Ecker Hill Serves As One of the Most Historical Ski Jumping Hills in History

By Sophia H. Chartrand

In Park City, Utah, Ecker Hill may just seem like an ordinary mountain in the Wasatch Back to individuals. However, everyone may not know about how much historical impact it holds.

From the 1930s to the late 1940s, Ecker Hill was an original amateur and professional ski jumping mountain. The finest world-class jumpers traveled from all over the world to attend and compete in regional and national championships. The hill was just a handful of world-class ski jumps in North America. From 1930 to 1949, Utah would host national meets regularly, with approximately 10,000 people in attendance. (Roper)

Ski jumping in Utah started in 1915, where several young Norwegians settled in Utah, including figures like Marthinius “Mark” A. Strand and Axel Andresen from the Norwegian Young Folks Society. The group started hosting ski competitions in the intermountain area once a year at Dry Canyon, which is now considered the upper campus at the University of Utah. (Kelly)

However, in 1928, Utah Ski Club leader Peter S. Ecker wanted to attract more professional ski jumpers to competitions in Utah. The team decided that if it was going to attract the best ski jumpers in the world, it would have to build a world-class jumping mountain. With aid from the Rasmussen brothers, the team planned to establish a jumping facility at the Rasmussen Ranch near Parley’s Summit. Fast forward a year, the jumping enthusiasts—Ecker, Strand, and Andersen—created the site with the help of the Rasmussen family and local supporters. (Kelly) The glory days would finally occur, as the world-class jumping hill became a reality on March 2, 1930. The Park Record reported on March 7, 1930, that the Utah governor at the time, George H. Dern, named the hill after Peter Ecker, hence the name Ecker Hill.

The Salt Lake Telegram also reported on March 16, 1930, about competitor Ulland Fredboe expecting to break a personal record at the next tournament. These kinds of articles were extremely common during peak event times, highlighting different skiers and estimating whether or not they would break a world record.

Shortly after events started occurring, competition events increased at the hill. The Park Record reported on December 19, 1930, that a ski jumping event would be held on the first day of the new year. On New Year’s Day 1931, approximately 500 observers gathered on Ecker Hill to watch Alf Engen break the world’s professional ski jumping record. Engen jumped 231 feet, breaking the previous world record by two feet. On that same day, he smashed the world record again by jumping 247 feet. The Salt Lake Telegram honored that record in an article published on February 21, 1931, stating that it would be recognized as a national record. But that wasn’t the only time that Alf Engen broke world records. The world-class ski jumper set world records several times throughout the 1930s. His top mark was 296 feet, which was the longest jump ever recorded at Ecker Hill. (Roper)

There were many legendary names mentioned in ski history during the 20th century. According to a Salt Lake Telegram article published on February 23, 1933, there was a Champions Tournament that hosted competitive ski jumpers and athletes from all over the world. These names included Sigmund Ruud; Norwegian champion Torger Tokie; American record holder Reidar Anderson; and 1938 Norwegian champion Peter Hugsted (Roper)

In 1937, Utah hosted the U.S. National Ski Jumping Championship at Ecker Hill, led by Joe Quinney, the acting president of the Utah Ski Club. Alf Engen claimed the winning title while Norwegian Olympic champion Ruud followed behind. However, the U.S. Ski Association reversed the winning titles due to a technical ruling involving how house distances were calculated. (Roper)

While tournaments were held on Ecker Hill, two different jumps were used. The biggest take-off, known as “A,” was reserved for jumpers who jumped on a more professional level. The lower jump, known as “B,” was usually used for training and lower-qualified jumpers. There was sometimes a third jump that was reserved mainly for Alf Engen. It was much larger than the other take-offs so that the world-class jumper could pursue breaking world records. Jumps were also used not just by skiers, but toboggans as well.

Ecker Hill earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. On September 1, 2001, a permanent historical monument was set in stone, commemorating the historical ski jumping hill that still stands on the outskirts of Park City, Utah. The use of Ecker Hill has boosted Utah ski tourism to what it is today and is still remembered as the peak of ski jumping.

Primary Sources

Tom Kelly, “Summit County’s Skiing Origins, From Silver To Snow,” Park Record, March 11, 2020.

Frank Rasmussen, “Ski Tournament,” Park Record, March 7, 1930.

“Fredboe, Ulland Set to Break New Jump Mark at Ecker Hill,” Salt Lake Telegram, March 16, 1930.

Clark Stohl, “Ski Riders Reconstructing Ecker Hill for 1931 Tournaments,” Salt Lake Telegram, August 1, 1930.

“Ski Tournament New Year’s Day,” Park Record, December 19, 1930.

“Engen’s 247-Foot Leap to Be Recognized as National Record,” Salt Lake Telegram, February 21, 1931.

“Ski Riders Thrill Thousands at Ecker Hill in Holiday Meet,” Salt Lake Telegram, February 23, 1933.

Secondary Sources

Roper, Roger. “Ecker Hill.Utah History Encyclopedia.

Bill McGill: The Jump Hook that Never Was

By Paul S. Toala


Bill McGill was named All-American as a junior at The University of Utah. Used by permission, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriot Library, The University of Utah.

“With the first pick in the 1962 NBA Draft, the Chicago Zephyrs select, Bill McGill, center, from the University of Utah” and the crowd went wild! Confetti and the celebratory aroma of champagne stain the air as lifelong dreams and hundreds of hours in the gym are realized in mere seconds. The 6-foot 9-inch African American center who hailed from Los Angeles, California. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, McGill was once known as “one of the greatest of all time”. Spectators would gawk in awe as McGill would display his now world-renowned jump hook shot, that would both dazzle opponents as well as National Basketball League team owners. To many in society, receiving a free education due to an athletic scholarship and becoming an instant celebrity after being drafted to the NBA are accolades to truly celebrate over and one would assume that with his athletic frame, such accomplishments would come easily but, that was not the case. McGill faced many challenges both during and after his basketball career; these challenges included systemic racism, crippling depression as well as financial instability.

McGill would go on to have an outstanding career at the University of Utah basketball team. In his three-year stint with the team, He was able to become the school all-time leader in rebounding and second as the all-time scorer with 2,321 points according to Sports Reference. Most players today are not able to obtain that many points if they were to stay for the full four years at a university. McGill’s college stats are impressive but are much different than draft prospects of today as the rules to allow freshmen in college to enter into the draft has made it so that players don’t have 3 to 4-year college careers anymore. McGill was the first black player for the University as well as its first black All-American.


McGill displays athletic ability in a photoshoot for the Salt Lake Trbune. Used by permission, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

In 1962, Bill McGill was selected as one of the top players in the region and joined the U.S. basketball team to compete at the world basketball championship according to The Chronicle. His college career boasted stats that have not been matched to this day and was the reason as to why he was nominated into the region’s hall of fame. Hidden behind the fame, stats, and accomplishments on the court were what McGill described as pressure to live up to expectations while being ridiculed and stared at, as recorded on his biography “The Hill and the Jump Hook”. The burden of being the first African American player at The University of Utah and the racism and bigotry that followed was not able to derail McGill from highest scoring center in NCAA history.

Circumstances and values have changed and are vastly different now from what they were in the 1960s. Racism and discrimination towards people of color was as regular as going to church on Sunday mornings in Utah. Racism and discrimination did not make any exceptions, especially for the up and coming basketball superstar at The University of Utah. From his collegiate career on “The Hill” to his days in the NBA and ultimately to his days on the streets without a home, the life of the one they called “Bill the Hill” was something to be admired.

