The Incredible Bob Murphy of W&J College

Robert Martin Murphy not only attended and graduated from the College, he so loved W&J that as a student he beat the bushes to find recruits -- not just athletes -- to keep the school solvent

by E. Lee North


Football began at Washington & Jefferson College in 1890.  For whatever reason, this small college (under 500 students through its glory days) would always present a tough, Pennsylvania-type football aggregation. But a young fellow matriculated to W&J in 1902 who would move the college to the heights of the football world.

1905 W & J Football Squad

1905 W & J Football Squad

Robert Martin Murphy not only attended and graduated from the College, he so loved W&J that as a student he beat the bushes to find recruits -- not just athletes -- to keep the school solvent.  Frankly, W&J needed students so badly that they were often in danger of closing their doors.  Murphy used his spare time, as student solicitor and then graduate manager starting in 1906, to convince other men and boys to come to W&J.

The position of graduate manager in those days was akin to "athletic director" today.  He somehow convinced great players and coaches to come to W&J -- Pete Henry, Coach Bob Folwell, the great players of the Folwell and Tournament of Roses eras... He even saved the football program in 1910 when it was about to be shut down for lack of funds.  He proposed a one-dollar student levy and then sold it to the student body. 

“Murph”       Robert Martin Murphy

“Murph”
Robert Martin Murphy

As Graduate Manager, Murphy scheduled games with the best teams in the country-- Pitt, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Notre Dame, Army, Navy, Penn, Penn State, Syracuse...  To do battle, he somehow encouraged super players and coaches to come to little Washington, Pa.-- his coaches read like a Who's Who from the Hall of Fame -- Earl "Greasy" Neal, John W. Heisman, Andy Kerr, Sol Metzger, Dave Morrow, and perhaps the greatest of all, Bob Folwell. His recruits Pete Henry and Bill Amos served as coaches later on, and Henry was athletic director for many years. 

The Folwell Years

The Folwell Years

Bob Murphy went beyond the expected throughout his career -- one year he somehow had Forbes Field snowplowed before a big Pitt game. Other times, to get the team away from distraction, he had them transported to the beautiful, spacious 365-acre estate of his in-laws, the Wylies in Canton Township, a few miles outside Washington.  The Wylies hosted this "secret hideaway" several times, e.g.; before big Pitt games and the Tournament of Roses. 

Wylie Farm in Washington, Pennsylvania

Wylie Farm in Washington, Pennsylvania

When the team was invited to the Rose Bowl, did Bob Murphy sit back and gloat like a modern-day CEO to wallow in publicity and credits?  Murph mortgaged his house to take his family to California and not charge the cost to the W&J program. 

manager-murphy-wj-college.jpg

1922 Tournament of Roses program cover

1922 Tournament of Roses program cover


1922 W&J TOURNAMENT OF ROSES TEAM     “Football team from small Pennsylvania college traveled width of land to hold Bears powerless”    W. & J. Team - Top (left to right): WEST, quarter; NEALE, guard; WIDERQUIST, tackle; PERKINS, tackle; KELLISON, line coach; KONVOLINKA, end; MCLAUGHLIN, quarter; STEIN, tackle (captain); BRICKSON, half; SNYDER, center; BRENKERT, half; AIKEN, end; FUTHEY, full; VICK, full; CROOK, center; MURPHY, graduate manager; NEALE, coach. Below (left to right): VINCE, guard; BUCHANAN, half; BASISTA, full; KOPF, end; MARION, end; BROWNING, guard.

1922 W&J TOURNAMENT OF ROSES TEAM

“Football team from small Pennsylvania college traveled width of land to hold Bears powerless”

W. & J. Team - Top (left to right): WEST, quarter; NEALE, guard; WIDERQUIST, tackle; PERKINS, tackle; KELLISON, line coach; KONVOLINKA, end; MCLAUGHLIN, quarter; STEIN, tackle (captain); BRICKSON, half; SNYDER, center; BRENKERT, half; AIKEN, end; FUTHEY, full; VICK, full; CROOK, center; MURPHY, graduate manager; NEALE, coach. Below (left to right): VINCE, guard; BUCHANAN, half; BASISTA, full; KOPF, end; MARION, end; BROWNING, guard.


