Knox establishes history chair at Juniata

Updated: February 18, 2005, 6:01 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

SEATTLE -- As a student at tiny Juniata College in Pennsylvania during the early 1950s, Chuck Knox fell in love with history -- almost giving up coaching to become a professor.

After he logged 22 years as an NFL head coach, hindsight proves Knox made a solid decision. But his passion for learning and a connection with his alma mater always remained.

Knox recently donated $1 million to establish the Dr. Charles R. and Shirley A. Knox Chair in History at Juniata, a 1,400-student liberal arts school in Huntington, Pa., tucked into the Appalachians 120 miles east of Pittsburgh.

"We finally got around to doing it,'' Knox told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his home in La Quinta, Calif.

Knox has long been a supporter of Juniata.

He gave $50,000 toward a sports and recreation center and was chairman of a $1 million campaign to improve athletic facilities. He also served on the college's board of trustees from 1978-99.

The 3,000-seat football stadium, built in 1988, is named after Knox.

"He's clearly been involved in a good way for a long time,'' Juniata president Dr. Thomas Kepple said. "Chuck is multifaceted, and he has meant a lot to us.''

But the history chair holds a special place.

Knox was a four-year letterman playing offensive and defensive tackle at Juniata from 1950-53. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in history in 1954 and began his coaching career the next fall as a Juniata assistant.

After a few years coaching high school football, Knox considered returning to the college as a history professor. He even began work on a master's degree at Penn State, but his desire to coach won out.

"During that time, I thought what I really wanted to do was coach and not go into the academic area,'' Knox recalled. "I know I made the right choice. It's what I wanted to do.''

Knox led three NFL teams to division titles. He became head coach of the Los Angeles Rams in 1973 and won five straight NFC West titles, never winning fewer than 10 games. Knox moved to Buffalo in 1978 and produced a division title in 1980.

His longest stint came in Seattle from 1983-91. Knox took the Seahawks to their first playoff berth in franchise history in 1983, falling one game short of the Super Bowl.

The next year, Seattle won its first division title, and Knox led the Seahawks to the playoffs in 1987 and 1988.

Knox finished his career with the Rams in 1994. Nicknamed "Ground Chuck'' for his propensity to run the football, he retired with a 186-147-1 record and four NFL coach of the year awards.

Nowadays, Knox spends his days reading about history and keeping up with his four children and six grandchildren. His son, Chuck Knox, Jr., is an assistant with the Minnesota Vikings.

The first recipient of the Knox Chair at Juniata is David Hsiung, who won the 2000 Pennsylvania Professor of the Year Award from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

Hsiung, 43, has taught at the college since 1991. He's planning to take a one-year sabbatical and pursue a research project, and the increased salary from Knox's donation will help in completing his research.

"My predecessors 50 years ago did something right to turn on Chuck Knox to a love of history and a love of Juniata that 50 years later, he was willing to donate this huge sum of money to the college,'' said Hsiung, who grew up a Chicago Bears fan, rooting against Knox's teams.

"It's a day-to-day reminder of a standard I need to reach in my teaching.''