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Ole Miss Legend Roland Dale Passes Away

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April 24, 2012

JACKSON, Miss. – Ole Miss lost another of its football legends Sunday with the passing of Roland H. Dale, 84, an outstanding player with the Rebels who later became one of Coach John Vaught’s top assistant coaches before enjoying a successful career in athletics administration as Director of Athletics at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Arrangements are incomplete at this time.

Born Oct. 30, 1927 in Magee, Miss., Dale attended Magee High School where he was an outstanding prep athlete.  Highly recruited out of Magee High, he signed a football scholarship with Ole Miss and was a 205-pound, two-way player for Coach Harry Mehre’s Rebels in 1945, averaging more than 50 minutes per game, while earning a letter in his true freshman season.  

One of his assistant coaches in 1945 was Edwin “Goat” Hale, who was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player from Mississippi College.

Dale’s college career at Ole Miss was briefly interrupted by a 14-month tour of duty with the U. S. Marine Corps.  He returned to Ole Miss to play on Vaught’s first three teams in 1947, 1948 and 1949.  The 1947 team captured the school’s first ever Southeastern Conference football crown as the Rebels finished 9-2, including a victory over Vaught’s alma mater, Texas Christian University, in the Delta Bowl in Memphis.  The 1947 and 1948 teams went a combined 17-3.

After serving as captain of the 1949 squad, Dale was chosen to play in the Blue-Gray All-Star game.  He was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers of the old All-America Football Conference, but chose to play in the National Football League as a defensive end with the Washington Redskins in 1950.

A shoulder injury forced an early retirement from the pro ranks and he then entered the coaching profession at Jones Junior College before going to Greenwood High School.  He was named Big Eight Coach of the Year in 1953 while serving as athletics director and head football coach at Gulfport High School.  He also coached in the 1954 Mississippi High School All-Star game.

He entered the senior college coaching ranks when he served as line coach (1955-57) at Mississippi Southern College (now USM), helping lead the team to a 26-3-1 record and two appearances in the Tangerine Bowl.  Dale then stepped away from coaching in 1958 to enter private business in Jackson, Miss., before once again returning to coaching in 1959 as defensive line coach at Tulane.

Dale returned to Ole Miss in 1960 when he joined Vaught’s staff as an assistant coach and scout.  He became coach of the ends in 1963 and took over as defensive coach in charge of ends and linebackers in 1967.  During his 12 years as an assistant at Ole Miss, including 11 with Vaught and one with Billy Kinard (1971), Dale helped lead the Rebels to three SEC championships, a share of two national titles and bowl games all 12 years.

Following his 12 years as an assistant at Ole Miss, Dale served two years as head football coach at Southeastern Louisiana University before returning to Hattiesburg as Director of Athletics at Southern Miss in 1974.

While serving as athletics director at USM for 12 years, Dale provided the university with outstanding leadership, which saw the department make tremendous improvements under his watch.  He was credited with gaining conference affiliation for the school and upgrading schedules and facilities, including the expansion and renovation of M. M. Roberts Stadium.

Dale’s accomplished career in coaching and athletics administration did not go unnoticed.  He was inducted into the Ole Miss Athletics Hall of Fame in 1987,  the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Southern Miss M-Club Hall of Fame in 1996.

Dale earned his undergraduate degree from Ole Miss in August of 1949 and his M.E. degree in May of 1951.  He is survived by his wife, the former Tennie Coleman of Indianola, Miss., their two children -- Christy Wilson of Clinton, Miss., and Frank Dale of Dallas, Texas -- and eight grandchildren.

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