After his groundbreaking career at The University of Utah, Bill McGill was drafted first overall to the Chicago Zephyr’s but was halted for a moment by ongoing knee problems that occurred in both high school and college according to McGill’s bibliography. While in the NBA, McGill would find himself in the position that he was unfamiliar with; McGill bounced around from team to team in the NBA which caused the young man to begin to feel out of place. In a documentary of McGill’s life called “How Top NBA Draft Pick Ended Up Homeless” by BCC, he was quoted saying that he felt depression and anxiety due to the fact that he was unfamiliar with how to handle both the national fame as well as money management. These feelings of anxiety and depression, crippled McGill and ultimately led him to his next chapter of life.

That next chapter of life for McGill was unfortunately filled with drug abuse, alcohol, and homelessness. He blamed his off the court issues on several things but the two things that McGill noted that were the most impactful were: 1. Never finishing his degree while in college. 2. His inexperience with financial and real-world life after his NBA career according to LA Times.  He was forced to live on the streets of his hometown Los Angeles and had to bathe in local laundromats and sleep at bus stops. Before his death in 2014, he encouraged young college athletes to both learn more about life after sports as well as pioneer the beginnings of research on athletes and depression.

Bill McGill was an accomplished athlete. The stats and all of the accolades are ones that can hardly be replicated nor beaten. All-American status, NBA #1 overall draft pick and instant celebrity are titles that are now associated with McGill. Unfortunately, titles such as homeless and “NBA bust” are also infused with his legacy. A promising career that never blossomed into what it could’ve been were replaced with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt as he walked the streets of his hometown as one without a home. He would not let this be the end of his story as McGill was able to find help and finish his life the only way he knew how, with a jump hook.

Paul Solomua Toala was a senior at the University of Utah. He was a member of the football team and majored in communication studies and minored in Spanish.

 Primary Sources

“McGill, Green on World Roster,” Daily Utah Chronicle, April 3, 1962.

Billy McGill,”

#40, Bill McGill,” NBA Stats.

“Utah basketball: Utes pioneer Bill McGill dies at 74,” The Salt Lake Tribune, July 12, 2014, 1.

“Billy McGill has difficult time with life after basketball,” Los Angeles Times, February 20, 2011.

Kenny Brown and Regan Morris, “Billy McGill: How top NBA draft pick ended up homeless,” BBC, January 16, 2014.

Billy McGill and Eric Brach, Billy “the Hill” And the Jump Hook: The Autobiography of a Forgotten Basketball Legend (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013).

Secondary Source

Speckman, Stephen. “A Book for Life,” Continuum, Spring 2014.








Debate Continues Over the Use of Ute Mascot

By Jacob Rueda

The term “Ute” has become synonymous with the University of Utah. Names such as “Utes,” “redskins,” and “redskin braves” have been associated with the university sports teams in some manner or another. Most of those names have been dropped except for “Ute,” a name that is almost always associated with football.

In reality, the actual Utes are barely recognized by students and fans of the university’s sports teams alike. The tribe itself struggles to find acknowledgement in a world that cares more about use than consequence.

The University of Utah was established in 1850. It started using the Ute identity beginning in the 1920s, according to Utes Nickname Project website. The school received permission to use the “Ute” identity from one of the three recognized Ute Tribes, the Northern Ute Nation.

The other two nations, the Southern Ute and the Ute Mountain Tribes, did not grant permission to the school to use their name.

The Ute tribe has inhabited the area for over ten thousand years. The university has made efforts throughout its history to bridge relations with the Ute Tribe, albeit somewhat clumsily at times.

The Daily Utah Chronicle reported in October 1951 that the U.S. Supreme Court awarded $17,000,000 (equal to $167,880,884.62 in 2019 money) in an effort to appease the Uintah-Ouray reservation and for “furthering educational standards of the people.” Eleven young people between the ages of 17 and 19 were selected and interviewed for acceptance into the university.

Utonian 1-1

“Hoyo” first appeared as the University of Utah mascot in 1947. Used with permission from Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

At the time the university used a mascot called Hoyo, a cartoonish Native American child. The Chronicle absent-mindedly reported in that issue that the acceptance of native peoples at the university meant Hoyo “will at last have some country cousins on campus to urge him on to greater activity.”

Letters to the Editor in an April 1970 issue of the Chronicle acknowledged the “Ute” identity as a sign of strength, vitality, and “a source of pride.” While other students found the university’s mascots racist, others believed those who found them offensive were reading too much into things.

In April 1972, the issue was addressed again in the Chronicle. The concern over the use of native people’s image in college sports was growing nationwide. According to the article, tribes were suing universities for appropriating names and images alike.

There was some reconciliation later on, at least from the Chronicle itself. In 1987, the paper decided to distinguish when it referred to the Ute Tribe and when it referred to the school by using quotations marks when referencing the school. That practice has since been abandoned.

April 2014 saw the University of Utah signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ute Tribe. The memorandum is a five-year agreement where the university is allowed to use the name of the tribe on a conditional basis.

Utonian 2-1

The image of “Hoyo” was ubiquitous, especially in school announcements and calendars. Used with permission from Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Among the conditions, the university is to include in its campus programs a member of the tribe who was not a student. The purpose of that is to “enhance Native American perspectives,” writes author Larry Gerlach in the summer 2017 issue of the Utah Historical Quarterly.

Other conditions to use the name include a tribe-approved Native American advisor, a special advisor to Native American affairs, a full-time advisor on the reservation for high school students to attend college, and financial aid and scholarships for Native American students.

The debate over the name came up once more in the Chronicle on August 2016. This time, it was about doing away with the “Ute” nickname altogether. The article deemed the nickname “culturally insensitive” when referring to the school. Two sides, one for and one against, argued their points much like Letters to the Editor did 46 years earlier.

The Chronicle reported in September 2019 efforts by the Housing and Residential Office and Social Justice Advocates to educate dorm residents and advisors on moving away from using familiar symbols and replacing them. They also suggested using the phrase “Go Utah” instead of “Go Utes.” To date, none of these transitions have been implemented.

According to Gerlach in his article for the Quarterly, the National Collegiate Athletic Association declared that starting February 1, 2006, “institutions with hostile or abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, nicknames or imagery” were prohibited from hosting championship games or displaying their mascots in jerseys and uniforms during championship tournaments.

Despite these regulations, the University of Utah was permitted to keep the classic drum and feather logo. Students at the school continue to debate its use.

Controversy surrounding the use of Native American symbols and names has plagued professional, high school and college teams alike. For example, the Washington Redskins continue to stir up controversy with their name and logo.

The situation with the Redskins is similar to that of the University of Utah with the drum and feather logo and the name “Utes.” Most fans support the team name and logo while others support changing the name and image of the teams altogether.

The situation got more complicated in Cedar High School in Cedar City, a small town in the southwestern corner of Utah. The mascot “Redman” had started to raise the ire of some members of the Paiute community.

In a Salt Lake Tribune article from January 2019, various members of the Paiute community expressed personal conflict when it came to supporting the mascot for Cedar High School. Opinions were split; some supported it while others didn’t. The support came at a price for some and questioned whether such support was warranted in the face of communal backlash.

Since that time, the school opted to change the mascot. Google docs published in the school’s website say a committee of “students, faculty, staff, and alumni” moved forward with changing the identity and mascot of the school. They are now known as “Reds” and the mascot is a wolf.

Unlike Cedar High School, the University of Utah does not have even a sizeable population of Native peoples. Therefore, it cannot and likely will not form any sort of committee with the kind of influence that impacted Cedar High School to evolve away from its former mascot.

