cyr, Hugh Fraser, Done Hessinger, Art Dussault, Ray Flaherty. Back Row: Harry Dosch- Grad. Manager, Charles Adams- Assistant Coach, Gus Dorais- Head Coach.

The undefeated 1924 team (5-0) was the best team in Gonzaga football history.

“Welcome Gus”, Gonzaga vs Detroit Homecoming Game Program, 1940

The 1940 Gonzaga vs Detroit Homecoming Game Program dedicated a page to Gus Dorais showing Gonzaga’s respect for him, even after leaving Gonzaga 15 years previously.

Western Union Telegrams, November 1923

On Thanksgiving Day, 1923, Gonzaga played the University of Detroit in Michigan. Dorais and the team were fully supported by the Spokane community as evident by the numerous encouraging telegrams sent. The final score ended in a loss for the Bulldogs: 13-7.

“Bucking Bulldogs Dig in Under Eye of Coach Dorais”, Spokane Daily Chronicle, September 23, 1924.

Dorais and one of his assistant coaches watch their linemen practice charging against and blocking one another. Dorais was preparing his team for a big game against the University of Idaho.

 

 

“Dorais and Mathews, Cronies, Say Goodbye” Spokane Daily Chronicle, March 7, 1925

Robert Lee Mathews, coach of the University of Idaho and Dorais meet at the Pacific Hotel in Spokane to say farewell to each other. Mathews and Dorais were teammates on the University of Notre Dame 1910 football team and they remained good friends into adulthood.

“Gonzaga Board Releases Dorais and Coach Goes to Detroit” Spokesman-Review, c. 1925

This article alerted the public that Dorais would not return for the 1925 football season. He instead elected to sign a 3-year contract with the University of Detroit to become their year-round football coach and athletic director.

“Dorais is Given Farewell Party” Spokesman-Review, March 15, 1925

A going away lunch for Dorais was celebrated at the Davenport Hotel. At his farewell party, he declared, “the five years I have spent here have been among the happiest of my life and the friendships I have made will always be a source of satisfaction”. Dorais left Gonzaga on good terms and after retirement came back to visit whenever Gonzaga played the University of Detroit.

Dorais’ Farewell Party Menu, 1925


 

Gus Dorais, Gridiron, Innovator, All American and Hall of Fame Coach, By Joe Niese with Bob Dorais, Foreword by Roland Lazenby, 2018