Unfortunately Bob Murphy developed pernicious anemia and died in 1925, at the age of 46.  He left a loving family of widow Marion and youngsters James B. Wylie Murphy and Helen Margaret Murphy (Donnan). 

jimmy-murphy.jpg

One tribute Murph might have appreciated above all others was presented to W&J at  half-time of the 1925 Pitt game.  The Athletic Council of University of Pittsburgh said...

“His gallant sportsmanship, unfailing courtesy, and Christian ideals of conduct set a new and higher standard of college-athletic relationship in this community, and won the love and respect of all who value courage, loyalty, industry, and truth.”

Murphy's tradition has been nurtured by W&J presidents through the years -- in particular Rev. Dr. James D. Moffat (1881-1914), who introduced this new game of "foot-ball" at the college in 1890; and others through Howard J. Burnett (1970-1999) and now Dr. Brian Mitchell (1999- ). 

Bob Murphy's W&J football tradition lives on.

Washington, Pa.    College Park Athletic Field

Washington, Pa.
College Park Athletic Field

E. Lee North is the author of "BATTLING THE INDIANS, PANTHERS, AND NITTANY LIONS"


THE FOOTBALL SEASON OF 1921

By Lawrence R. Stewart
January 19, 1922

The season of 1921 will stand out as one of the most successful periods in the history of football at Washington and Jefferson College. Many regard it as the greatest year the Presidents ever had on the gridiron, but whether this is true or not, even the most lukewarm supporters of the Red and Black will admit that not for a long time has Wash.-Jeff. achieved such fame and distinction as that which accompanied the season ending on January 2 in the scoreless tie with the University of California. 

Wash.-Jeff. won every game of its regular season ending on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since 1892. Then followed two post-season contests, one with Detroit and the other with California, the game at Detroit being won and the clash at Pasadena, as has been indicated, ending without either team scoring, but with the advantage resting entirely with the Pennsylvanians. 

THE SEASON'S RECORD 1921

Sept. 24 - W&J...14 BETHANY...0

Oct. 1 - W&J...26 BUCKNELL...0

Oct. 8 - W&J...54 W.VA. W. ...0

Oct. 15 - W&J...14 CARNEGIE TECH...0

Oct. 22 - W&J...14 LEHIGH...7

Oct. 29 - W&J...17 SYRACUSE...10

Nov. 5 - W&J...49 WESTMINSTER...14

Nov. 12 - W&J...7 PITT...0

Nov. 24 - W&J...13 WEST VIRGINIA...0

Dec. 3 - W&J...14 DETROIT...2

Jan. 2 - W&J...0 CALIFORNIA...0

Totals - W&J: 221 OPPONENTS: 33

At the close of the regular season the Presidents stood out as one of four major eastern teams which were undefeated, the others being Cornell, Lafayette and Penn State. Wash.-Jeff. supporters will contend and with good reason that the team coached by Earle A. (Greasy) Neale was superior that that representing the other three institutions. Penn State, hailed by many as the best eleven in the East was twice tied, once by Harvard, which bowed to both Centre and Princeton and once by Pitt, a team that was decisively and signally defeated by the Presidents. Lafayette's chief claim to distinction and to championship honors was its defeat of Pitt, but this game happened to be the first of the season when Pitt was immature. At the same time Pitt registered 12 first downs to but two for Lafayette, so the latter's claims can scarcely be recognized as deserving of as much consideration as those of Wash.-Jeff. Cornell, while apparently a powerful eleven, had a notably weak schedule. It defeated both Dartmouth and Penn, but neither were strong during the 1921 season, and met other defeats at the hands of teams of no particular strength. While the question of superiority among the four undefeated elevens of the East, consequently, will always be a mooted question, critics both East and West, following the splendid showing of the Presidents on the Pacific Coast, generally agree that no eleven in the eastern district had anything on W.&J. 

A cursory inspection of the first half of the schedule would indicate that Wash.-Jeff. had not picked a list of hard opponents, such teams as Bethany, Bucknell, Carnegie Tech and other composing the early-season opposition. But those who witnessed these games can testify that these teams, ordinarily regarded as opponents selected to fit the Presidents for the harder combats toward the end of the season, were among the best met during the year. 