Also, changing mascots for the university will not have the same significance as it did for Cedar High School. A school with a high non-native population that moves from using a Native American symbol cannot appreciate the significance of that like a school with a high Native American population.

Regardless, there is still a strong sense of pride for fans who identify as “Utes.” It has not waned in the slightest despite objections from individuals who feel the identity of “Utes” should not be commercialized or casually used.

Despite the clamor to respect Native Americans and protect the image of the Ute Tribe, statistics from the Office of Budget and Institutional Analysis at the university say Native Americans accounted for 0% of first time freshmen, undergraduate or graduate students in 2018.

To date, there has been no inquiry on the tribe’s views of the name or how their image is appropriated and used by the University of Utah today.

Since the Memorandum of Understanding between the school and the Ute Mountain Tribe in 2014, there have been no formal documented objections from either side over the agreement.

How the Utes intend to proceed with their relationship with the university after all that has transpired remains to be seen.

Jacob Rueda is a junior majoring in communication with an emphasis in journalism at the University of Utah.

Primary Sources

Connor Richards, “Debate: Should Utah Ditch The ‘Ute’ Nickname?” The Daily Utah Chronicle, August 29, 2016.

Indian Youths Enter U on Tribal Grant,” The Daily Utah Chronicle, October 9, 1951, 1.

Craig Glover, “Letters to the Editor: Seriously?,” The Daily Utah Chronicle, April 24, 1970, 1.

Indians See Red, Hide Skins to Ute,” The Daily Utah Chronicle, April 19, 1972, 2.

Memorandum of Understanding between the Ute Indian Tribe and the University of Utah,” April 2014.

Martin Raybould, “Letters: Bring ‘Ute’ Back into Football,” The Daily Utah Chronicle, November 13, 1984.

Natalie Colby, “Appropriation or Appreciation? Social Justice Advocates Host ‘Utah Fan Am I,’” The Daily Utah Chronicle, September 26, 2019.

New Policy Distinguishes ‘Utes,’” The Daily Utah Chronicle, October 1, 1987.

Erin Alberty, “Is a ‘Redmen’ mascot racist or does it honor Native Americans? The debate is dividing a southern Utah town,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 13, 2019.

The Utes Nickname Project, Communication Institute, The University of Utah.

Secondary Source

Gerlach, Larry R. “Appropriation and Accommodation: The University of Utah and the Utes.” Utah Historical Quarterly 85, no.3 (Summer 2017): 204-223.

Billy “The Hill” McGill: Utah’s Elite Center 1959-1962


Billy McGill holds up the No. 1 and a basketball in anticipation of the 1962 NBA Draft. Used with permission from Utah State History.

By Brayden Ramsay

Billy “The Hill” McGill was the University of Utah’s first college basketball player to be drafted as the No. 1 pick overall in the NBA draft, and the eighth African-American athlete taken No. 1 overall in NBA draft history. (Witucki) McGill was a phenom while at Utah (1959-1962), scorching the stat sheet and leading the Utes to a final four appearance. McGill’s time at Utah was glamorous as he topped national sports headlines and was widely known as one of the top college basketball players in the 1960s. After a short stint in the NBA, McGill left the league and soon found himself homeless. He would regret not getting his degree from the University of Utah up until he died in 2014. (Goon) Unfortunately, this scenario is all too familiar to college athletes across the United States of America. (Welch) Especially when it comes to basketball and football players.

Billy “The Hill” McGill was a six-foot nine-inch center from Los Angeles, California. McGill was someone who showed lots of potential in high school and eventually decided to attend the University of Utah for his college athletics career. McGill was a standout for the Utes in his freshman and sophomore seasons but was still a talent with lots of potential yet to be uncovered. After flashes of bright spots throughout his first seasons at Utah, McGill burst onto the scene in 1961 showing the world that he was a force to be reckoned with.

Expectations were sky high heading into the 1961 season as Billy “The Hill” McGill was heading into his final year as a Ute. In January of 1961, The Daily Utah Chronicle reported that Head Coach Jack Gardner said Billy McGill was among the best in basketball. Gardner wasn’t the only person to take note though, as national news outlets and NBA teams were also noticing. Teams and fans were going to have their eyes on McGill during the season, not only for his dominating performances, but also for school records that people were excited for McGill to break.

The upper classmen took on the lower classmen in the University of Utah’s annual red vs white game in November of 1961. This may have been an exhibition game, but this is where fans were able to get their first glance at what McGill could become through the 1961 season. The Daily Utah Chronicle writer Joe Ribotto brought McGill’s 50-point effort to life as the Utes created opportunities for him to showcase his skill in the teams opening matchup. McGill also showcased his rebounding skills with 26 on the night.

Utah’s big man was just getting started. Throughout the 1961-1962 season, McGill would continue to have monumental games and inch his way closer to the University of Utah’s record books.


Billy McGill looks to score a basket during a photoshoot with the Salt Lake Tribune in 1961. Used with permission from Utah State History.

McGill’s most famous game as a Runnin’ Ute came when his team needed it most, scoring 60-points in an effort against in-state rival BYU. In February of 1962, The Daily Utah Chronicle writer Dave Smith described McGill’s performance as “blistering” as he scored 19-points in the final 12 minutes of play to lead the Utes to a 106-101 victory.

Astronomical scoring games seemed to come easily for McGill, especially in crucial games. In March 1962, The Daily Utah Chronicle writer Norm Sheya put an emphasis on the importance of McGill’s 50-point performance that solidified the Skyline Conference Championship for the University of Utah. He would lead the Utes in scoring during Utah’s 19 point victory over Wyoming. This conference championship would allow a spot for the Utes in postseason play.

In his final year at Utah, McGill not only broke records. He shattered them. In March 1962, The Daily Utah Chronicle writer Dave Smith expounded on the records that McGill set during his time at the University of Utah. This list included most field goals made, best field percentage, most total points, and most points per game average.

McGill would find his name at the top of many NBA teams wish lists towards the end of his senior season. When draft night finally rolled around, his name was the first one called. In May 1962, The Daily Utah Chronicle writer Ernie Witucki was among the first to report that McGill had been selected as the number one overall pick in the NBA draft by Chicago. The signing of the contract would bring a close to a career where McGill scored over 2,000 points as a Ute and held almost every basketball record in the Skyline Conference.

The top of the mountain had finally been reached, and McGill accomplished what he had originally set out to do. Becoming the top draft pick and starting an NBA career is what most athletes could only dream of. It had now become a reality for the kid from Los Angeles. Sometimes though, dreams don’t always turn out as planned.

McGill’s life in the NBA started off well, signing a two-year contract to play for Chicago. He would eventually be traded to the New York Knicks where he would make a few appearances before being traded to the St. Louis Hawks which eventually led to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Although McGill was once the top pick in the NBA Draft, he struggled to find a team that would sign him for more than a few seasons at a time. The ABA would come calling in his final two years as a pro before McGill decided to retire. In February 2011, The Los Angeles Times writer Jerry Crowe wrote a story on how McGill had really struggled since leaving the University of Utah for the NBA. He didn’t have a degree, and when the NBA didn’t go as planned, he became homeless and had a difficult time finding somewhere to land on his feet.

This is an all-too-familiar story to many college athletes who leave school early to take their shot at professional sports. In 1999, Welch Suggs of the Chronicle of Higher Education did a study on graduation rates of college athletes. Suggs found that men and women who played basketball and football had the lowest graduation rate of other collegiate sports. Something that the NCAA requires is for college athletes to take part in one season of collegiate athletics before entering the NBA draft. Unfortunately, this means that kids go to college without the mentality to graduate before moving on to professional athletics. Instead, they attend college and get by in order to enter the NBA draft as quickly as possible.

