Coach Dave Nelson:
A Tradition of Excellence
November 2, 2011 – November 30, 2011
Renowned football rules authority and former University of Delaware coach David M. Nelson developed the Winged-T football offense. From 1951 until 1966, Coach Nelson, “the Admiral,” established a gridiron dynasty which won three Lambert Cups and the UPI National Small College Championship in 1963.
Nelson's Winged-T formation was adopted by a number of prominent football coaches, including Paul Dietzel, Frank Broyles, and Ara Parseghian, and Forest Evashevski, who coached his University of Iowa team to Rose Bowl victories in 1957 and 1959 using the formation.
During Nelson's 40 years as a University of Delaware administrator, including Dean of the College of Physical Education, Athletics and Recreation (1981-1990), the athletic program was strengthened and expanded, and a 75-acre intercollegiate athletics complex was created.
David Nelson served in many capacities with the National Collegiate Athletic Association but, above all else, he was a nationally recognized expert on intercollegiate football rules, serving on the NCAA Football Rules Committee for 35 years and as the committee's Secretary-Editor from 1962 until his death in 1991. Nelson's duties required him to comment on the rules to the national media and to conduct sessions at football clinics, during which he explained annual rule changes.
Nelson was also a gifted author of gridiron textbooks and newspaper commentaries on football and athletics. Scoring Power with the Winged-T Offense was co-authored with his former Michigan football teammate, Forest Evashevski. The Anatomy of a Game: Football, the Rules, and the Men Who Made the Game is the first football history to chronicle year-by-year how playing rules developed the game. "Breaking the Rules" was one of his syndicated columns which appeared in newspapers throughout the country in the 1960s and 1970s.
Nelson's stature among his peers is illustrated by the awards and honors accorded him, including the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Distinguished American Award (1984), induction as a coach into the National Football Hall of Fame (1987), the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame (1978), and the American Football Coaches Association Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (1988).
1. Chalk portrait of David Nelson drawn by Harold “Tubby“ Raymond
2. Scoring Power with the Winged T Offense. Dubuque, Iowa: W.C. Brown Co., 1957.
3. “Centennial Dinner,” 1989, Nelson’s remarks
4. The Anatomy of a Game. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994.
5. “Breaking the Rules,” 1978, page proof for Nelson’s syndicated column
6. “Hen Win Small College Title…” Evening Journal (Wilmington, Del.), December 4, 1963
7. “1963 Reunion,” Nelson’s remarks at a reunion of the 1963 championship football team
8. “Winged T – Crumpets,” April 1959, Illinois High School Coaches Association clinic