Sept. 24
W&J...14  Bethany...0

Starting on September 24 the Presidents opened their campaign with the team representing Bethany (W.Va.) college, an outfit that for years had been notably weak, and had never defeated the Presidents but once, having gained a three-point victory in 1910. But the Bethany team of 1921 was a far different aggregation. Composed of big, fast, hustling, experienced players it presented an aggregation that was physically, at least the equal of any met during the season. Had it been as well coached as Wash.-Jeff. the latter might have met disaster at the very beginning of the campaign. But Neale's men managed to win by 14 to 0 through the medium of a brace of touchdowns. This game was played on September 24. 

Oct. 1
W&J...26  Bucknell...0

Wash.-Jeff. in its second game on October 1 with Bucknell, showed a flash of its real strength, defeating the Eastern Pennsylvania eleven by 26 to 0. That the Presidents performed acceptably and accomplished some feat in this victory was shown later when Bucknell was defeated by the Navy, one of the best teams in the eastern region, by the slim margin of 6 to 0. 

Oct. 8
W&J...54  W.VA.W....0

The third game of October 8 proved perhaps the easiest of the year for the Presidents, West Virginia Wesleyan appearing at College Field and losing by 54 to 0. Usually the Mountain State Methodists give Wash.-Jeff. a hard battle on the gridiron, but the loss of many veteran stars, and a poor coaching system, rendered the Southerners helpless before the Presidents who scored almost at will. 

Oct. 15
W&J...14  Carnegie Tech...0

But it was fortunate Neale's men had a breathing spell for they caught a Tartar in the fourth game played with Carnegie Tech on October 15. The Plaid presented a team coached to the minute for this contest, and comprising practically all veterans who the year before had defeated the Presidents by six points to nothing. This game will stand out as the best played at College Field in many years. Tech, attaining after many years to a position among the Class A teams of the district, outplayed the Presidents in the first half, registered numerous first downs and looked extremely good by comparison with the Red and Black. In the second half, however, Captain Stein and his men "found" themselves and through superior line work which enabled Neale's team to recover two fumbled punts, finally succeeded in scoring two touchdowns, and winning by 14 to 0. 

Oct. 22
W&J...14  Lehigh...7

Contests of importance came then in rapid succession. Without a chance to recover from the hard Carnegie Tech battle, Wash.-Jeff. journeyed the next Saturday, October 22, to Bethlehem, Pa., where the much-touted Lehigh team was encountered. W.&J. slumped in the contest, outplaying the Brown and White all the way, but winning only by 14 to 7. Lehigh scored the first touchdown of the season on the Presidents, when a Bethlehem player, in the late moments of the contest, intercepted a forward pass and rushed 80 yards along the field for a score. 

Oct. 29
W&J...17  Syracuse...10

Following the Lehigh clash, came the memorable Syracuse battle in the Orange stadium, on October 29, which Neale's men won by 17 to 10 after a day of thrills that has seldom been equaled. Syracuse on the previous Saturday had been overwhelmed by Pittsburgh, but it came back, a rejuvenated and fighting machine that forced the Presidents to their supreme efforts to win. The score fluctuated after a scoreless first half until finally the Red and Black went ahead with a field goal. Syracuse evened the count a few minutes later through the same medium. Immediately afterward, West, for Washington and Jefferson, by means of a 98-yard run from a kickoff, the longest sprint of the year on a gridiron, put his team ahead with a touchdown. 

Pruner West

Pruner West

Syracuse again rallied and tied the tally with a touchdown and then in the final moments the Presidents through blocking a forward pass, registered another and winning touchdown. 

Nov. 5
W&J...49  Westminster...14

Wash.-Jeff. got a scare on November 5 when it played Westminster, a weak team, on the home grounds. Right off the reel the visitors scored two touchdowns through a sustained offensive against a W.&J. eleven made up mostly of substitutes. But the Red and Black checked the attack and won by 49 to 14. 

Nov. 12
W&J...7  Pitt...0

On November 12, Washington and Jefferson rose to its greatest effort in the sectional championship game with the University of Pittsburgh, at Forbes Field, winning by 7 to 0. The result was the more noteworthy, for the reason that the Presidents had not defeated Pitt since 1914. Wash.-Jeff. in that game appeared, for the first time during the year, as a real champion aggregation. The contest was a hard fought engagement, with Pitt showing its usual strength. The Presidents, however, deserved a victory through a superior brand of football. 

