Robert L. "Dink" Templeton (1897-1962)
Publication Date: Friday Dec 16, 1994

Robert L. "Dink" Templeton (1897-1962)

Dink Templeton was a Palo Altan by birth and lifelong resident who gained international renown as an athlete and coach. His father was superintendent of schools, and Dink was a star in rugby and track at Palo Alto High School and Stanford University.

In 1920, when rugby was an Olympic sport, Templeton was a member of the U.S. team, composed predominantly of Stanford players, that won the gold medal in Antwerp, Belgium, defeating France 8-0. Dink scored on a 55-yard drop kick.

In 1920 and 1924 he was also a member of the U.S. Olympic track and field team, placing fourth in the broad jump at Antwerp. But in his best event, the high jump, Templeton had been disqualified in the 1920 Olympic Trials when officials called his jump an illegal dive.

Templeton used a jumping style called the "Western roll," which he adopted and perfected from another Palo Altan. Several years earlier, George Horine had developed the style in the back yard of his Channing Avenue home. He went on to set a new world record at 6 feet 7 inches and place third in the 1912 Olympics.

After his competitive years, Templeton went on to Stanford Law School and enjoyed an outstanding career as Stanford track coach for 20 years.

He had a reputation as an unorthodox coach who introduced new training techniques, yet he coached nine Olympic gold medal winners and scores of NCAA champions.

He made coaching history when Stanford track star Ben Eastman broke the world record for the quarter mile in 1932 by turning the event into a dash. Templeton's theory was "get out in front and stay there." Eastman's record stood for 12 years.

Near the end of his coaching career, Templeton helped Paly High star Les Steers develop the "belly roll," a high jump style that Steers used to set the world record at the University of Oregon in 1941. The belly roll, used at the top of his leap, was a version of the Western roll that got Templeton disqualified in 1920.

Templeton believed in more intensive training for his track athletes and did not believe in worrying about burnout from too much training, as was popular at the time.

After his retirement in 1939, he wrote columns for the Palo Alto Times. He served as sports director for radio KFRC, where he conducted a popular Sunday night sports show for 15 years, and he pioneered a live TV sports program in the 1960s. He is remembered as a popular though irascible personality and as the quintessential track coach.

--Peter Gauvin
This is the 40th in a series of profiles on the "Creators of the Legacy," 56 people who are being honored this year by the Palo Alto Centennial for their roles in creating Palo Alto in all its aspects. 

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