Hanson was the fourth head college football coach for the Western Illinois University Leathernecks located in Macomb, Illinois and he held that position for sixteen seasons, from 1926 until 1941. His career coaching record at Western Illinois was 55 wins, 59 losses, and 12 ties. This ranks him third at Western Illinois in total wins and 11th at Western Illinois in winning percentage.
Hanson is most remembered as the person who gained permission from the Marine Corps to use the name "Fighting Leathernecks" for Western's teams. To this day, Western Illinois University is the only public school in the U.S. that has permission through the Department of the Navy to use the United States Marine Corps official seal and mascot (the Bulldog) along with the nickname.
Western's mascot, a Bulldog named Colonel Rock (or more commonly "Rocky"), was named in honor of coach Hanson, as was Western's football field (Hanson Field).