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'Robert Hart Cary' - 10th University of Montana football coach - "unusually popular"

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Robert Hart Cary – 10th University of Montana football coach

One of Montana’s earliest football coaches passed away in 1912 of diabetes after only 2 seasons at the helm. The twenty-six-year-old was highly regarded locally and his death brought to a close not only a bright coaching career, but also a remarkable athletic career.

Cary was born in Peoria, Il. in 1886 and grew up in North Platte, Ne. He started at the University of Montana in 1904 and participated in every sport available. He was a member of the 05-06 football team coached by Fred W. Schule who, like Cary, was an extremely successful athlete, having won an Olympic gold medal in the 1904 summer Olympic Games. Cary was also fast as a sprinter and soon set the 100-yard dash record for the school in 10 seconds flat. That record lasted for 10 years. In 1907, Cary left the Missoula school to attend Yale (Sheffield Scientific School) where he graduated in 1909. He was a member of the Yale track team while attending there.

During the summer of 1906 Cary was living in Spokane, Wa. where he worked for a bank for a short time. An interesting mention of him appeared in the Kennewick, Wa. Courier in October of that year:

“Robert Cary, the great Spokane sprinter who made Dan Kelly break the world’s amateur record to beat him in the 100-yard dash, is now at Yale and is trying for the Yale freshman team. Cary played end on the University of Montana team and is a good man.”

Kelly’s world record in that race was 9 and 3/5 seconds.

By 1910, Cary was back in Missoula, helping to coach the track team at the University. In Jigg’s Dahlberg’s book it states there was no official track coach that year, only volunteers. According to Dahlberg, 30 men turned out and the season began late, “However, with the assistance of Robert Cary – ex ’08 – and Allston Dana, ass’t prof. of engineering and Carl Woodward, the local forestry bureau, the team improved considerably.”

Robert Cary was listed as the football coach beginning in 1910. The school’s football team the previous year had been successful under coach Roy White from the University of Iowa. The football team in 1910 had 3 wins, two losses and 1 tie (with Montana State College in Bozeman). One of the wins was also over MSU. Paul Dornblazer was the starting fullback on the team. Other Missoula players included, Beard, Bennett, Day, Deschamps, Little, Maclay, Simpkins, Simpson, Thieme, and quarterback Winstanley.

In 1911 Cary is listed as the Athletic Director as well as the football coach but due to conflicts only three games were played that year. Assistant coaches that year were Paul Greenough and Dr. R. H. Nelson.

Cary was also the 1911 and 1912 track coach.

A quote from his obituary that appeared in the Sept. 20, 1912 Missoulian went thus:

“Keen grief was general yesterday when the news of Mr. Cary’s death became known. The young man was unusually popular and could count as his friend everyman with whom he had ever come in contact. The quickness with which death came added to the shock. Although Mr. Cary has been in ill health for years, he had never seemed near death. His cheerful demeanor and his optimism bore no trace of a sense of approaching death. . .

“After graduation he returned to the west. He went first to Spokane, where he worked in the Old National bank for a time. He had lived in Spokane before and in 1906 ran second to Dan Kelly in the much disputed 100-yard dash which established a world’s record of 9 3-5 seconds. This was probably the fastest race Cary ever ran, for he was a close second and must have done the century in 9 4-5 seconds if the timers caught Kelly correctly. After working in Spokane for a while Mr. Cary returned to Missoula and worked as a reporter for The Missoulian until in 1910 he was appointed athletic director at the University of Montana. He served there with admirable success, turning out two championship football teams and two championship track teams. This is the position he held at the time of his death. . .


“When Robert Cary first returned to Missoula he was suffering with diabetes and told friends at the time that he did not expect to live more than a few years. Yet he never complained nor gave up the fight. With death staring him in the face all the time he went his way, happy and unflinching. He was the cleanest of men morally and was a true Christian in beliefs and practice. He lived a life of which he could be unashamed and went to his death without a whimper, calmly facing the end he expected at any time. He was a man of whose friendship one can be thoroughly proud. He leaves behind him scores of friends who will treasure his memory and on whom the influence of his life will always be felt.”

Last Updated on Monday, 28 August 2017 15:35