Alex & Lou Agase
Did you know that two Assyrian brothers worked as American football coaches in the mid-20th century?
Their parents, Goolaziz (who also went by Charles) and Eslie, moved to the United States from Urmia, Iran in 1920. Among their five children were Alexander Agase (seen on the left), born in 1922, and Louis Agase, (seen on the right) born in 1924. The two boys were born and raised in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois. When they reached the age to attend college, they both went to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and accelerated in sports there.
Alexander, or Alex, was often nicknamed “The Assyrian” in the University of Illinois’ school newspaper. He played on the University’s football team and was named All-American for the University of Illinois in both 1942 and 1946. However, his time at the University of Illinois was interrupted by World War II, when he was transferred to Purdue University, in Indiana, for his military training. While briefly playing on Purdue’s football team, he was again named All-American in 1943. He is the only college football player to have earned All-American honors at two different universities.
During WWII, the U.S. Marines sent Alex to the Pacific. He fought at both the Battle of Iwo Jim and the Battle of Okinawa, received injuries, and was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. After the War, he returned to the University of Illinois and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education in 1947. That same year, he also helped the University of Illinois’ football team win the 1947 Rose Bowl. Alex’s younger brother, Lou, participated in the 1947 Rose Bowl as well. Alex Agase was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1963.
After playing professional football for a while, Agase worked as a football coach at several universities, including as an assistant coach to Ara Parseghian, the Armenian head coach at Northwestern University. Agase’s career took a positive turn when he became the new head coach at Northwestern, after Parseghian moved on to coach at Notre Dame University. In 1970, Agase’s team did so well that the Football Writers Association of America voted him the national coach of the year. Agase eventually served as Purdue University’s head football coach from 1973 to 1976. Alex Agase passed away at the age of 85 in 2007.
Alex’s younger brother, Louis, or Lou, also pursued a career in sports. Like his brother, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education from the University of Illinois. However, unlike Alex, he did not just play football in college. He also was also a heavyweight wrestler and runner on the track team. After graduation, Lou briefly coached several sports at a high school, and then coached Junior Varsity football at the University of Illinois. He later helped coach Michigan State University’s football team before becoming the head coach of the Toronto Argonauts in the 1960s. The Toronto Argonauts are a professional Canadian football team. Lou Agase passed away in 2006, a year before Alex.
Written by Esther Lang
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