Courtesy of the OSU Athletic Department
William H. H. “Tippy” Dye, a former three-sport athlete, coach and an influential administrator at Ohio State, died earlier this month at the age of 97 in Camptonville, Calif.
“He was a very, very special person,” said Penny Carnegie, Dye’s daughter. “He was very humble and a warm, loving, caring person.”
The 1937 OSU graduate, who was born in Harrisonville, Ohio, in 1915, and died April 11, is perhaps best remembered around Columbus for being the first Buckeyes quarterback to beat Michigan three times (1934, 1935, 1936). That feat was not matched until former OSU quarterback, Troy Smith, equaled it with wins against the Wolverines from 2004-2006.
However, Dye’s three victories against the Wolverines are a mere bullet point in a long list of life achievements. The former Buckeye was an eight-time letterman across football (1934-1936), basketball (1935-1937) and baseball (1935-1936); an assistant coach on the 1942 OSU National Championship football team under Paul Brown; coach of the OSU basketball team from 1947-1950; coach of the University of Washington basketball team from 1951-1959; and athletic director of the University of Nebraska from 1962-1967.
He also served three years in the Navy during World War II and held the position of athletic director at Wichita State University and Northwestern University.
Although highly successful and well decorated, Dye wasn’t one to boast.
“He never talked about any of his stuff unless you weaseled it out of him,” said Tippy Dye Jr., William Dye’s son. “He was so modest and humble. I don’t know that he thought he was great at anything. He knew how good he was, but it was like he was no better than a guy living in a box under a bridge.”
Carnegie, 68, said she believes her father was happy about his sports accomplishments, but they weren’t what he would pride himself on.
“I think he was more proud of the person he was and knowing he lived in his integrity,” she said.
William Dye’s son agreed.
“He wasn’t a prideful person, he just did his best at everything he tried,” the younger Dye, 67, said.
Carnegie and the younger Dye said their father coached his players with the same mindset. They were people first, and it was his responsibility to teach them about more than just basketball.
“He wanted them to be the best they could at what they did,” Carnegie said. “But he wanted them to enjoy it and recognize who they were as people and players.”
William Dye often invited players over for dinners or picnics, especially on the holidays, and treated them like family, his children said. He kept in close touch with them over the years and even as of a few of weeks ago, he had contact with former players.
Former Buckeye All-American Dick Schnittker was one of the players William H. H. Dye stayed in contact with.
“I kept up to date with him just about every year,” Schnittker said. “He was probably one of the finest people in my life. He influenced me in everything from basketball to life itself, just dealing with so many areas when he coached us.
“Once a year or so, his wife had the ball club out to their house for dinner,” he said. “At those points (William Dye) and her would cover the social graces – what fork to use, what knife to use when, and so on. They were very instrumental in all the aspects of our growing up in college.”
Schnittker was a four-year starter under Dye, and together they won the 1950 Big Ten Championship.
“Tip (William Dye) was very meticulous with the game of basketball from the fundamentals on up to individuals getting along with teammates,” Schnittker said. “His formula allowed us to win ball games.”
Dye was 53-34 in four seasons as OSU’s coach.
Fred Taylor, the winningest basketball coach in OSU history, was a starting forward on the 1950 team, and Schnittker said Taylor benefited greatly from Dye’s teachings.
“There’s no question Tip influenced (Taylor),” Schnittker said. “You could see that in his players when his ball clubs played. They were very calm, very tough, never got upset and never got mad. That’s a direct influence of Tip.”
Although only 17 years separate Dye’s enrollment at OSU as a student-athlete in 1933 and his departure as the school’s basketball coach in 1950, he never forgot where he came from.
“He’d talk about OSU no matter where he was,” the Tippy Dye Jr. said. “That was his alma mater, he loved it.”
Following the 1950 basketball season, Dye left OSU for good. He took Washington to its first Final Four in 1953 and played a pivotal role in Nebraska’s football program becoming the national powerhouse it is today.
In his 97 years, Dye achieved so much. He was a decorated athlete, a winning coach and a leading athletic director – not to mention his service in the United States military.
He stood shoulder-to-shoulder with many sports legends and personally influenced others. He had many stories and experiences that some can only dream about.
All of that, though, was secondary to Tippy Dye.
“The other stuff was just stuff he was blessed with, and he did them and he did them well, but he was a person first,” Tippy Dye Jr. said. “I don’t know that he wanted to ever be known as anything else – just a person that was friendly and good and tried to do the best he could at everything.”