Council Centennial, February 19, 2020

Dan McGugin

Another unsung hero from the early days of the Nashville Council was the Council Commissioner, Dan McGugin. Yes, that Dan McGugin–the Vanderbilt football coach from essentially 1904 to 1934, missing the 1918 season to work in the mines during WWI.

With the formation of the council in March 1920, McGugin (also a lawyer in his free time–Aust, McGugin, and Spears!) became the council’s first official Commissioner. And what exactly did this volunteer position do? The best description of the many facets of this job came from _Boys Will Be Men_ describing the end of McGugin’s run. According to Creighton and Johnson, “Scout Commissioner Dan E. McGugin on October 9, 1934, established a commissioner system for Davidson County, whereby assistant scout commissioners were assigned to districts within the county to visit and inspect troops and see that the troops had adequate leadership and were advanced and to find sponsoring institutions for new troops” (83).

McGugin led a colorful life to be sure. Born in 1879 “the son of a Yankee soldier,” McGugin graduated from Drake University in 1901 and attended law school at the University of Michigan. He played football for Michigan and just after entering his legal practice, he head of the opening for head coach at Vanderbilt. He wrote a letter to Vandy asking for the position and $850 a year for salary and board. He began in 1904 both as the head coach and with his legal practice. While he had a string of strong seasons as coach, he also won election to the state senate in 1921 and occasionally taught law at the University.

During his time with Scouting, he would often come to Boxwell at Linton and regale the Scouts with stories of football and his life. In one such episode in August 1925, he explained how he worked his way through college and then spent the summer travelling. However, his greatest experience, he explained, “was working his way to Europe as a chambermaid to a group fo Texas steers.” No one knows if the story was true.

Council Executive William Anderson sang McGugin’s praises, describing his fellow Vanderbilt coach as “helpful and whole-souled” and man who had lived “a life of exampled service.”

As a interesting footnote, McGugin married Virginia Louise Fite in 1905. Her sister was McGugin’s coach at the University of Michigan, Fielding H. Yost. In addition to being his brother-in-law, Yost was also his best man. And it was through McGugin that the Yost family became connected to Nashville area Scouting, eventually leading to sale of the Rock Island property to the Council when a new Boxwell was needed.

McGugin retired as head coach in 1934 and took on the job as Athletic Director. He died suddenly two years later on his back porch at 56 years old.


Photo of Dan McGugin from the _Nashville Tennessean_, 1936, pg. 1.

Wikipedia, “Dan McGugin,” last modified 20 November 2019,
Ann Toplovich, Tennessee Encyclopedia, “Daniel Earle McGugin,” last updated March 1, 2018,
Wilbur F. Creighton, Jr. and Leland Johnson, _Boys Will Be Men_, Middle Tennessee Council: Nashville, TN, 1983
“Dan McGugin Dies Suddenly Here,” Nashville Tennessean January 20, 1936, pgs. 1, 2.
“Dan McGugin Addresses Scouts at Camp Boxwell,” Nashville Tennessean, August 7, 1925, pg. 5

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *