Induction Year: 1973
Joe Aillet's first game as head football coach at Louisiana tech was in Baton Rouge, against Bernie Moore's LSU Tigers. His last season at Tech included a trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for a contest with Paul “Bear” Bryant's defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide.
“We're not trying to go into big-time football,” Aillet said. “However, we're not neglecting any opportunity to play a big-name ball club.”
Tech battled both Southeastern Conference heavyweights on even terms for one quarter before bowing by one-sided margins—39-7 to LSU and 34-0 to Alabama .
But in between those setbacks, Aillet's Bulldogs pulled off several upsets against big-name opponents.
In 1946, Louisiana Tech handed Ole Miss its first homecoming loss in 15 years, 7-6, when Pierce Dider out dueled future pro quarterback Charlie Conerly. Two years later the Bulldogs battled Auburn to a 13-13 tie. In the early 1950s, Tech rolled past Florida State two years in a row. The Bulldogs' 32-13 rout in 1952 snapped the Seminoles' streak of 17 consecutive home victories, Spanning five seasons.
In 26 seasons, Aillet's Tech teams won 151 games, lost 86 and tied eight—a winning percentage of .633. In half of those seasons, the Bulldogs won or shared conference championships. “But winning,” Aillet said many times, “has never been the most important thing.”
Three of his teams had 9-1 records, with two of them dropping close decisions to Mississippi Southern (now Southern Mississippi ). The 1959 Bulldogs won nine consecutive games after a season-opening 13-6 loss to Lamar.
“I never wanted to create an athletic monster,” Aillet said at the end of his coaching career. “It was my responsibility to develop a player not only athletically, but also mentally, socially and spiritually. We are not dealing with players, but whole men. I wanted my players to have a good attitude toward the game of football and toward their teammates, coaching staff, students and officials. I tried to instill in their minds that football was the greatest game that has ever been invented.”
When he retired as Tech's athletic director a year before he died in 1971, Aillet said he never had second thoughts about choosing the coaching profession.
“I never considered anything else,” he said “I have always felt that I was in a profession where I could render service. Nothing else that I could have done could've supplanted the satisfaction I've received from coaching.”
Joseph Roguet Aillet came to Louisiana from New York City on a “baby train” which unloaded its cargo of orphaned infants at each whistle stop in the Deep South . When the train reached Youngsville, an Acadian village seven miles south of Lafayette , the pastor of St. Ann 's Catholic Church claimed the baby who would become a legendary football coach in the Pine Cone hills of North Louisiana .
As a priest, Father Johanni Roguet wasn't allowed to legally adopt a child. So he turned that chore over to his housekeeper at the rectory, a widow named Eliza Aillet. That is how the man who would be described as a “Catholic Frenchman” received his name and his heritage.
As a youth, Joe Aillet was sent to Holy Cross College in New Orleans for his secondary education. An athlete and dramatist of note, he was an officer in practically every society at the school and served as vice-president of the Class of 1921. He then attended St. Edward's University in Austin , Texas , participating in all sports.
His coach at St. Edward's was Jack Meagher, a Notre Dame graduate. When Meagher brought Knute Rockne to St. Edward's for a coaching clinic in 1925, Aillet was the student assigned to keep Rockne's room in order. He would always cherish the memory of the evening he spent talking with Rockne about his coaching philosophy.
Aillet's next stop was Southwestern Louisiana Institute, where he completed his playing career and received a temporary appointment as head of the commerce department while he was till a student. Then he launched his coaching career at Haynesville High School . After earning a master's degree in history from LSU, he taught commerce at Louisiana Normal (now Northwestern State ) and served as backfield coach under Harry “Rags” Turpin. On Dec. 8, 1939, a few weeks after the Demons completed their first perfect season, Louisiana Tech president E. S. Richardson selected Aillet to succeed Ray Davis as the Bulldogs' football coach.
“The first thing we did at Tech was put in some academic requirements for boys on scholarships,” Aillet recalled later. “We lost 21 boys off the squad because of that, but we were going in the right direction.”
His first team won its last three games to finish 6-4, ending the season with a 6-0 victory over Centenary College . It was the Bulldogs' first football win in 19 years over the Gents, who had been the kingpins of North Louisiana until Normal 's perfect season in 1939. Tech's victory that day signaled the end of one dynasty and the beginning of another.
When he stepped down after the 1966 season, Aillet was concerned about the future of college athletics.
“The complexion of athletics is changing,” he said, “and I'm afraid it is not for the better as far as the students and schools are concerned. Motives are distorted. Too often, the coach is more interested in financial reward and fanning his own ego.”
“Like American life in general, we are moving too fast. We are caught in the middle of a great surge, and there isn't much we can do about it.”
The end of Aillet's coaching career created a split among the school's supporters. Many alumni and former players felt Aillet should've had a hand in selecting his successor, but Tech's new president—Dr. F. Jay Taylor—left no doubt that he was running the show. His choice was Maxie Lambright.
Aillet died following a battle with cancer on Dec. 28, 1971.
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