Nov. 24
W&J...13  West Virginia...0

Washington and Jefferson closed its regular season with a victory on Thanksgiving Day at Morgantown over West Virginia University by 13 to 0. The game, like that with Pitt, was played on a muddy gridiron, but the Presidents displayed the same high class brand of football that had been offered in the Pitt engagement and through their victory established themselves as undisputed sectional champions. 

Dec. 3
W&J...14  Detroit...2

Then came the offer of a post-season game with the University of Detroit, at Detroit, on December 3. While frowning, usually, on post-season engagements, W.&J. arranged the contest, chiefly at the behest of alumni living in the City of Straits. Detroit, an undefeated team, presented a strength and front, that were counted as among the best in the country. But W.&J. continued at high speed in this engagement also, and won by superior all-around play to the tune of 14 to 2. 

Jan. 2
W&J...0  California...0

Close upon the heels of the Detroit battle, came the tender from the Tournament of Roses Association for a battle at Pasadena with the University of California, the biggest intersectional contest of the year. The details of the trip to the Coast and the general engagement at Tournament Field, which ended in a scoreless tie, are now history. W.&J. in spite of a 3,000 mile trip across a continent upheld its reputation and the football prestige of the East as no team that had preceded it had ever done and returned home on January 13 with added laurels and the plaudits of a nation.

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Voted the #4 Outstanding Moment in Western Pennsylvania Sports History
Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum

Wash.-Jeff. was a well balanced team in 1921. While it was not a heavy scoring machine in its important engagements, it usually had sufficient "punch" to win when a score was needed. Its defense was its greatest asset, the strength of the resistance being shown when in the last four games of the year, but six first downs were registered against it -- two each by Pitt and California and one each by West Virginia and Detroit. This, it is believed, is a world's football record in major football. 

Above all, however, the W.&J. team of 1921, will stand out as an aggregation that was successful because of its mental equipment. It has been truthfully said that the Presidents won most of their important battles because they played football "from the neck up". No greater tribute could be paid any football team, and Wash.-Jeff. is satisfied to rest its claims to a championship on that single asset. 

FOOTBALL SQUAD, SEASON OF 1921

Russell F. Stein
H. A. Erickson
Wayne Brenkert
R. C. McLaughlin
Charles West
Al Crook
Carl Konvolinka
Kenneth Perkins
John Browning
Ralph Vince
Waldorf T. Kirk
Adlous B. Hadden
James Aiken
Phillip Marion
Russell MacDonald
Herbert Kopf
Joe Basista
Chester Weiderquist
Raymond Neal
Lee Spillers
Charles Clements
Clement Mitchell
Humphrey Harmony
Thomas Townsend
Hal Malone
Keith Jones
Frank Smith
Walter Snyder
Weldon Willgohs
Ross Buchanan
John Bixler
William Walker
Edward Manning
Fulton Connor
Wallace Flory
James Futhey
Richard Vick
Jean Gilmore
Charles Miller
George Dyer
Earl McKissock
John D. Moffat
Charles Potter
Aaron Lyle
Edward Racey
George Bone
Karl Hoffman
Joseph Foley


BEFORE THE TOURNAMENT OF ROSES GAME THIS CARTOON APPEARED IN NEWSPAPERS

Football Note: Brick Muller Will Play Against W. and J.

Football Note: Brick Muller Will Play Against W. and J.

The following story is from the Seattle Times following the Washington & Jefferson - California 1921 Tournament of Roses game

The California idol has fallen and broken into a million pieces. The wonder team has been outplayed. Brick Muller, the super man, has met a better man and-- Brick Muller has been laughed at. 

Of all things that came off in Pasadena Monday afternoon that laughing episode gave people here-abouts the most kick. Picture Brick trotting out on the field, picture the "hurrahs" of 45,000 admiring native sons. 

"It's easy now, Brick's in," they chortle. But what happens? A chorus of loud guffaws from the W. & J. players. "So this is Brick," chortles one. "The super man," giggles another. "Ain't he pretty," confides another to a team mate. "Let's watch him go," says still another. 

Muller drops back for a pass. The ball is shot to him. He stands with it poised behind him ready to throw. But there is no one to throw to. Brick hesitates a moment, then runs. Five W. & J. tacklers hit him simultaneously. They smear him in the mud. 

