Former IU player, coach Lou Watson dies

Lou Watson, a Jeffersonville native who played baseball and basketball at Indiana University, and later coached the Hoosier basketball team from 1965-1971, died Thursday at the age of 88 in Fairfax, Va.

Prior to his collegiate career, Watson served in the Navy from 1943-46, participating in the Normandy invasion during World War II.

At Indiana, Watson helped the IU baseball team to the Big Ten title in 1948. He was also a starter all four years with the basketball team under coach Branch McCracken, earning first team All-Big Ten and All-American honors as a senior in 1950. Watson was also the team MVP as a junior and senior.

After his playing career was over, Watson coached freshmen basketball at IU in 1951 and ’52, enjoyed a short stint as a high school coach at Huntington and returned to Indiana to coach freshmen again in 1956 and ’57 before becoming an assistant coach in 1958 under McCracken.

Watson succeeded McCracken as head coach for the 1965-66 season and led the Hoosiers to the 1967 Big Ten title the following year.

Bob Knight replaced Watson as Indiana head coach in 1971, while Watson became a special assistant to the athletic director and served as an associate director of athletics from 1976 until his retirement in 1987.

He is a member of both the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame and Indiana University Athletics Hall of Fame.


  1. He also returned to Jeffersonville as head coach. One of his players at Jeff was one Cotton Nash who would go on to set scoring records at Kentucky that would stand until Dan Issel broke them.

  2. I was honored to have had Lou Watson as my IU head coach for the 65- 66 season. A true gentleman, but very competitive – he remained an IU fan & supporter. RIP Lou!

  3. Why do Chet, Laffy, and Harvard all compete with each other on who is the best writer/poet/politician? Has anyone else noticed this?

  4. Watson never coached at Jeffersonville.

    Cotton Nash did play at Jeffersonville one or two years but was All-American at Lake Charles, LA.

  5. Jay, I went back over my old pictures and I stand corrected. The coach of that team was former Kentucky All American Cliff Hagan. My memory transposed basketball legends. Thanks for correcting me.

    You are correct that Cotton did not graduate from Jeff but while there he set several scoring records.

  6. Reggie, would you prefer I write poorly? I write a lot and I have to be able to convey information to people that may be unfamiliar with the subject material. I’m more of a technical manual writer than a poet.

    Harvard is just a gifted writer. Judging by his style I would guess it is not from formal training as much as years of putting his thoughts on paper.

    Laffy just bares his soul.

    Goeff is the Census Bureau or Department of Labor Statistics.

    Tao is the poetic uncle rocking on his front porch talking to the local kids.

    Clarion is a grumpy old man, God bless him.

    There are plenty of interesting posters here.

    I can’t imagine how you see it as a competition. Harvard and Laffy like to argue and I interject sarcastic remarks and talk about my dog. Far from a competition I like the Scoop best when everyone is jumping in the pool, including you. I think you’ve made a lot of great (as well as less than great) posts in the past and I sincerely hope you continue to do so.

  7. It would be very difficult for Cliff Hagan to have coached Cotton Nash, or anyone else at Jeffersonville during that time frame. Hagan was involved in pro basketball for many years all covering the time frame that Nash was in Jeffersonville. By the way, Hagan never coached at Jeffersonville.

  8. Judging by his style I would guess it is not from formal training as much as years of putting his thoughts on paper.

  9. I am a mass of misinformation. Let me try this again. Cliff BARKER, who played on two national championship teams at Kentucky coached Cotton Nash his first two years in high school at Jeffersonville.

    I wonder if the rest of my childhood memories are also wrong?

  10. lol I’m just a high school kid who is very passionate about IU who grew up playing basketball. Thanks Laffy, Chet, Harvard, Goeff, Tao, and Clarion you have made this a really fun website I didn’t mean negative things about any of you at all.

  11. No Chet, you are just a fool. Misinformation is your specialty.

    Does Bill Griffith ring a bell?

  12. Jay, yes, it does. Based upon my observations I always felt he was a pig but feel about him as you will. He was not very highly thought of in Jeffersonville.

    Perhaps I am a fool. I’ve found it’s usually best if one does not assign a grade to one’s own intelligence.

    Objectively, I am very well educated, I am checked out on 5 tactical Navy aircraft, I have saved lives as a paramedic, I have improved the lives of many children in my current work, my services are highly sought after and I am paid well enough that I don’t work very much at all any more.

    With my life, I can handle being considered a fool by a stranger.

  13. I am currently having a memorial day BBQ hosted by my parents with a bunch of IU alum and wondering how many would give me sh*t if they knew I was Geoff from the Scoop…

  14. Geoff, seriously, how many guys do you know that are IU fans, spell their name Geoff, played college hoops, and live in Maine?