Billy McGill died in Salt Lake City in July 2014. He was 74 years old. The Salt Lake Tribune writer Kyle Goon paid tribute to McGill after the basketball star’s death by talking to his former teammates. One teammate, Jerry Pimm, described McGill as “one of the greatest players I’ve seen or been associated with.” McGill is survived by his wife, Gwen, and his grandson, Ryan Watkins.

The tragedy of Billy “The Hill” McGill shows the importance of getting a college degree before looking for professional work. It’s always important to have a backup plan in place for any profession, but especially if the route of professional sports is taken. Injury, performance issues, and failing expectations are among the many reasons why professional sports have a high chance of not working out. Before college athletes take off for greener pastures, they should consider getting their degrees so that just in case things don’t work out, a backup plan is in place.

Brayden Ramsay graduated from the University of Utah in December 2019 after majoring in communication with an emphasis in journalism. He was on the sports desk at the Daily Utah Chronicle and plans to continue his education by earning a master’s degree in sports management.

Primary Sources

Jack Gardner: ‘McGill is Basketball’s Best.’” The Daily Utah Chronicle, January 26, 1961, 4.

Joe Ribotto, “McGill Tanks 50 Points As Utes Whip Frosh 150-126,” The Daily Utah Chronicle, November 28, 1961, 4.

Dave Smith, “McGill Scores Sixty for Conference Mark,” The Daily Utah Chronicle, February 26, 1962, 4.

Dave Smith, “Utah’s Record Smasher Faces Final Battle,” The Daily Utah Chronicle, March 2, 1962, 5.

Norm Sheya, “Utes, McGill Leave Skyline with Victory,” The Daily Utah Chronicle, March 5, 1962, 1.

Ernie Witucki, “It’s Settled — McGill Signs Chicago Packer Contract,” The Daily Utah Chronicle, May 15, 1962, 4.

Secondary Sources

Suggs, Welch. “Graduation Rates Hit Lowest Level in 7 Years for Athletes in Football and Basketball.” Chronicle of Higher Education, September 10, 1999.

Crowe, Jerry. “Billy McGill Has Difficult Time With Life After Basketball,” Los Angeles Times, February 20, 2011

Goon, Kyle. “Utah basketball: Utes pioneer Bill McGill dies at 74,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 12, 2014


How Football Gave and Took from the Borich Family  

By Hunter H. Miller

Joe Borich was not your typical athlete. Borich, a two-sport star at Murray High School, originally began his college career at the University of Utah as a member of the Utah Men’s Basketball team. His freshman year, Borich was the second-leading scorer behind the eventual number-one NBA Draft pick Billy McGill, according to the Deseret News on Dec. 3, 2000. That is when the football team came calling. “I was shooting hoops one day in the Einar Nelson Fieldhouse, and the football trainer came in and said coach [Ray] Nagel wanted my butt on the football field,” Borich told the Deseret News. That’s when Borich became a two-sport star for the Utes.

Borich would go on to have an impressive career for the University of Utah football team. Borich finished his career with seven receiving touchdowns, including five in the 1961 season, according to Ute Stats. In today’s game of football, five touchdown catches is hardly an impressive feat, in fact, in 2018 the leading receiver in the country, John Ursua, caught 16 touchdowns according to Sports-Reference, more than three times that of Joe Borich in 1961. However, in the era of football in the 1960s, passing had yet to be used frequently by football teams. Most receivers were lucky to finish their career with a single touchdown, making Borich’s five in 1961, the sixth-most by any player in the country that season according to Sports-Reference.


Human brain suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy compared to a normal, healthy brain. Used by permission, Boston University Research: CTE Center.

Borich would never go on to play professional football, although the chances were there for the Utah star. Instead, Borich would go on to join the Army Reserve, being stationed in California, before becoming a Police Officer for Salt Lake County, according to the Deseret News on Dec. 3, 2000.

While Borich never played football beyond the college level, the sport continued to be a staple in the Borich household. Borich’s son, Mike Borich, would go on to play for Snow College before working as an assistant coach for BYU and eventually the NFL’s Chicago Bears, according to ESPN on October 22, 2009. Football was life for much of the Borich family until it took the life of one of them.

According to Mike Borich’s obituary, the eldest of Joe Borich’s two sons died on Feb. 9, 2009, at his home in Midvale, Utah, at the age of 42. Much like Joe Borich would be one of the first receivers to find success in the game of college football, his son Mike’s death would prove to be a groundbreaking occurrence for the sport.

Eight months following the death of Mike Borich, ESPN reported that the Boston University School of Medicine had found signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in the brain of Mike Borich. It was the first time that CTE had been found in a player who did not play beyond the college football level. According to the Boston University CTE Research Center, “(CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma (often athletes), including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head that do not cause symptoms. CTE has been known to affect boxers since the 1920s. In recent years, reports have been published of neuropathologically confirmed CTE found in other athletes, including football and hockey players (playing and retired), as well as in military veterans who have a history of repetitive brain trauma.”


Concussions are serious brain injury suffered when the skull is jolted or impacted by a hard surface. The brain shifts, slamming against the skull, causing damage and swelling to the brain. Concussions can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Used by permission, Max Andrews.

Mike Borich’s death led to increased awareness of CTE and the effects that it can have on those who suffer from it. But while his death was just the start of CTE awareness in sports, it was the end of a struggle for the Borich family. According to the Denver Post, Joe Borich found relief in the CTE diagnosis in his son as it provided some answers for Mike’s peculiar behavior and subsequent drug addiction in the years leading to his death.

Joe Borich was an accomplished athlete and someone who gave a large portion of his young life to the game of football. But while football gave Borich so much in his life, it has also taken away a large part of it. He once was a groundbreaking athlete, finding success on the football field in ways that were decades ahead of his time. But it may be a groundbreaking occurrence in his life off of the field that has a more lasting impact on his life and the life of others who take part in the sport of football. As researchers and doctors continue to study CTE and look for ways to negate the effects that head trauma can have on a person, Borich recognized the significance of his son’s death and the positive impact it can have.

Recently CTE was discovered in 110 of 111 brains of former professional football players, according to  The New York Times, July 25, 2017, and it is believed that at least 9.6% of NFL players will suffer from CTE, according to a recent study (Binney and Bachynski). Joe Borich recognized that the death of his son could provide knowledge about the disease and increase awareness about the dangers of CTE. “If this study can help somehow progress the knowledge, it’s worth it,” he said (Denver Post).

Hunter Miller is a senior at the University of Utah majoring in communication. Hunter is also a reporter for ESPN 960 covering BYU Athletics.

Primary Sources

“Athletic Borich leads by example,” The Deseret News, December 3, 2000.

Joe Borich,” Ute Stats.

“Degenerative disease found in donated brain of former college player,” Denver Post, May 6, 2016.

“Player’s brain shows signs of CTE,” ESPN, October 22, 2009.

Frequently Asked Questions About CTE,” Boston University Research: CTE Center.

Mike Joe Borich,”, February 11, 2009.

“110 N.F.L. Brains,” The New York Times, July 25, 2017.

Zachary O. Binney and Kathleen E. Bachynski, “Estimating the prevalence at death of CTE neuropathology among professional football players,” Neurology 92, no. 1 (January 1, 2019).