"So this is Muller," they shout in chorus and their laughs increase. 

Want to know why California didn't win? Well, there's the answer. A team with the ability to take care of itself, not awed by the publicity given the Bear eleven, in perfect condition, met the Bears and but for one man's toe would have beaten them. 

THE 1921 WASHINGTON AND JEFFERSON FOOTBALL SQUAD

THE 1921 WASHINGTON AND JEFFERSON FOOTBALL SQUAD


WALTER ECKERSALL'S STORY

W. & J.'s game greatest football exhibition of the year, says expert who was one of the officials of the game

Displaying an aggressiveness which could not be denied and playing through the struggle with eleven warriors Washington and Jefferson battle to a scoreless tie with California, undisputed champion of the Pacific coast conference, at Tournament park yesterday in the annual intersectional battle. 

For hard, clean tackling and almost perfect blocking, the eastern eleven gave an exhibit unequalled on any gridiron in the east or middle west during the 1921 season. It was this aggressiveness combined with an everlasting fighting spirit which enabled W. & J. to win what it may well claim to be a moral victory. 

W. & J. gaining on off-tackle play

W. & J. gaining on off-tackle play

The eastern eleven was better on offense and defense as is shown by the fact that W. & J. made seven first downs against two for California. The Bears, however, had a decided advantage in punting as Archie Nisbet gained several yards on the exchanges. Harold Erickson, the W. & J. back who handled punts, played the ball safe at all times, but it generally took freakish bounds and rolled several yards in baseball fashion. 

BREAKS FAVOR CALIFORNIA

Breaks of the game favored California and on one if not two occasions, poor judgment was used. Near the end of the first half, there remained but two seconds to play when the ball rested on the eastern eleven's fifteen yard line. Irvin Toomey, the Bear's back, is considered a fairly reliable field goal kicker, but his ability was passed up for a forward pass which was incompleted and the half ended while the ball was in the air. 

Near the close of the game with less than three minutes to play, Wayne Brenkert, the W. & J. back, punted out of bounds on his twenty-two yard line. California should have known it could not penetrate its opponent's strong defense, but still the forward pass was called upon with the result Brenkert intercepted the throw for W. & J. 

STEIN TAKES CHANCES

In striking contrast were the desperate chances taken by Capt. Russell Stein, of the the Eastern eleven. In the final quarter he attempted a place kick from the 45-yard line, but the attempt went wide of its mark. Shortly afterward he attempted another, but the kick was blocked and recovered by California on its 38-yard line. 

In fact, Washington and Jefferson tried desperately to score throughout the contest. After the first kickoff the visiting team advanced the ball to the Bear's 30-yard line and the Wayne Brenkert broke loose off California's right tackle and ran 35 yards for a touchdown. 

Wayne Brenkert

Wayne Brenkert

A W. & J. player was offside when the play started and the team was set back five yards. 

MORAL VICTORY

Despite this bad break the Eastern eleven kept trying and a forward pass was intercepted by Irving Toomey, who took the ball to midfield. If this player had veered more to the outside of the field instead of cutting back into the center of the gridiron and into the savage arms of the invaders he would have gained more ground. 

As the game was played it was a moral victory for the Eastern eleven. Gridiron fans in this section had confidently expected the Bears to win by margins ranging from 7 to 35 points. The result plainly shows that two undefeated elevens always put up a great battle and that the winner cannot be determined with any degree of certainty in advance.


Banquet to W&J Football Squad by Pittsburgh Alumni Club - William Penn Hotel - Jan 21, 1922

Banquet to W&J Football Squad by Pittsburgh Alumni Club - William Penn Hotel - Jan 21, 1922


Former Football Coaches at W&J College from 1890-1932

1890-91 LeBlank Lynch

1892 J.J. Clark

1893 Joseph Hamilton

1894-95 E. Gard Edwards

1896-97 Clinton T. Woods

1898 William Englis

1899 S.W. Black

1900 J.R. Beardsley

1901 N.S. Knight

1902-1904 F.H. Greene, Finis Montgomery, William Seaman

1905-1907 Frank Piekarski

1908-1909 John Aiken, Dave Morrow

1910-1911 Dave Morrow

1912-1915 Robert Fowell

1916-1917 Sol Metzer

1918 R.F. Hutchison

1919-1920 Dave Morrow

1921-1922 Earle Neale

1923 John Heisman

1924-1925 Dave Morrow

1926-1927 Andrew Kerr

1929 Ray Ride

1930-1931 William Amos

1932 LeRoy Day


Who is College Football's "King of the 90’s?"

