What's In A Name: Wallace Wade

TDD Staff
Posted Jul 9, 2013


Do you know the history behind Duke's grand old stadium? TDD's Sam Hovan outlines the man and his legacy.

Wallace Wade and the stadium named after him have two things in common: specific details and a special relationship with the Rose Bowl.

Wallace Wade scrutinized every detail in practice, making sure each play was run to perfection. According to files in the Duke archives, Wade would run plays for months in practice if necessary, until he felt his players ran the plays perfectly. His attention to detail extended to special teams.

“How far you kick a ball does not tell best how good your punting is,” Wade once said. “But how far did the opposing team return it…returning a punt 10 yards is the same thing as making a first down.” Wallace Wade Stadium was built with attention to minor details. According to Duke archives, the horseshoe stadium, finished in 1929, was built with enough curve on the sides of the horseshoe so each seat would be pointed toward the 50-yard line. The stadium also was built so the sun would shine down at a right angle on the field in the afternoon. During the 1940’s and 1950’s, Duke Stadium (as it was called then) had its own barbecue pit.

When it came to the Rose Bowl, no coach was more synonymous with the New Year’s Day event than Wade in its early history. Wade took Duke to its first Rose Bowl in 1938 where Southern California scored a touchdown in the final minute of the game to win 7-3. Those points were the only time someone scored on that team during the entire season. That loss was Wade’s fourth trip to the bowl, and his fifth came only a few years later.

Wallace Wade Stadium became the only place in the country outside of California to host a Rose Bowl after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. Instead of cancelling the game, Wallace Wade convinced bowl officials to bring the Rose Bowl to Duke. Duke lost to Oregon State, but history had been made.

But for all of the accomplishments he had in football, Wade once said he felt his greatest accomplishment was serving his country. Wade was a two-time veteran, fighting during World War I near Mexico and fighting in Europe in World War 2. According to Duke archives, Wade requested to be sent overseas during his second stint with the Army.

“[W]e might have had the best regiment in the army,” Wade said in an interview for his 92nd birthday with the Greensboro News and Record. “We did our jobs and that’s the biggest test a man can have—did he do his job?”

For his service, Wade received the Bronze Star Medal from the United States and the Croix de Guerre with Palm from France (the country’s highest honor).

After the war, Wade came back and coached Duke for a few more seasons, but he never quite reached the same heights as before the war. Even so, by building a foundation for other coaches to improve on, Wade left his mark. In 1967, Duke named the football stadium after him, and Ted Mann, a long-time Sports Information Director for Duke, wrote a speech about Wade for the ceremony.

“We come here tonight to praise Wallace Wade…not to bury him…Bury him…Never!!!...the name of Wallace Wade will continue as long as stories are told of college football,” Mann wrote in the speech.

With football coming once again in the fall and coaches paying close attention to the tiniest of details, Wallace Wade Stadium will once again carry on the legacy of details left by Wallace Wade.

“It is one man’s job to play,” Wade once said. “One to coach, one to be a spectator, one to officiate, and no one man is good enough to do any two of them.”

Quotes and information obtained from the Duke Historical Archives.


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