    I don’t think you’d need Columbo to figure that one out.

    Enjoy the day. It’s a beautiful weekend almost everywhere, if a little hot. We went mountain biking this morning and it felt way cooler than the 85 my car’s computer insisted it was.

    You, too, Jay. Everyone else at the Scoop, as well. Remember the reason for the holiday.

    It’s a great day to be alive.

  15. Reggie,…non taken, I really do appreciate your comments. You (and those with similar attitudes) do make this a great and worthwhile blog.

  16. Geoff…I thought that was you. I’ve been standing next to you and wondered if that could be the Geoff…?

    Please…everyone…do remember those who gave their lives. Many are coming home now and we have a debt of honor with them. We owe them respect and the recognition they’ve earned for what they’ve given us. Please remind everyone at your barb-q.

  17. Not sure how many of my parents friends know that much about me Chet… Most of these people I see, at most, once per year.

  18. I remember Watson being the coach when I 1st heard IU radio network covering the IU games on AM radio living in Attica, IN.

  19. I always thought Watson and John Pont were victims of the times (late 60’s, early 70’s) and the counter-culture movement that emboldened young people (college students and athletes) to first question and then revolt against authority in an attempt to force change ( in Watson’s case, some of his players forced the University to make changes). I don’t think Watson deserved to be pushed out of his job in the way that he was, but for Hoosier fans, the change turned out well, as Knight upgraded the team’s performance significantly and almost immediately.

    As for Pont, I believe he was also a victim of the times, caught in the major shift in American culture, which, in his case, involved race. Unfortunately, the outcome of Pont’s departure from IU did not turn out as well for IU. The football team never really recovered.

    I think Watson was a good man who served his alma mater, his state and his country with integrity and honor. He had a good run. May he rest in peace.

  20. Chet, God has and continues to bless me, thank you, but not as a grumpy old man. I am sure he passes judgement on my surliness when I don’t parse words but I live with too beautiful a bride, am too sure footed and simply not moody enough to be grumpy.

  21. Podunker, that’s a very interesting idea. I am not familiar directly with Watson’s situation, so I will not comment.

    Pont was a victim of the times. The boycott of 1969 devastated him, not so much as football coach but as a person. I have tried to find direct information leading up to the 1969 boycott but have been unsuccessful that is not rumor or heresay. I was there, but after over 50 years I don’t trust my memory that well.

  22. Jay, I was there too, but probably a bit younger. At the time, my Mom worked on campus and my Dad was heavily involved with various campus organizations and Bloomington politics. Pont’s son was a classmate and friend of mine at that time and my Dad knew John Pont reasonably well.

    If my memory still serves me, I seem to recall that some of the black players complained about treatment from at least one of IU’s assistant coaches and a trainer. The complaints alleged that the black players were being treated differently than their white teammates and that some of the treatment bordered on verbal abuse and/or neglect. I don’t recall Pont ever being directly accused of anything, but as head coach, he was responsible for his staff and therefore, became responsible.

    Those were turbulent times on campuses all across the country. Bloomington had its share, and I believe two otherwise good men became victims of that social turbulence. I believe “Inside Indiana” did a series of stories on John Pont’s year’s as head coach of IU football a few years back. You may want to research their archives.

  23. Jay, Podunker…I was also around at the time and had several good, close friends on Pont’s staff and among the football players (a couple were like family). As I recall it, on both sides, people (coaches and players) were simply caught up in a situation that swept them up as it had several other programs in the country. Forty-five years later it seems impossible to say these were the good guys and those were the bad guys. It was a tsunami that swept everyone and everything. Some of the coaches and some of the players were among the finest people I would ever meet and even now it is sad to recall the period and, for some, the consequences. You couldn’t find better people than Jay Fry, Howard Brown or Herb Fairfield anywhere.

    Immediately prior to that, the Hoosiers had gone to the Rose Bowl and started the 1968-1969 season with solid wins and (if my memory does not fail me) were very highly ranked (maybe top ten)… Pont was an inspiring man and his assistants truly among the best in the country. Some of the players returning were rising juniors from the 1967 Big Ten champions and several of the incoming recruits had chosen Indiana over other schools such as Michigan and Ohio State.

    Watson’s team was not as deeply impacted(though it would have been impossible to not be affected in some way). Lou was a good man; open and sincere. He had been brought up and was a believer in the Mc Cracken “Hurrying Hoosiers” style that could score 110 points and lose…at a time when the Pete Newell, Fred Taylor, Bob Knight, Claire Bee, Dean Smith, Hank Iba, Don Haskins (Texas Western(??) era of strong defense and deliberate offensive basketball was becoming dominant.

