Amos Alonzo Stagg

College Football’s Greatest Pioneer


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About the Book

Amos Alonzo Stagg (1862–1965) grew up one of eight children in a poor New Jersey family, graduated high school at 21 and worked his way through Yale. His goal was to become a Presbyterian minister, but he dropped out of Yale Divinity School because he felt he could have more influence on young men through coaching. He was hired as the first football coach at University of Chicago after its founding in 1892. Under Stagg’s leadership, Chicago emerged as one of the nation’s most formidable football teams during the early 20th century, winning seven Big Ten championships and two national championships. After Chicago forced him to retire at 70, Stagg found another coaching position at College of the Pacific, where he was forced to retire at 84. He found another job and never fully retired from coaching until he was 98. His marriage to his wife Stella­—his de facto assistant coach—lasted almost 70 years. Sports Illustrated wrote of him, “If any single individual can be said to have created today’s game, Stagg is the man. He either invented outright or pioneered every aspect of the modern game from…the huddle, shift and tackling dummy to such refinements as the T-formation strategy.” This biography tells the story of his life and many innovations, which made him one of the great pioneers of college football.

About the Author(s)

David E. Sumner is a professor emeritus of journalism at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where he taught for 25 years. He has written seven books.

Bibliographic Details

David E. Sumner
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 260
Bibliographic Info: 27 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8576-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4385-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments 1
1. Stagg, the Man 7
2. Growing Up in West Orange, 1862–1883 26
3. Exeter and Yale, 1884–1890 31
4. International YMCA School at Springfield, 1890–1892 49
5. Finding Football’s Place at Chicago, 1890–1892 57
6. The Early Years of Chicago Football, 1892–1894 65
7. Building a Football Powerhouse, 1895–1905 78
8. Continuing the Winning Tradition, 1906–1924 106
9. The Decline of Chicago Football, 1925–1933 137
10. Coaching Baseball, Track and Basketball, 1893–1926 145
11. Mandatory Retirement, 1933 165
12. Ups and Downs at College of the Pacific, 1933–1947 175
13. Father and Son at Susquehanna University, 1947–1953 199
14. Fourth Quarter in Stockton, 1953–1965 208
Appendix 1: University of Chicago Football, 1892–1932 221
Appendix 2: Big Ten Conference Championships Under
Amos Alonzo Stagg 223
Appendix 3: University of Chicago Presidents, 1891–1951 224
Chapter Notes 225
Bibliography 245
Index 249

Book Reviews & Awards

• “In this well-researched and thorough biography, the author recounts Stagg’s litany of first and innovations in an engaging narrative…. the most in-depth biography of Stagg to date. Sumner’s generally absorbing writing style is accompanied by ample historical photographs and posters that provide readers with an immersive read…. Sports history enthusiasts will appreciate the meticulously fact-checked game scores, team records, and individual statistics…. An engrossing, detailed account of an overlooked sports innovator.”—Kirkus Review

• “This book is a great read. College football fans will learn a lot and hopefully wonder what the sport of college football would be like if there were more honest men like Amos Alonzo Stagg in it.”—Journal of Sport History