Joe Borich,”

2018 College Football Year Summary,”


A Journey Through the First Three Season’s of Ray Nagel’s Career

By Sammy Mora


Ray Nagel was the University of Utah head football coach from 1958-1965. Photo courtesy of The Daily Utah Chronicle.

Ray Nagel was the head football coach of the University of Utah football team from 1958-1965. During his time at Utah, his record was 42-39-1. (Ray Nagel Coaching Record) He led his team to an appearance in the 1964 Liberty Bowl to take on West Virginia, which was iconic in its own right. The Liberty Bowl was one of the major postseason games that year, but also it was the first ever college football game played inside. That year’s game was played inside the Atlantic City Convention Center. (Miller) The Utes won the game against West Virginia 32-6.

That year was the best year Nagel had during his time at Utah, not only did he win the Liberty Bowl, his team was named the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) football champion that season. Nagel was also named the WAC Coach of the Year in 1964. (Blevin, p. 144)

Nagel was hired as the new head coach of the University of Utah football team in January 1958. Before he was hired by Utah, he was an assistant football coach at his alma mater, UCLA. (Pearson) The University President, A. Ray Olpin, told the Salt Lake Tribune when Nagel was named the head coach that “in Nagel the University is getting the most outstanding young coach in the nation. He has wonderful background as a player and coach and comes to us with the highest of recommendations from such men as Red Sanders, Bud Wilkinson and Tom Prothro.” Sanders, Wilkinson and Prothro were all coworkers while Nagel was at UCLA. According to the Daily Utah Chronicle, at the time he was hired, Nagel was the second youngest coach to spearhead the university football team. The only coach who was younger than Nagel at the time he was hired was the great Ike Armstrong. (West)


University of Utah head football coach Ray Nagel stands next to a statue on the campus of the University of Utah where he was the head football coach from 1958-1965. Photo courtesy of The Daily Utah Chronicle.

While his first season at the helm of Utah football was not ideal, finishing the season 4-7, from that moment his record as the head coach went up. In his second season he finished 5-5, his third 7-3. His best season happened during his seventh year at Utah when he went 9-2 and earned a Liberty Bowl berth.

According to the Daily Utah Chronicle, even in his first year as the head coach the team wanted to make him proud and look good. According to Walt Deland, who was a trainer on the team, “I heard some players talking and Pete Haun said, ‘I’ve never seen any man that I would rather model my life after than Ray Nagel.’” Haun was one of many players whom Nagel coached during his time at Utah.

Not only was Nagel a powerhouse on the field, he was also involved in activities around the university. He spoke multiple times at the student union. A reporter for the Daily Utah Chronicle on April 9, 1958, said that Nagel’s speech focused on defensive topics and how he would implement a tough defense to try and make the U football team harder to play against making it so fans would come out and support the team.

Not only was he known for his speaking on campus, he also penned an article for the Daily Utah Chronicle that same season. That season the team finished with a 4-7 record and while it looked as if there were lots of lows Nagel talked about the positive saying, “Our last three games are a good indication of the team’s progress. We lost to Colorado, 7-0, despite the fact that we dominated the game in all but one important aspect­—the score. Then we defeated Utah State, 12- and Hawaii, 47-20.”

From the 1958 season on, Nagel’s squads proved to be resilient opponents, winning more games in Nagel’s second and third season than in his first season as the head coach.

During the 1961 season, Nagel was named the United Press International (UPI) coach of the week after his team upset Colorado 21-12, in a game the Utes were expected to lose. That season even after facing powerhouse teams like Oregon, Wisconsin, Arizona State and the previously mentioned Buffaloes, the team finished with 6 wins and 3 losses.

Without Nagel’s contribution to Utah football, the team might not have made the jump from the Skyline Conference to the WAC, and then from the WAC to the Mountain West and in 2011 joining the Pac-12. He was a key piece of Utah football history, as well as college football in general. He also helped other schools not only as a coach but  as an athletic director to help make the jump and make their football teams and athletic departments better.

Sammy Mora is a junior at the University of Utah. She is a communication major whose focus is journalism. She is a sports management minor. 

Primary Sources

Vince Pearson, “Newest Ute? Coach Nagel!” Daily Utah Chronicle, January 1, 1958, 1.

Dee Chipman, “New Ute Grid Mentor Has His Problems,” Desert News, January 31, 1958.

“University Coach Youthful, Qualified,” Salt Lake Times, February 7, 1958, 3.

“Nagel Speaks in Union,” Daily Utah Chronicle, April 9, 1958, 4.

Bob Beers, “Coach Ray Nagel Inspires Ute Players,” Daily Utah Chronicle, November 4, 1958, 4.

Ray Nagel, “Coach Nagel Sums up Concluded Grid Season,” Daily Utah Chronicle, December 12, 1958, 8.

John West, “Nagel is Second Youngest Coach in U Grid History,” Daily Utah Chronicle, October 22, 1959, 4.

“Ute Coach Selected UPI ‘Coach of Week’,” Daily Utah Chronicle, November 16, 1961, 4.

“Coach, Tackle Receive Honors,” Daily Utah Chronicle, December 7, 1964, 3.

Reece Stein, “New Grid Mentor in S.L. for Talks,” Daily Utah Chronicle, January 5, 1966 4.

Bruce Miller, “Utah Coaches are ‘Winners’,” Daily Utah Chronicle, November 3, 1967, 12.

Secondary Sources

Blevins, Dave. College Football Awards: All National and Conference Winners Through 2010. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 2012.

Miller, D.A. “#8: 1964 Liberty Bowl—Utah vs. West Virginia,” The Greatest Utah Football Games Ever, blog.

Ray Nagel,” Sports Reference.




Ray Nagel: Head Football Coach for the University of Utah from 1958-1965

By Ryan Larson

Athletics have always been an important part of the university experience, and no sport has been more popular among universities than football. The University of Utah is now one of the top football schools in the country, but from 1948 to 1992, the football team struggled. The football team only participated in one bowl game during that time frame, the 1964 Liberty Bowl. The coach who was able to help the University of Utah to achieve greatness in the midst of those years of struggle was Ray Nagel.

On January 31, 1958, the Deseret News reported that the University of Utah had hired Nagel to become the new head football coach. He replaced Jack Curtice as head coach. It was a surprising hire for Utah because Nagel was only 30 years old at the time and considered very young for the position. The Deseret News described him on January 31, 1958, as, “personable, youthful” with a “boyish grin.”


University of Utah head football coach Ray Nagel (right) diagrams a play with his assistant coach “Bullet” Bob Watson in 1963. Before working together at Utah, Nagel and Watson were college football teammates while playing for UCLA. Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society.

Prior to taking over at Utah, Nagel had been a player for UCLA, where he was an All-American honorable mention at quarterback. He also spent time as an assistant coach for the Chicago Cardinals, the University of Oklahoma and UCLA. He was serving as grid assistant for UCLA when he was hired by Utah as head coach, the Salt Lake Times reported on February 7, 1958.

One of the reasons Utah chose to hire Nagel was because he wanted to implement a new offensive system for the football team. The Daily Utah Chronicle reported on April 18, 1958, that Nagel would be running the straight “T” offense, which would be a slight change from the winged “T” that the team used in previous seasons. A former player of Nagel’s, wingback John Pease, would later recall to Matthew Piper of the Salt Lake Tribune on December 14, 2014, that Coach Nagel’s practices were like “street fights.”

However, Nagel was well liked by his players and by the student body. The Daily Utah Chronicle reported on November 16, 1962, that 35 students invaded Nagel’s home to “abduct” him and take him to the local television station, where the students read a letter proclaiming their loyalty to Nagel and the football team.

Nagel had moderate levels of success in his first six seasons as head coach for the university. The team’s record was 30-30-1 during those seasons. The Utes always won at least four games each season but never had more than seven wins in a season. (“Ray Nagel,” Sports Reference College Football)


Coach Ray Nagel (left) supervises a University of Utah football practice with two of his assistant coaches. Larry Palmer (center) and Frank Klekas (right) were part of the coaching staff for the 1960 season. Utah would finish the season with a record of seven wins and three losses. Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society.

Things began to change for the Utes in 1964 as the team reached a previously unobtained level of success. The team success was based on a Nagel-led offense that the former players told Matthew Piper of the Salt Lake Tribune, “Had four run plays and about as many pass plays.” Utah went 8-2 during the regular season. The team’s only two losses came against Missouri and Wyoming. The 8-2 record was good enough for Utah to earn a share of the Western Athletic Conference title. It was also reported by the Daily Utah Chronicle on December 7, 1964, that Nagel had been named the Western Athletic Conference’s Coach of the Year.

At the end of the season, Utah was invited to participate in the Liberty Bowl against West Virginia. It would be the Utes’ first bowl appearance since 1948. The Liberty Bowl was to be played in New York on December 19, 1964. As the New York Times reported that day, it was the first bowl game to ever be played indoors, and the most expensive ticket for a bowl game ever to that point.

The Provo Sunday Herald would report on December 20, 1964, that Utah demolished West Virginia in the game, winning 32-6. The newspaper quoted Nagel after the game as saying, “This was our best game of the season. We got the jump on them and they couldn’t pick up momentum.” Ron Coleman was voted the game’s most outstanding back. Utah would not compete in another college football bowl game until 1992.

The 1965 season would be the final season with Nagel serving as head coach for the University of Utah. The Utes’ would go 3-7 during the season after losing much of the core that composed the 1964 team. At the end of the season, on December 12, 1965, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal would report that the University of Iowa had hired Nagel to become the school’s new football coach. This marked the end of Nagel’s tenure at Utah, where he finished with a record of 42-39-1. (“Ray Nagel,” Sports Reference College Football)

After Nagel left for the University of Iowa, Reece Stein of the Daily Utah Chronicle reported on January 11, 1966, the University of Utah had hired Mike Giddings to replace Nagel as head coach. Giddings had served as an assistant coach at the University of Southern California for five years before accepting the Utah job.

Nagel would coach at Iowa for five more years before retiring from coaching at the end of the 1970 season. His career coaching record would be 58-70-1. The 1964 football team that Nagel coached would be inducted into the Crimson Club Hall of Fame in 2014 in recognition of their Liberty Bowl victory that year. (“Crimson Club Hall Of Fame 2014,” Utah Utes Athletics) The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Ray Nagel died on January 15, 2015, at the age of 87.

Ray Nagel was one of the most successful football coaches the University of Utah had during the twentieth century. He helped lead the Utes to what would be the most significant win in program history up to that point at the 1964 Liberty Bowl. No other coach was able to reach the same level of success at Utah until the 1990s.

A successful football team can have a major impact on all aspects of university life. An increase in the success of a college football team tends to lead to more monetary donations being given to the university. (Humphreys and Modello, p. 278) This in turn brings in more money that can be used for academic funding and to improve other areas of university life.

Aside from the financial impact, college athletics are also an important part of the culture and tradition of many universities. The University of Utah is one such university, and few coaches have obtained the level of success that Ray Nagel achieved. Fifty years have passed, but the 1964 Liberty Bowl team remains one of the defining football seasons for the university. This is evident by their induction into the Crimson Club Hall of Fame. As the University of Utah continues to strive for success in college football, it is important to remember the legacy of Ray Nagel. He achieved success at the University of Utah that has seldom been matched since his departure.

Ryan Larson is a junior at the University of Utah. He is double majoring in economics and communication with a journalism emphasis.

Primary Sources

Dee Chipman, “All’s Normal At Utah With Naming Of Nagel,” Deseret News, January 31, 1958, 8.

Vince Pearson, “Newest Ute? Coach Nagel!” Daily Utah Chronicle, January 31, 1958, 1.

University Coach Youthful, Qualified,” Salt Lake Times, February 7, 1958, 3.

Terry Eagan, “SLC Quarterback Club Honors Nagel,” Daily Utah Chronicle, March 11, 1958, 1.

Coach Nagel Starts Fourth Year At Utah, Daily Utah Chronicle, September 21, 1961, 8.

David Jonsson, “Howling Mob Grabs Nagel From Home,” Daily Utah Chronicle, November 16, 1962, 1.

Coach, Tackle Receive Honors,” Daily Utah Chronicle, December 7, 1964, 3.

UTAH IS FAVORED IN LIBERTY BOWL; Strong Defense Is Ready for West Va. in Jersey Today,” New York Times, December 19, 1964, 33.

UPI, “Utah Whips West Virginia 32-6 in Liberty Bowl Game,” Provo Sunday Herald, December 20, 1964, 18.

AP, “Iowa Hires Nagel, Utah Head Coach,” Spartanburg Herald-Journal, December 12, 1965, 12.

UPI, “Ray Nagel Gets Head Grid Coaching Post at Iowa U.,” Provo Sunday Herald, December 12, 1965, 18.

Reece Stein, “New Grid Mentor In S.L. for Talks,” Daily Utah Chronicle, January 5, 1966, 4.

Utah Football: Ray Nagel, coach of Liberty Bowl champions, dies,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 21, 2015.

Secondary Sources

Crimson Club Announces 2014 Hall Of Fame Class,” Utah Utes Athletics, April 15, 2014.

Humphreys, Brad R. and Michael Mondello. “Intercollegiate Athletic Success and Donations at NCAA Division I Institutions,” Journal of Sports Management 21, no. 2 (April 2007): 265-80.

Ray Nagel,” Sports Reference College Football.

Piper, Matthew. “Utah Football: 50 years later, love and friendship endures for Liberty Bowl teammates,” The Salt Lake Tribune, December 14, 2014.



Jim Rhead: A Forgotten Basketball Legacy

By Eric Jensen

University of Utah Men’s Basketball started with more of a whimper than a bang at the University. According to Jason Hansen’s Utah Basketball A History of the Runnin’ Utes Since 1908, the Men’s game was born in 1908 while women’s basketball made its debut in 1897. It was proposed that a men’s team be started in 1901, but a fire on campus had prevented the men’s team from participating. Hansen wrote that the first season at the U was “a rough one,” as the team ended up going 3-8 in their first season. (pp. 15-16)

Rhead pic 2 (edit)

Jim Rhead, 6′ 4″ and 208 pounds, was a Utah power forward. Image courtesy of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

However, after that first season the Utes developed winning ways, according to Hansen. In their second season the team’s record was  17-3. After that the Utes would not have a losing season for the next 12 years, according to Hansen. Fast forward about 40 so years to the era of Utah Basketball head coach Jack Carpenter. Here we find on his teams from 1957-1961 a forgotten basketball legacy at the University of Utah: Jim Rhead.

Three years after Jim Rhead left the Utah basketball program, the University of Utah would complete its dramatic fall with a last place finish in the Western Athletic Conference in the 1964-65 season. The school’s in-conference record would be a bad 3-7 mark and the team would finish with a 17-9 record overall, according to Mike Douchant. (p. 121) A bit more internet digging shows that the year after Rhead’s 1960-61 senior season, the team went only 5-5 in the Western Athletic Conference play and 12-14 overall, according to sports However, in 1965-1966 the Utes went to the Final Four, according to Douchant. Rhead went to a final four in his senior season, yet has become a forgotten figure in Utah basketball lore.