By E. Lee North, W&J '46

By "King of the Nineties" we are referring to the 1890s and 1990s... so let's consult the record books, noting that some of the schools with top records in the 1990s either did not play in the 1890s (e.g., Florida did not start football til 1906; Miami, 1926; Florida State, 1947; St. Johns--MN, 1910) or did not play over half of the ten years of the 1890s decade (e.g., Marshall University and Mount Union).

As longtime students of football may know, the Ivy League was the gridiron leader for most of the sport's early years, so it is no surprise to find that Yale was No. 1 in the 1890s with a record of 114 wins and only eight losses, to go with five ties, for a 93.4 winning percentage. Right behind the Eli were Princeton (107-8-2, 93.0 pct), Harvard (103-12-2, 89.6 pct), and Penn (121-15-3, 88.9).

Thus all the top four were Ivy Leaguers... what about Notre Dame, you ask? Well, the Fighting Irish hadn't found Knute Rockne yet, and their record for the 1890s was 29-12-4 (70.1 pct), giving them 16th place. Michigan? The Wolverines were among the leaders, with a 70-20-3 record (77.8), good for 8th...

But guess who comes in at No. 5? In the 1890s decade W & J posted 65 wins against ten losses and eight ties, or 86.7 pct. No. 6 is also a surprise, University of Buffalo -- 17 wins, four losses, and five ties (81.0). Next is Stanford at 30-9-7 (77.9), then the aforementioned Michigan at 8, Texas 20-6-0 (76.9) at No. 9, and (wow!) Oberlin 44-14-4 (75.9) to finish our top 10..

Rounding out our 1890s top 20 are VMI, Kansas, Bates, Navy, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Oregon, Grove City, North Dakota, and Vanderbilt.

W & J a Deserving No. 5 in 1890s

So little Washington and Jefferson College, averaging less than five hundred students a year, was FIFTH in the 1890s, ahead of such grid powers as Notre Dame, Pitt, West Virginia, Michigan... but, one might ask, was that not accomplished against "minor-league" opposition? Well, not exactly -- W & J beat Pitt (then Western U of Pennsylvania) five times in five meetings (1890-94); West Virginia (five of five), and played Penn State, Duquesne, Penn, Lafayette, Princeton, and Cincinnati, all much larger schools.

OK, what does all that have to do with the Nineteen-nineties? Back to the record book... Our early No. 1, Yale, tallied 46 wins and 54 losses in the latter decade (46 pct); Princeton did better (59-40-1, 60 pct), while Harvard was 44-56-1(44 pct) and Penn tallied 57-42-0 (57 pct). W & J easily overtook them with a 86-19-0 record, or 82 pct. More importantly, the Presidents' overall winning percentage for both '90s decades becomes 83.9 pct. Yale's overall percentage is 72; Penn's, 76; Harvard, 68.3; Princeton, 78.

Nebraska, Notre Dame, Texas et al

So W & J overtook the four teams which had ranked ahead of them, but what about other powerhouses such as Nebraska, Notre Dame, Stanford, Texas, Southern Cal... ?? Nebraska went an amazing 109-16-1 in the 1990s, but in the 1890s the Cornhuskers were a modest 42-25-4, so their overall pct. reckons at 78.6. Notre Dame, as noted earlier, won 29 and lost 12 (with four ties) in the 1890s; in the 1990s, the Irish went 69-37-1, thus their overall pct is 64.2. Stanford's total for the two decades is 94-68-10, or 58 pct. Texas? 96-47-2 (67 pct). Southern Cal's two-decade total is 85-61-7, or just 57.8 pct. Penn State was 139-47-5 (74.7). Ohio State posted a 120-69-7 record (63.5). Oklahoma was 70-52-3 (57.4). Wyoming, with a fine 1990s, posts an overall 81-50-2 record (61.8).