  24. Podunker, your specific recollection pretty much matches my recall as well. John Pont was never directly accused of any of the behavior. They eventually (over a period of 2-3 weeks, came to an understanding but by then the unity and solidarity that had made the Rose Bowl team was lost. Everyone lost.

    There were great players/people as well: Harry Gonzo, John Isenbarger, Rick Thompson, Bob Purnell, Don Silas, Clarence Price, John Andrews, Hank Pogue, Mike Deal…you could name tens of others.

  25. Tsao; one of the happiest moments of my life was the day IU defeated Purdue to secure the invitation to the Rose Bowl. Terry Cole was a visiting counselor/coach at a summer football camp I attended as a boy (“Camp America” just over the border in Southwestern Ohio), so when he broke free up the middle to score the go-ahead TD, I was thrilled.

    I was also fortunate enough to meet Clarence Price and Cal Snowden. I remember thinking Clarence was the largest man in the world, only to discover years later that he was 6’2″ and 245 pounds. My Mom and Dad had Clarence and Cal and two other black football players over for a home cooked dinner one night. They were great people, funny, charming and as kind to me as one could have hoped for. Although you can imagine the ripples that caused in our all-white Bloomington neighborhood in 1968, I became pen pals with Clarence for about a year until I thought I was too old for such childish behavior. I believe I still have some of his letters in storage. For years and to this day I think about trying to locate Clarence, meeting him and thanking him for being such a great role model and friend to a young boy.

    I hope I live long enough to see Bloomington embrace and celebrate the IU football team the way it did back in 1967 and 1968. Those were great and magical times for Hoosier fans. I continue to believe that if could happen then, it can happen again.

  26. Podunker, they were magical days indeed! I remember that game really, really well and still remember TC’s run and also a great tackle by Ken Kaczmarek and Kevin Duffy that stopped Purdue’s Leroy Keyes a yard short of a critical, critical first down…remember the mad house in the locker room afterwards (and line coach Jay Fry laughing/crying, ‘I told my family to warm up the tractor if we lost’. No team had more heart than that particular IU team. Not ever! One of the guards, Bob Russell (now a hand surgeon) played weighing all of 212 lbs, the center Harold Mauro wasn’t much bigger…what memories!

    What a small world Podunker! Jay Fry (and- I think- Joe Galat- a former Canadian pro-football and Miami U. (O) head wrestling coach/football assistant who played for Jay- owned Camp America, on his farm just outside Oxford, O. one of the best camps in the US. Incredible people, what characters.

    Clarence (Price)graduated from Kent State and, I had heard (about 10 years ago) lived near Detroit (??). The other player who may have been at your house may have been Charlie Murphy, one of the funniest human beings around who ever lived.

    Terry Cole was like a younger brother…he would some times stay with us (my former wife and I) parts of a summer. So sad we lost him so young. My first born, a son, was born that same magical 1967 spring before the Rose Bowl…we took him to games when he was 3 months old.

    What I want now? To feel as good about a Hoosier football team as that 1967 team and BK’s basketball teams. Championships or bowls?, that would be nice…but to feel that good about a team…magical!!

  27. Podunker, the other guy I remember- one of my absolute favorites,and sadly one of those who got swept away by the tsunami of the conflict in 1968; Don Silas. What a football player, one of the best linebackers to ever play in high school (Indianapolis Manual). Incredible people. He would attend IU games when being recruited and watch the game while reading his Shakespeare assignment in the stands. Would love to run into him again.

  28. I was a kid but I knew I was a Hoosier. My brother-in-law was a UK fan but a born Hoosier and he went to the Rose Bowl. My gosh, what history. OJ Simpson’s biggest game, for God’s sake!

    Leroy Keyes was, IMHO, the best running back the Boils ever produced. What happened to him? He seemed almost as good a bet as ‘the Juice’.

    What a team we had. Magical.

  29. Chet, we all thought Keyes was every bit the equal of OJ, just a tough, fast, slashing Big Ten runner who could push you straight back. He played in the NFL but did not ‘standout’ as many of us thought he would.

    At times, IU and Purdue have had skill players at the level of the other Big Ten teams. The difference for both us and Purdue has been the sheer number of quality linemen (O&D). Mallory and his approach succeeded in balancing that out That’s where I hope we turn a corner with Coach KW who is similar in his approach.

  30. Purdue has always amazed me with how they could put such mediocre teams on the field with such a litany of great QBs.

  31. Chet- no doubt about it. Purdue always (to this day) has had great quarterbacking. I remember an assistant (who may have become head coach following Jack Mollenkopf, someone with the last name of Moss-???, who was the QB coach. Oh boy were they good at QB! (and usually RBs and FBs as well).