The earliest event in Rhead’s basketball career places him playing with the South High Cubs, as reported by  the Tremonton Leader. In the game Rhead scored 19 total points, most of them coming from around the free throw line off jump shots. Despite this the South High Cubs, called a “powerful” team by the Tremonton Leader, ended up losing the game. That was at the beginning of the 1956-57 season, Rhead’s senior year. In a later issue of the Murray Eagle in 1957, Rhead is said to have “[r]etaliated with two ringers and a brace of free flips in the next three minutes to make it 6-2.” Rhead recorded a total of 17 points in the game in just 21 minutes of total time played as the Cubs defeated the Murray Spartans 61-25. Rhead was an all-state performer at South High School, which closed in 1988 and now houses Salt Lake Community College’s South Campus (Media Guide; Deseret News)

Rhead pic 1 (edit)

Jim Rhead grabs a rebound. Image courtesy of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

According to the 1959-1960 Media Guide, Jim Rhead entered his junior season at The University of Utah in 1959. So, it can be surmised that Rhead’s Utah career started in 1957 when he entered the university as a freshman. In the Media Guide Rhead is listed as a 6’4” 208-pound forward. According to the Media Guide, Rhead had a decent sophomore season at Utah. “Jim had a great year as a Sophomore. He was the club’s fifth leading rebounder and this despite the fact he was not a starter. You can’t outmuscle Rhead under the boards.” The guide then mentioned the fact that Rhead averaged 7.1 points per game during his sophomore season.

According to The Daily Utah Chronicle, April 18, 1961, Rhead had quite the prolific senior season with the Utes, averaging 12.7 points a game and shooting 48 percent from the floor. These are impressive numbers from a power forward like Rhead, even by today’s standards. Most impressively, he averaged almost 10 rebound per game his senior year. Rhead’s senior year was a massive success, Douchant writes in his Encyclopedia of College Basketball, as Rhead and the 1961 team made it to the final four. Rhead finished 7th all time in single season rebounds with 321 in the 1961 season, according to statistics provided by University of Utah Athletics.

After his time at the U, Rhead played for a Utah Amateur Athletic Union team. The March 29, 1962, edition of the Provo Daily Herald noted that Rhead and former Utah star Billy McGill both scored 17 points in a win for the team. According to The Murray Eagle, Rhead was part of a Utah AAU team scheduled to play in a tournament from March 6 to March 8.

Rhead was a key member of the 1961 Utah final four team and has somewhat been forgotten by history. His numbers even today are comparable to current Utah starting power forward, Timmy Allen, who in 2018 scored 12.2 points a game but only averaged about half of Rhead’s rebounds at 5 a game, according to ESPN.

Eric Jensen is an undergraduate student at the University of Utah studying communication and journalism. He plans to graduate in 2022.

Primary Sources

“’Skin Cager Ends Season With Award,” Daily Utah Chronicle, April 18, 1961, 4.

University of Utah Basketball 1959-1960,” Media Guide, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Bears down Davis and South High in Week End Encounters,” Tremonton Leader, December 27, 1956, 4.

South Routs Spartan Club in 61-25 Tilt, Murray Shows Little Power in Dropping to Big 9 Cellar,” Murray Eagle, January 4, 1957, 8.

Redskins Hoopsters Shooting Good,” Salt Lake Times, January, 1, 1959, 3.

Individual Season Records, Men’s Basketball, University of Utah Athletics.

South High alumni true to their school,” Deseret News, June 18, 2005.

Career Records, 2013-14 Men’s Basketball Media Guide, University of Utah Athletic Communications Office, 74.

Intermountain Cagers Set AAU Meet Mar. 4-6,” The Murray Eagle, February, 28, 1963, 7.

S.L. Quint Grabs Win AAU Joust,”Provo Daily Herald, March 29,1962, 9.

Timmy Allen, Career Statistics, ESPN.

1962-63 Utah Utes Roster and Stats, Sports Reference.

Secondary Sources

Douchant, Mike. Encyclopedia of College Basketball. New York: Gale Research, 1995.

Hansen, Jason. Utah Basketball: A History of the Runnin’ Utes Since 1908. Salt Lake City, Utah: Who U Sports Press, 2016.

University Duty of Care for Student Deaths in Athletics

By Gloria M. Hammond

Doug Bingham 1960-1

Doug Bingham is pictured next to an article encouraging the attendance of a University wrestling match. The photo was published in February 1960, one year prior to his death. Courtesy of The Daily Utah Chronicle and J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Participating in athletics can sometimes be risky business. Sports-related injuries are common on college campuses, and athlete fatalities are not unheard of either. This risk of harm poses an important question: Do universities possess a duty of care to their student athletes in the event of a sports-related injury or death?

Michelle D. McGirt, a sports law scholar, offers some insight into potential answers to this question by analyzing the relationship between universities and student athletes through the framework of U.S. common law. McGirt offers her analysis using the legal decisions of cases involving student athlete injury or death within the United States. The application of legal discourse involving this issue provides a clearer understanding as to why there ought to be a special duty of care offered to student athletes that exceeds that of a typical student.

McGirt argues that universities do, in fact, have an imposed duty of care to their student athletes. (McGirt, p. 12) This duty is based on a mutual dependence between the athlete and the university. Student athletes rely on the university to receive an education and hone their physical abilities, while the university receives economic benefits as well as increased student enthusiasm and involvement in campus sporting events. While the student athlete is not an employee of the university, McGirt argues that it is important to distinguish them from private students due to the nature of the relationship universities have with campus sports. (McGirt, p. 10)

Based on legal precedent, McGirt argues that universities are rarely liable for the injury or death of a student athlete. However, the courts have recognized and stated that there is a special duty of care that universities have toward student athletes, and those involved in campus sports should hold a special standing in comparison to the private student body. Although universities may not suffer legal recourse for a sports-related death, examples of how these institutions handle and memorialize athlete fatalities can be observed through historical findings.


An article published in the Arizona Republic reported in February 1961 that University of Utah student Doug Bingham had died after suffering an apparent heart attack during a wrestling match in Wyoming. The article highlights Bingham’s prior good health and academic standing, as well as his widow and three young children.

Chronicle article 1961-1

Front page headline from The Daily Utah Chronicle, March 1961. University fundraisers aim to pay tribute to student athletes who are injured or deceased. Courtesy of The Daily Utah Chronicle and J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

A tribute for Doug Bingham was published in the Daily Utah Chronicle in February 1961. The Chronicle is a paper for the University of Utah community that is highly circulated on campus. The tribute highlights Bingham’s accomplishments and hopes that his untimely death will “carry a moral and a thought into every university student in America.” This particular quote emphasizes the reach of Bingham’s death, and the moral obligations that all students ought to have toward their peers. A follow-up article titled “Traditions” was published in the Daily Utah Chronicle in February 1961 to further explain the incident and urge students to “do their part to help right a tragic incident.”

A sense of duty to Bingham’s memory and surviving family was sparked when Floyd Dyches, with the University of Utah campus police, wrote a letter to the editor of the Daily Utah Chronicle in March 1961. Dyches urged the student body to “make a Doug Bingham fund” in order to compensate his family for the loss of their husband and father. Jackie Black, chairman of the Union Talent Extravaganza, announced in an article published in the Daily Utah Chronicle in March 1961 that all proceeds from the yearly school talent show would be donated to the Bingham fund. The University of Utah senior class also made a donation toward the Bingham fund, which was published in the Daily Utah Chronicle in May 1961.