Some other teams with top 1990s records did not play the necessary years of the 1890s decade to qualify -- Montana, for instance, with a 95-31-0 (74.2 pct) record for the 1990s, did not start football til 1897. St. John's of Minnesota had a sensational 1990s run, won the Stagg Bowl in 2003, and claims the best record all-time in Division III, but did not play football in the 1890s, starting in 1910. Mount Union, the terror of Division III in recent years, played only half of the 1890s decade (going 10-11). Pittsburg State in Kansas (Div. II), had a sensational 1990s record of 103 wins and 18 losses (85.1) but played no football til 1910. Grove City, one of the leaders in the 1890s, fell back in the 1990s, finishing with an overall 85-70-3 mark (54.8).

Winningest Wittenberg

The small college with the most wins in football history is Wittenberg of Ohio (over 650 at this writing). The Tigers won national championships in 1962,'64, '69, '73, and '75. Their record for the 1990s was 86-17-1; but for the 1890s, it was 27-28-2, for an overall Nineties 113-45-3 (71.5 pct). Another fine football program is Augustana Ill., which posted a 71-23-0 mark in the 1990s, but only played two years in the 1890s. University of Colorado posts an interesting record -- 126-56-4, or a 69.2 winning pct. -- but forfeited all 11 games in 1997; their record would have been well over 70 pct otherwise. Many schools experienced this forfeit problem, because of using illegal players.

Other leaders include Union College (NY) (82-18-0, 82 pct, in 1990s, unable yet to find the 1890s info if there is any). Also, Renssalaer (RPI), 73-21-2 in the 1990s, but 7-33-4 in 1890s for overall 80-54-6 or 59.7 pct; Ithaca, with an 80-28-0 record in the 1990s (won the NCAA title in 1991), but no record of the 1890s yet; Williams and Cortland could also impact our final figures...

We have NOT included a few of the leaders from the 1890s because they had losing records in the 1990s -- Buffalo, VMI, and Vanderbilt are examples.

King of the Nineties, Final Reckoning

So, re-establishing our "King of the Nineties" with the combined two-decade totals... here they are:

No. 1 - W & J (83.9 pct), 2- Nebraska, 78.6; 3- Princeton, 78.0; 4-Tennessee, 77.6; 5- Penn, 76; 6- Penn State, 74.7; 7- Yale, 72; 8- Wittenberg, 71.5; 9- Colorado, 69.2; 10- Villanova, 68.4; 11- Harvard, 68.3; 12- North Carolina, 67.7; 13- U. Washington, 67.4; 14- Texas, 67.0; 15- Washigton- Mo., 66.7; 16- Kansas, 66.4; 17-Auburn, 65.2; 18- Alabama, 64.4; 19- Notre Dame, 64.2; 20- Syracuse, 64.1; 21 (tie) - Ohio State, Wyoming, 63.5; 23- Georgia, 62.9; 24- Cornell, 61.1; Note that the following schools fall below 60pct: Stanford, 58.0; U. Southern Cal., 57.8; Oklahoma, 57.4; West Virginia, 57.0; California, 56.0; LSU, 50.1; and Boston College, 50.0.

Had enough statistics? Let's move on to flesh and blood and exciting football...

More about Washington and Jefferson College

It’s a small college located in Washington, Pa., about 30 miles SW of Pittsburgh. While current enrollment (2004) is about 1300 students, through the years of its football greatness described herein, average enrollment was about 500. But W & J has managed a school spirit the equal of much larger institutions. Co-eds were not admitted until 1970, the first graduating class with girls being 1974. Currently, some 48 pct of the enrollment is female.

The full story of W & J's remarkable first century of football is presented in "BATTLING THE INDIANS, PANTHERS, AND NITTANY LIONS: a 100-Year History of W & J Football": Daring Press, Canton, OH 1991. Pat Harmon, curator of the National College Football Hall of Fame, wrote, "I've seen a lot of volumes about a school's hundred years, and this is the best, the most complete." Copies are available at the College's Book Store.

W & J's Greatest Football Games

1st - The Rose Bowl of 1922, W & J - 0, U. California - 0. Of course, this will always be the lowest score in RB history, but a record was also set by the Presidents, playing only eleven men the entire game. Cal was such a powerhouse (they never lost from 1919 through 1923) that some Eastern teams refused to play in the Bowl).

