World War I ended 100 years ago this November 11, where 116,516 Americans gave their lives. Forty-two of them had attended Washington State College and their names grace a plaque on the Veterans Memorial at the heart of the Pullman campus.
Ivan Price was one of the fallen.
Price graduated from Pullman High School in 1915. He played football, basketball, and track, and helped Pullman High to the state football and basketball championships his senior year.
That fall he entered WSC and played on the freshman basketball team. The following season, Price started as forward in all 26 games for a Crimson and Gray varsity team (they wouldn’t be known as Cougars until 1919) that put together one of the greatest seasons in Washington State basketball history.
Depth was a luxury that Coach J. Fred “Doc” Bohler did not enjoy, so Roy Bohler (captain and brother of the coach), Ed Copeland, Bob Moss, and Al Sorenson also played every game.
Starting the 1916–17 season with an 8–0 record, the Crimson and Gray went into a key stretch of back-to-back games at the University of Washington.
WSC entered the Washington series anything but healthy. Bohler’s knee was injured, Moss was battling the flu, and an old sprain was bothering Price. The Evergreen reported that Price was seen hobbling around campus on a cane.
However, injuries did not deter the team. The Crimson and Gray defeated Washington 31–24 and followed that up with a 26–14 triumph.
After improving to 15–0, WSC fell for the only time of the season at California, but quickly avenged the loss with a 32–29 victory over Cal the following day.
WSC completed the 1916–17 campaign 25–1 and 8–1 in Pacific Coast Conference play. It was even more remarkable considering the team played 18 of its 26 games on the road.
WSC claimed its first Pacific Coast Conference championship, in addition to defending its Northwest Conference title. Nearly four decades later, the Helms Athletic Foundation named the team as national champions. Today, Washington State is listed as the 1917 men’s basketball national champion by the NCAA.
Prospects looked bright for Washington State’s 1917–18 season. Three of the five starters would return since Roy Bohler had graduated and Moss had enlisted.
But on April 6, 1917, everything changed.
The United States’ entry into World War I altered the lives of millions of Americans, including Price and Copeland from the WSC basketball team. Price enlisted with the Marine Corps and trained in California and Virginia before sailing overseas in August 1918.
He fought in the Meuse-Argonne offensive in France, the biggest operation of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) during the war. The battle ran from September 26 through the signing of the armistice that ended the war on November 11, and 26,277 AEF soldiers were killed there. Price was one of them.
He was killed in action on November 3, 1918. His final resting place is at Plot A, Row 21, Grave 27 at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in Romagne, France.
The January 8, 1919, edition of the Evergreen delivered the sad news to Pullman.
The tribute stated Price was one of the greatest all-around athletes from 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.”
It also described Price as a “class of man who would ungrudgingly give his last penny to his friend … and as a result of his unselfish disposition and his spirit of whole heartedness his circle of friends included the entire community.”