  32. I do remember Jay Fry at Camp America. That was a great camp for young, athletic boys to attend. We had a lot of fun, developed friendships, benefitted from solid discipline, and had great role models. I attended the camp three summers in a row until my family moved away from the area.

    I remember one night, when Terry Cole and John Isenbarger were guest coaches at the camp, they were staying in special cabins provided for the camps special guests. The guest cabins were nice and were located not he other side of the camp relative to the campers’ barracks. Some of us boys discovered that our heroes were enjoying the company of some attractive young women (imagine that) one night. So, being devious little guys that we were, a bunch of us devised a plan, snuck out of our barracks after curfew and crept over to the guest cabins with the intent of playing a trick on our heroes. We snuck up to the cabin quiet as mice, peaked in the windows, and then, armed with a few large squirt guns, started “spraying” water through the screen windows, directing fire at Terry, John and their two female guests. We achieved complete surprise and interrupted some PG rated romantic activity that was in progress. I remember our two heroes being surprised and rather perturbed by the interruption and their lady friends laughing hysterically while we soaked John and Terry from our squirt guns. I do not believe I have ever run so fast as I did that night while trying to escape the mock rage of our heroes. It was hilarious then and I still laugh out loud from the memory. The next day, we paid the price for our “sneak attack” on John and Terry.

    I remember that parts of the camp had been built over some type of dump site. During the years I attended, one of the punishments for violating camp rules was to walk around and pick up debris that would begin to protrude through the top soil. In parts of the camp, broken glass, rusted tin cans, pieces of metal and rocks were just below the top soil. And after a rain, these materials would begin to protrude up through the dirt and grass, causing a potential hazard. The morning after our sneak attack on Mr. Cole, Mr. Isenbarger and their female guests, myself and the other conspirators were sentenced to “field patrol,” which entailed spending a few hours picking up debris while our fellow campers participated in fun activities. Our cabins counselors had a hard time keeping a straight face while announcing these announcing the punishment. In spite of the punishment, all the participants took great satisfaction at having pulled off the sneak attack and that that the experience was well worth the punishment. The next day, John and Terry were great sports about the entire matter and congratulated us on the teamwork and coordination displayed in pulling the whole thing off. I have an autograph from John Isenbarger that referenced the surprise attack.

    Many years later I ran into Terry Cole. We spent a few minutes chatting and I asked him if he remembered the squirt gun attack at Camp America. He did and we laughed out loud for two minutes. What a great guy.

  33. Podunker…great memory! John Pont used to laugh that Jay Fry was probably the wealthiest of all the coaches in the Big Ten (even more so than Woody Hayes) since he had bought- one farm at a time- the southwest fourth of the state of Ohio.

    Pont was a contagiously inspiring guy, much like the late Terry Hoeppner Probably no taller than 5’5″-5’6″, a former submariner and very, very proud of his heritage in the province of Galicia in Spain. He had been a legendary running back at Miami(O) university which was known as the “Cradle of Coaches” (Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Ara Parseghian, Earl Blaik, Randy Walker, our great Bill Mallory and, of course, now our head coach Kevin Wilson. Indiana’s good and solid football years are all intimately related to Miami(O)University and we did a good thing re-establishing the connection to the ‘Cradle’ in Wilson.

    Fry was also a rabid airplane buff and a pilot. He was particularly in love with older single engine planes. He used to love to jump into one of the planes and fly to scout ball games or fly to northern Ohio (Canton and Masillon)to recruit. He later became a top assistant with the New York Giants where he was on their Super Bowl championship staff as line coach. He would then pack his bags and he and Phyllis, his wife and a great, great lady would go back to Oxford (actually College Corner) and run Camp America.

    One of his proudest possessions was an old bus he had bought for barely $500-plus from former All-Pro Larry Czonka. You probably rode in it Podunker.

    Absolutely great memories tied to great people at IU. I believe Herb Fairfield, another great coach and character on that staff, still works (or may be retired) with IU.

    Thanks for making me recall some great people, great friendships and great times. I would love to see all those years of following the Hoosiers with the hope we will become a major factor in Big Ten football become a reality. I’ll then take the Zephyr from Chicago to LA and toast to Pont, Mallory, Hoeppner, Fry, Fairfield, Wilson, you and all the other Hoosiers who never stopped believing.

    Finally, Podunker, some earned, deserved kudos to Bill Orwig Sr., the athletic director who led Indiana into national prominence in sports. During his watch he hired Pont, Bob Knight, Doc Counsilman (swimming), Hobie Billingsley (diving), Jerry Yeagley, Sam Bell (track), all coaches who reached the very, very top of their profession while at IU. I’m hoping Glass will have the same kind of insight, intelligence, perseverance and strength. Build it and they will come!

  34. Great stuff and it explains why some of us will remain Hoosier football fans as long as we draw breath.

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