THE STORY OF THE LSU CHINESE BANDITS
Back in 1958, Paul Dietzel who was coach then had a problem. He had a lot of talent, especially in the backfield. Back then, substitution rules were very different. There was a new substitution rule that allowed any player -- not just starters -- to come off the field and go back in again once each quarter. The rule stopped short of permitting a return to two-platoon football, so Dietzel went with the next best thing—three platoons: a two-way unit of his best players, an offensive second team, and a defensive second team.
If a player came out, he could not go back in for a while. So, most teams would platoon players in, eleven at a time. The first string would go both ways, offense and defense, the second string was offense only, and the third string was defense only. In the first few games, when LSU was leading by quite a few points, the 3rd string would go in on defense. Now, it was not that the 3rd string was not good, on most teams, they would be starters. Well, they would smother the offense of the other team. A lot of the defense was made up of big fast backs. They were the defensive ends, and line backers mostly. And even the defensive line was very fast. Very seldom would you see a single player making a tackle, it was usually gang tackling. And, since they were still third string, they played with the idea of moving up, so I think they played with more heart.
Anyway, after one game, the reporters were commenting and asking questions to coach Paul. He made the comment that they played like a bunch of Chinese Bandits. Now, a very popular comic strip back then was "Terry and the Pirates". He was always in conflict with, what else, Chinese bandits.
Folklore said that Chinese bandits attacked and plundered with that same
reckless abandon. The defensive subs were known as the "Chinese Bandits" and their inspired play (they didn't give up a touchdown all season) symbolized LSU's remarkable 11-0 campaign. The Tigers reached No.1 the seventh week of the season and went on to win their first Sugar Bowl in five tries.
The name stuck, thanks to the reporters. So, the first string was the "White team", the second string became the "Go team" and the third string became the "Chinese Bandits". The "Bandits" were getting more press than just about anyone else. It was sealed when "Sports Illustrated" did an article on them. In those days they would always list minutes each kid played in a game and seldom did any member of the Bandits play more than 10 minutes.