Vanderbilt is planning a special Hall of Fame weekend for September 12-13. A series of events will unfold over those two days, capped by the Induction Banquet Friday evening, September 12 and the Class of 2008 being presented at halftime of Saturday's Rice football game. VUcommodores.com will spotlight one inductee per day leading up to the Hall of Fame weekend.
He was a lawyer first and a ball coach second. He was a practical joker who was beloved in Nashville social and business circles. He was an innovator and a motivator.
So why does Dan McGugin still cast such a huge shadow upon Vanderbilt athletics 72 years after his death?
"My grandfather's record of success was simply remarkable," says George McGugin, himself a Vanderbilt graduate, lawyer and football letterman. "He was regarded as a first-rate attorney, one of the finest in town, and his success as a coach has not been matched. He was a charter member of the College Football Hall of Fame."
Indeed, McGugin's 30-year record of 197-55-19 still ranks among the NCAA's Top 25 best winning percentages. Four of his teams were undefeated and 11 more lost just one game. His Commodore teams played the toughest of schedules, criss-crossing the country by train to do so.
George McGugin was not born when his grandfather died of heart failure in 1936, just two years after hanging up his coaching whistle, so his recollections come from his father, Dan McGugin, Jr., family records and the stories of a legion of former players, fans and other admirers.
"As soon as I was old enough to remember," George says, "I began to understand how my grandfather's former players and coaches revered him. There is a photo hanging at the Belle Meade Country Club with my grandfather, Grantland Rice and two others. The caption reads "...and beloved Vanderbilt Coach Dan McGugin" in its identification. The word beloved is significant."
Something else that George and many others feel significant about is the fact that Dan McGugin coached his entire career at Vanderbilt.
"He didn't jump around to attractive new jobs like many other leading coaches such as John Heisman did," George says with pride. "Even in those days, Vanderbilt was not an easy place to win. When he retired, he was the dean of college football coaches with tenure at one school."
Dan McGugin was one of the first collegiate coaches to promote intersectional rivalries, the first coach to pull guards in the interference, the first to successfully work the onside kick and one of the first to emphasize the forward pass.
In 1922, after 18 years as head coach, Vanderbilt built and dedicated Dudley Field, an impressive stadium with a capacity of 22,000 that was the largest in the South.
Rice, America's most influential sportswriter of the 20th Century and a 1901 Vanderbilt graduate, once reminisced that "I didn't have anything to write about in Nashville until Dan McGugin came to town."
It was common knowledge that the University of Tennessee hired General Robert Neyland with one primary directive: "Beat Dan McGugin".
A native of Iowa and a graduate of the University of Michigan, he and Wolverine coaching legend Fielding Yost married twin sisters from Nashville and lived as neighbors near the Vanderbilt campus during the off-season.
The McGugin family still produces success. George McGugin's twin sons Bill and Daniel were tennis stars at Vanderbilt and Daniel is now the head football coach at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville. MBA won a state championship under McGugin in 2007.