2nd - W & J - 9, Harvard - 10 (1914) Harvard was a national powerhouse -- supposed to be a warm-up for them.

3rd - W & J - 13, Yale - 6 (1914) Yale was the second member of The Big Three of the day (with Princeton the third), this probably W & J's biggest win to that date.

4th - W & J - 17, Penn State - 0 (1913) And this the biggest win to THAT date.

5th - W & J - 6, Pitt - 7 (1919) The famous "Pitt won't play if Pete Henry plays" game. Most concede that had All-American Henry played, W & J would have won.

6th - W & J - 20, Rowan - 18 (1992 Div. III playoffs, winner to go to the Stagg Bowl). Windchill must have been below zero, wind gusts over 50 mph at times. Chris Babirad shoved the Profs' deprecations down their throats with a 70-yard game-winning td run. [Poetic justice personified, as Rowan's players had said Babirad was overrated.]

7th - W & J - 14, Lafayette - 13 (1922, at a packed Polo Grounds in NY -- picture on cover of W & J's 100-yr history).

8th - W & J - 0, Notre Dame - 3 (1917, probably the biggest game ever at College Field, with over 10 thousand fans crowding around the field).

9th - W& J - 23, Allegheny - 17 (Overtime) -- (1987 Div. III playoffs - - Allegheny's Media Guide called it the greatest playoff game ever; it was played in snow and below-zero wind chill).

10th-a - W & J's first Stagg Bowl contest, at Bradenton, FL, in 1992. W & J lost to Wisconsin-LaCrosse in a close contest,16-12, as a potentially game-winning pass dropped off the receiver's fingertips..

11th-b - W & J - 35, John Carroll - 30 (1971, Dan Kasperik and Rich Pocock led the Presidents in a hard-fought win, perhaps the Red and Black's tops from the hard-time nineteen forties to the eighties).

12th - W & J - 34, WUP (Pitt) - 0, Nov. 1, 1890 (W & J's first game ever).

13th - W & J - 72, WVU - 0, Nov. 28, 1891 (WVU's first game ever).

Man, that's tough! There are a hundred other games that could be included, including two wins in three games at Syracuse!
  
Top Players and Coaches to Play at College Field

#1 - Wilbur F. "Pete" Henry, Hall of Fame (an entire chapter about Herny in the W & J hundred-year history).

#2 - Jim Thorpe, Oct. 5, 1912... W & J held him and his Carlisle Indians to a scoreless tie at College Field, though "the greatest athlete in the world" led the nation that year with 198 points.

#3 - Coach Robert Folwell, W & J Coach, 1912-15 (36-5-3 against some of the best teams in the nation).

#4 - Coach John W. Heisman, coached Oberlin in a game at College Field in 1894 (scoreless tie) and coached W & J in 1923 (7-1-1). THE Trophy is named for him.

#5 - Coach Earle "Greasy" Neal, coached at W & J in 1921 and '22, led W & J to Rose Bowl. He's the only man in the baseball and football players' halls of fame and the college and pro coaches hall of fame.

#6 - Deacon Dan Towler, W & J RB, 1946-49, among nation's scoring leaders, went on to all-pro career with Los Angeles Rams.

#7 - John Luckhardt, W & J's winningest coach, 1982-1996.

#8 - Coach Woody Hayes, coached Denison when his team played at W & J in 1947. Later coach at Ohio State for many years, he's in the Hall of Fame.

#9 - Hal "Swede" Erickson, RB for great W & J teams of 1919-22, perhaps most underrated of all W & J players.

#10 - Chris Babirad, W & J RB 1989-92, one of national scoring leaders in senior year, helped W & J get to the Stagg Bowl.

Note 1: Knute Rockne was with the Notre Dame team that played at W & J in 1917, but as an assistant coach. George Gipp was on that team too, but was injured and did not play.

Note 2: Of course, there were many other grid stalwarts W & J played against, such as with WVU, Pitt, and Syracuse, but they never played in Washington, Pa.

Note 3: Much of this data was gathered from the internet, particularly the works of Chris Stassen, Don Hansen, James Howell, and the "College Football Data Warehouse." The reporter also went to the websites of many of the colleges. In some cases, there were ambiguities, and we are sure there will be some complaints of missing or misinterpreted data.