Hugo Bezdek, the man responsible for developing Penn State’s golf program in the early 1920s, built an amazing coaching career that spanned the first half of the 1900s.
As Penn State’s athletic director from 1918 to 1936, Bezdek’s love of golf and strong ambitions led to the construction of a championship-caliber golf course on campus.
His efforts also led to the university becoming one of the first members of the Intercollegiate Golf Association.
This accomplishment is significant in itself, but it pales in comparison to the impressive professional accomplishments of the amazing Bezdek.
Born in the Czech Republic in 1884, Bezdek’s family emigrated to the United States when he was just 6 years old. A fine athlete in his youth, Bezdek eventually attended the University of Chicago, where he was nationally touted during the 1904 and 1905 football seasons.
Straight out of college, Bezdek began his storied coaching career by leading the University of Oregon to an undefeated season in 1906.
This success led to a five-year stint as head coach of Arkansas, where he posted another undefeated season in 1909. Bezdek also coached the Razorbacks baseball team.
By 1913, University of Oregon officials had convinced Bezdek to return to Eugene, and the training assistant did not disappoint. Bezdek led winning campaigns in Oregon for four straight years and capped the 1916 season with victory in football’s biggest game of the year, the Rose Bowl.
If his football accolades at Oregon weren’t enough, Bezdek also found time to be the school’s head coach for basketball and baseball.
During his career in Oregon, Bezdek must have had little time to sleep as he was hired by the Pittsburgh Pirates to be a West Coast talent scout. The Pirates were so impressed that they actually hired Bezdek to become the club’s manager midway through the 1917 season.
Bezdek would lead the Pirates from 1917-1919, but would still coach college football in the offseason. In 1919, he was hired by Penn State to serve as both the school’s athletic director and head football coach.
For 12 seasons at State College, Bezdek posted an impressive 65-30-11 record and led the Nittany Lions to an appearance in the 1923 Rose Bowl. For good measure, Bezdek also served as head basketball coach from the school in 1919.
During his coaching career, Bezdek had fallen in love with the game of golf. While at Penn State, he would use his football success to convince school administrators to build a championship golf course (today’s White Course).
He also lobbied for Penn State’s acceptance into the Ivy League-dominated Intercollegiate Golf Association in 1925 (Penn State would eventually become the first school outside of the Ivy League to win the Ivy League Conference Championship). ‘is of this association).
Bezdek’s career as a collegiate coach ended in 1930, but his influence as athletic director was felt on all of Penn State’s competitive programs until he finally left the position in 1936.
Bezdek, however, wasn’t done with coaching yet.
In 1937, he was hired to be the head coach of the Cleveland Rams of the National Football League and served the team in that capacity for two seasons before retiring for good. He lived a fairly quiet life, enjoying his friends and playing golf, before passing away peacefully in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1952.
Bezdek, the man who brought competitive golf to Penn State, remains the only man to coach both a Major League Baseball team and a National Football League team.
He was also posthumously elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.