The 1961 death of Doug Bingham, a University of Utah student athlete, was recognized as a campus tragedy. Bingham’s death also sparked discourse on how the university ought to respond to the loss of a valued student-athlete. The campus honored the memory and paid tribute to Bingham’s special relationship with the University of Utah by urging students to donate funds to aid the affected family. These tributes and fundraisers also served to solidify Bingham’s dedication and engrave his special standing within the public memory of the University of Utah campus. In present day, there is a growing concern with the well-being of student athletes. Universities can reflect upon the past, to instances like the death of Doug Bingham, to better address injury or death with compassion and a sense of duty to those affected.

Gloria Hammond is a senior at the University of Utah. She is majoring in communication with an emphasis in journalism.

Primary Sources

Heart Attack Kills Utah U. Wrestler,” Arizona Republic, February 27, 1961, 41.

Glowing Tribute,Daily Utah Chronicle, February 28, 1961, 2.

Traditions..,” Daily Utah Chronicle, March 3, 1961, 2.

Floyd Dyches, “Letter to the Editor,” Daily Utah Chronicle, March 6, 1961, 2.

Extravaganza Proceeds Set for Bingham Fund,” Daily Utah Chronicle, March 7, 1961, 1.

Senior Class Gift Divided to Benefit University, Campus,” Daily Utah  Chronicle, May 25, 1961, 1.

Secondary Source

McGirt, Michelle. “Do Universities Have a Special Duty of Care to Protect Student-Athletes from Injury?” Sports & Entertainment Law Journal 6, no. 1 (1999): 1-14.

Doug Bingham’s Untimely Death Could Have Shined a Light on Collegiate Sports and the Risk Involved

By Arielle Gulley

U_of_U_Wrestlers_Bingham_Doug_Hankin_Frank_Hess_Marv_Shot_2Collegiate sports are oftentimes regarded as rewarding experiences that can bring communities together and even ignite professional careers for some athletes. Being on a team surrounded by your peers can be a great time in your life. Unfortunately, the risk that comes with college athletics is a big one, and even more unfortunate, it often goes unrecognized. That was exactly the case in 1961 when the University of Utah’s wrestling team traveled to Powell, Wyoming, for a meet against the University of Wyoming.

Doug Bingham, a 21-year-old senior at the University of Utah and co-captain of the wrestling team, died during the match due to a heart-related incident while on the mat. This was 1961, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) had just been introduced but was still an unfamiliar practice to many. The Daily Utah Chronicle reported in February 1961 that when Bingham went limp during the match he was given “artificial respiration on the mat, and later a physician opened his chest and massaged his heart.” His teammates watched and even gave blood in attempts of saving his life. Bingham’s heartbeat returned and he was rushed to Memorial Hospital where his heart lost and then regained a beat once more, only to stop later that night one final time. The student, husband, and father of three was pronounced dead.

Page_256_Matmen_win_IntermountainWhen Bingham died so unexpectedly, the school was unaware of the protocol in such a situation. It was a shock that someone so young and healthy could be there one minute, and gone the next. Bingham’s coach Marvin Hess referred to Bingham as someone “in fine health, perfect condition,” as the Arizona Republic reported on February 27, 1961.

Short articles were written of the event and placed in the sports section. Letters to the editor of the Daily Utah Chronicle published in late February and early March 1961 described Bingham as someone who was “highly thought of by all his friends and associates,” and who seemed to “go the extra distance.” A fund was also started at the University of Utah and eventually garnered hundreds of dollars to go toward his surviving family.

After a couple of weeks and time to digest the untimely passing of a young man seemingly in his prime, the school and news outlets found that they had performed their due diligence and found new stories to report on, no longer publishing stories on Doug Bingham or even mentioning the potential risk that collegiate athletics imposed on students. The question of how a young and seemingly healthy college student died from a heart complication was never addressed. Bingham’s circumstance never inspired a new policy where student athletes would be examined prior to competition on the competency of their bodies or their ability to withstand strain. The mental effect of the event on other college athletes and peers at the time was never brought into question. It wasn’t until February 2008, 47 years after the incident, that the athlete on the mat with Bingham at the time of his death shared his own insight on the harrowing situation with Wyoming’s Casper Star-Tribune.

Dave Edington, an awarded wrestler with the University of Wyoming in 1961, recalled wrestling Bingham and the confusion he felt when his opponent went limp and wouldn’t get up during the match. After the death of someone he did not know, Edington was unsure how to feel or if he should feel anything at all. The gravity of the situation affected his collegiate career for the worse. “I never could get it going again,” Edington said about wrestling with the university. “I never was the same.”

As a nation, it is instances such as these that have occurred far too often and taught us that we must shine a light on the untimely deaths and potential risks involved when it comes to college sports. The United States prioritizes sports and athleticism, though in instances such as these it comes at a cost. Someone’s health is overlooked for the chance at winning a trophy. Athletes must be recognized, their peers counseled and taught to properly grieve, and preventative measures taken to reduce future risk.

This wrestling match in 1961 that resulted in a death of a student was given mediocre media attention at best. If better addressed or reported on, this event in our history could have changed policies in collegiate sports and possibly saved or improved the lives of athletes in similar situations. The media’s job is to highlight and distinguish stories in order to bring about much needed change. In this instance, the media failed.

Arielle Gulley is a senior at the University of Utah. She is studying communication with an emphasis in journalism.

Primary Sources

U Athlete Dies in Wyoming,” Daily Utah Chronicle, February 27, 1961, 4.

Glowing Tribute…,” Daily Utah Chronicle, February 28, 1961, 2.

Drizzle by H20,” Daily Utah Chronicle, February 28, 1961, 4.

Traditions,” Daily Utah Chronicle, March 3, 1961, 2.

2 Barbershop Quartettes [sic] to Top ‘Extravaganza,’” Daily Utah Chronicle, March 6, 1961, 1.

Feel Bad?” Daily Utah Chronicle, March 6, 1961, 2.

Heart Attack Kills Utah U. Wrestler,” Arizona Republic, February 27, 1961, 41.

David Buck, “Wrestling brought ups and downs for the first four-time champ,” Star-Tribune, February 21, 2008.

“Wrestler dies as Surgery Fails,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 27, 1961, 41.

Secondary Sources

Harmon, Kimberly G., Irfan M. Asif, David A. Klossner, and Jonathan Drezner. “Incidence of Sudden Cardiac Death in National Collegiate Athletic Association Athletes.” Circulation 123, no. 15 (2011): 1594-600.

Chandra, Navin, Rachel Bastiaenen, Michael Papadakis, and Sanjay Sharma. “Sudden Cardiac Death in Young Athletes.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology 61, no. 10 (2013): 1027-040.

“Hyperthermia and Dehydration-Related Deaths Associated with Intentional Rapid Weight Loss in Three Collegiate Wrestlers — North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Michigan, November-December 1997.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 47 (6): 105-108.

Harmon, et al. “Pathogenesis of Sudden Cardiac Death in National Collegiate Athletic Association Athletes.” Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology 7, no. 2 (2014): 198-204.

Van Camp, Steven P., Colin M. Bloor, Frederick O. Mueller, Robert C. Cantu, and Harold G. Olson. “Nontraumatic Sports Death in High School and College Athletes.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 27, no. 5 (1995): 641-47.