Ferguson Stands Out at Ottumwa Tailgate
OTTUMWA – It has been a long time but Don Ferguson still remembers. The 1950 Iowa State graduate played four years (1946-49) on the Cyclone football and basketball teams after graduating from Ottumwa High School. Ferguson was among a crowd of more than 200 fans who gathered to hear men’s basketball coach Greg McDermott, women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly and ISU athletics director Jamie Pollard speak at the Bridge View Center.
Ferguson entered Iowa State in 1946 as thousands of G.I.s returned from active service to attend colleges across the country. It was Ray Donels, a former ISU head coach and athletics department lifer who helped Ferguson get into the Navy ROTC program when they first came to Ames. Eventually, Ferguson would pay the Navy back with 27 months of service during the Korean War.
“ROTC was very helpful because in those days, we would get $100 a week in the ROTC program,” Ferguson said.
In football, Ferguson played his first Iowa State season under head coach Mike Michalske. Michalske was an NFL Hall of Famer who was tough enough to play part of his career in Green Bay with a broken back.
“He was easy to talk to,” Ferguson said. “He had a tough exterior but was a good person and a real competitor.”
Abe Stuber took over head coaching duties at Iowa State in 1947.
“Abe was a quiet scholarly-type, very smart,” Ferguson said. “He was extremely intelligent and coached football that way.”
World War II had precipitated the NCAA to allow four years of eligibility for student athletes for a limited time. Because the rule was still in effect in 1946, Ferguson played four years for the Cyclones instead of three.
Ferguson remembers Louis Menze, Iowa State’s legendary basketball coach from 1928 to 1947. Menze would then serve as ISU athletics director into the late 1950s.
“Louis was a grandfather to us, a really great person,” Ferguson said.
The balance of Ferguson’s basketball career was under coach Chick Sutherland, who coached the Cyclones from 1947-1954.
“Chick was a fine person who had been an assistant to Louis Menze,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson lived in the west stadium portion of Clyde Williams Field while in school at ISU. Clyde Williams Field is gone, but with graduates like Ferguson, its memory lives on. The 1949 Iowa State football team, one of the better squads in school history, annually attends a Cyclone football game. The group will do it for the final time at the 2009 Iowa State Homecoming game Oct. 17 vs. Baylor at Jack Trice Stadium.
Pollard recognized Ferguson during the final Tailgate stop demonstrating that the legacy of Ferguson and his teammates will live on long into the future.