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Courtesy: Washington State Athletics
The 1917 National Champion Washington State Basketball Team. Ivan Price is pictured at the upper right.
Stories That Live Forever
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Courtesy: Washington State Athletics
Release: 05/21/2007
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May 21, 2007

Editor's Note: Located at the center of the Washington State University campus is the WSU Veterans Memorial. On the memorial are engraved the names of Washington State students, faculty, and staff who served their country in violent conflicts that took place far from the peace and tranquility of the Palouse. Each name represents a life sacrificed either in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, or the Global War on Terrorism.

Behind each name is a story.

This feature series conveys the stories connected with four names on the memorial. All had an association with Washington State Athletics in some manner. With Memorial Day approaching, the series is not only written to honor the four Washington State students who gave their lives for their country, it is dedicated to each name on the memorial, and to their stories. To access the entire series click HERE

Part II: The second installment focuses on a war that has become overlooked by many people today. The advancement of time may diminish the memories of the country's first major conflict of the 20th Century, but not its significance. This is the story of one Washington State College student-athlete who left the school as a national champion, and died a national hero.

A Sacrifice Not To Be Forgotten

By Jason Krump

In April, an anniversary significant to the history of the United States occurred, though its importance may have gone unnoticed to many people.

April 6, 1917, marked the 90th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I.

World War I was known shortly after its conclusion as the "the war to end all wars," but it proved to be the first of many conflicts the United States was involved in during the 20th Century.

"Some people have referred to it as the peace to end all peace," said Eli Paul, Museum Director, National World War I Museum, located in Kansas City, Mo.

Chances are, for the majority of individuals, when the term "World War" is thought of, the Roman numeral "II" immediately comes to mind as what to place after it.

"Obviously, World War II overshadowed World War I, especially in this country," Paul said. "It lasted longer, involved more men under arms, and there was more change that was undertaken in the country on the home front."

As each anniversary of the country's entry into the "Great War," as World War I was known, passes to memory, so does the tangible link the United States has to the first major conflict of the 20th Century.

Nearly 4.7 million American servicemen and women fought in World War I (45,154 who served from the state of Washington). Today, four are still living.

With each World War I veteran's passing, the stories they possess go with them.

When the war ended, Nov. 11, 1918, a total of 116,516 Americans had lost their lives; 42 had attended Washington State College.

This is one story of the 42.

A National Champion

Ivan Price graduated from Pullman High School in the spring of 1915. An all-around athlete, Price participated in football, basketball and track. He helped Pullman High to the football and basketball county championships during his senior year.

In the fall of the same year Price entered Washington State College. During his first year at WSC, Price played on the freshman basketball team. He was ineligible for conference contests because of a newly adopted freshman rule, but he did see action in some non-conference varsity games. For the season, Price played in 10 games averaging 3.8 points a contest for a Cougar squad that went 18-3 and captured the Northwest Conference Championship under head coach J. Fred `Doc' Bohler.

As good as the 1916 season was, the next season would be even better, so good in fact that to this day it is the greatest season in Washington State basketball history.

Starting all 26 games during the 1916-17 season, Price averaged 11.5 points playing right forward for the Crimson and Gray (the teams would not be known as Cougars until 1919).

Price was not the only player to start all the games as depth was a luxury that Coach Bohler did not enjoy. The quartet of Roy Bohler (captain and brother of the coach), Ed Copeland, Bob Moss, and Al Sorenson started all 26 games along with Price. Glenn Glover was the only other letterman on the team, seeing action in 12 games.

During the season, Price demonstrated his toughness that no doubt served him well in the military.

Ivan Price was a member of the 1917 Washington State basketball team that went 25-1 and was named national champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation.

With the lack of depth, injuries to the starting line-up could have destroyed any hope of WSC repeating the success of the previous season. The injuries did arrive, but the vigor of the team shone through.

Starting the season with an 8-0 record, the Crimson and Gray went into a key stretch of back-to-back games at Washington. With two wins already secured against its in-state rivals, WSC needed just one victory over Washington to capture the "State Championship."

WSC went into the Washington series anything but healthy. Bohler's knee was injured, Moss was battling the flu, and an old sprain was bothering Price, so much so that the Daily Evergreen (the WSC student newspaper) reported that Price was seen hobbling around the WSC campus on a cane.

However, the injuries did not deter any of the starters from playing. No substitutions were needed for WSC as the starters played every minute of both games. The Crimson and Gray clinched the State title with a 31-24 win and followed that up with a 26-14 triumph to build its record to 10-0.

After improving to 15-0, WSC traveled south to face California for back-to-back games. In the first game, WSC led 11-8 at half, but California came back and handed WSC its first, and -- as it turned out -- only loss of the season, 28-20.

