When Princeton Coach Charles W. Caldwell Jr. died of cancer last Friday, at the age of 55, college football lost one of its finest figures. In an era of Ts, split-Ts and multiple offenses he was an outstanding member of the old-fashioned single-wing coterie. Not that there is anything old-fashioned about the Caldwell version of the single wing. As head coach at Yale during four of the most successful years in Princeton football history—1948-51—I write with authority, for Charlie's teams always beat mine. In fact, Charlie started calling me "Cousin Herman." I thought at first it was because we were born within 25 miles of each other in upper east Tennessee, he at Bristol and I at Johnson City. Finally, I realized that he was using the old baseball expression that batters apply to pitchers they can hit. Charlie was real fond of me.
For four years my daily thoughts and ensuing nightmares were intermingled with a system of defenses to contain the Princeton single-wing attack. During the 1950 season, when Dick Kazmaier spearheaded the Tigers' best and most advanced team, our scouts reported over 30 variations of offensive alignments, including double flankers to the strong side, the fullback set as a flanker to the short side, the tailback set as a flanker, any of the backs in motion to either side, split ends on either or both sides with any combination of the above. Yet all the time the offense seemed to function with the utmost efficiency.
One important fact Caldwell learned early was that a coach, like any other teacher, must know the college he serves. As he stated in his book, Modern Single Wing Football: "If he doesn't understand just how the curriculum operates, what challenges his players are facing in other phases of university life, and the balance effected between athletics and the primary purposes of higher education, he is in for trouble. From my standpoint football players are first college undergraduates and then football players. Consequently, coaching methods, or perhaps the philosophy of coaching, must be part of the total educational process."
Since 1945, when Caldwell took over the destinies of Princeton football, he had carved himself a niche among the greats of the game.