A portion of the Evergreen's account of the game read, "game was one of the roughest seen on the California floor . . . time was taken out five times for injuries . . . Price suffered a severely wrenched shoulder."

Yet, as was the theme all season, the Crimson and Gray responded to adversity. WSC avenged the loss with a 32-29 victory over California the following day. This win ensured that if the Crimson and Gray could make it through the rest of its conference schedule unscathed, it would clinch the Pacific Coast Conference title.

The team did finish the rest of the season without another blemish. WSC completed the 1916-17 campaign 25-1 and 8-1 in Pacific Coast Conference play. It was a record even more remarkable considering the team played 18 of its 26 games on the road. In addition, at season's end, Price was named to the All-Northwest and All-Pacific Coast teams.

Not only did WSC defend its Northwest Conference title, the school claimed the first Pacific Coast Conference championship. Nearly four decades later, the team was named national champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation. Today, Washington State is listed as Helms' 1917 national champions in the NCAA Men's Basketball Records Book.

One of the greatest all-around athletes ever connected with the school

Prospects looked bright for WSC entering the 1917-18 season. Coming off two Northwest Conference titles, a third consecutive crown was likely, given that three of the five starters would be returning. Roy Bohler, who had graduated, and Moss, who had enlisted with the service in July, were the only players lost from the 1916-17 team. Copeland, Price, and Sorenson, who was named captain to replace the departed Bohler, were with the team when practice started heading into the 1917-18 season.

But with the arrival of April 6, 1917, everything had changed.

The United States' entry into World War I, which had been ongoing in Europe since the summer of 1914, altered the lives of millions of Americans, including those on the Washington State basketball team. The war would take Price and Copeland, leaving Sorenson as the lone representative of the WSC team that played in the 1916-17 season.

Price enlisted in the service with the Marines Corps and trained at Mare Island, Calif., San Diego, Calif., and Quantico, Va. before sailing overseas in August 1918.

The reason or reasons why Price chose to enlist is not immediately known, but the answer as to why Americans choose to fight in the conflict can be found in the letters and diaries of the soldiers, according to Paul.

"Knowing everything that people did about this horrible warfare on the Western Front," Paul said, "why would Ivan Price have entered that?

"Even though there was so much known about the horrors of this war, many Americans went into it looking for a great adventure," Paul continued. "This was a huge adventure for them and they wanted to get in it; they wanted to see the world and what everybody was talking about. There were some very strong patriotic feelings as well to protect democracy, save democracy, and save civilization in some respects."

Price fought in the Meuse (myûz)-Argonne offensive in France, the biggest operation and victory of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) during the war. A total of 26,277 AEF soldiers were killed in the battle that ran from Sept. 26 through the signing of the armistice that ended the war, Nov. 11, 1918.

Price was one of the 26,277.

He was killed in action, Nov. 3, 1918, just eight days before the end of the war. His final resting place is at Plot A, Row 21, Grave 27 at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in Romagne, France.

The Jan. 8, 1919 edition of the Evergreen delivered the sad news to the Pullman campus.

Part of the tribute said that Price was one of the greatest all-around athletes ever connected with the school who had "reached the zenith of his remarkable basketball career, and was a potent factor in the winning of both the Northwest and Pacific Coast Conference titles for his college."

Ivan Price's name is etched along with the names of 41 other Washington State College students on the World War I Memorial at the Washington State University campus.

 

It also described Price as a "class of man who would ungrudgingly give his last penny to his friend and take chances on his own comfort, and as a result of his unselfish disposition and his spirit of whole heartedness his circle of friends included the entire community."

Price's name is inscribed along with 41 other names on the World War I Memorial. The plaque, a gift from the class of 1920, was originally displayed in Bryan Hall. It was moved and placed at the north end of the WSU Veterans Memorial.

Not the end but, tragically, just the beginning

America's entry into World War I proved to be the decisive factor that tipped the scales in favor of the Allied Powers (United States, France, Russia, United Kingdom, Italy) over the Central Powers (Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire).

World War I officially ended when Germany signed the armistice at 11 a.m., Nov. 11, 1918 -- the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Though World War I had ended, history would prove it a temporary halt to hostilities. The world would be overwhelmed in an even bloodier conflict two decades later.

"Historians really look at both World Wars as one long war with an intermission in between," Paul said.

Therefore, what meaning can be drawn from World War I?

"The significance of World War I, some historians say, was it changed our world more in some ways than World War II did because we are still feeling the effects and see the effects of World War I now," Paul said. "When you pick up a newspaper today you see that that the hot spots of the world are really the hot spots of the world from 1914 to 1918."

"The legacy of World War I was that very little got settled as a result of that war."

 

Note: To learn more about the National World War I Museum please visit the museum's website by clicking Here

 

Copyright 2007, Washington State University Athletics

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