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Amos Alonzo Stagg

Updated on September 28, 2013

The 'Grand Old Man' of Football... and more

Just who was Amos Alonzo Stagg?

As those of you who have read some of my other lenses may know, one of my interests is writing about people who have accomplished great things but seem to have disappeared from the radar of the populace at large. The same town that was home to one of my favorite female explorers, Harriet Chalmers Adams, was also home for a while to the great and glorious Amos Alonzo Stagg.

When I first asked friends and family in my then-home of Stockton, California what was the story of the Amos Alonzo Stagg that had both a high school and a football field dedicated to him, I almost always got the response - "some football player." Well, I couldn't let it go and finally got myself to the library to check it out. (There wasn't a Wikipedia then!).

I discovered that term "football player" doesn't even begin to describe the great man who was Amos Alonzo Stagg. I'm pleased to share his story with you!

Amos Alonzo Stagg circa 1906

Amos Alonzo Stagg circa 1906
Amos Alonzo Stagg circa 1906

Amos Alonzo Stagg - American Athlete

Football, Baseball AND Basketball!

Amos Alonzo Stagg loved sports of all types. Born in West Orange, New Jersy on August 16, 1862, he attended Phillips Exeter Academy and then became a divinity student at Yale University. While at Yale, Stagg was a member of both Psi Upsilon fraternity and the oh-so-secret Skull and Bones Society. AND...he played sports.

A.A. Staqg played football for Yale from 1885 through 1889. His position was that of End. He played so well that he was selected to the first-ever College Football All-America Team in 1889. Later he would be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in the charter class of 1951.

He was also a pitcher on the Yale baseball team, and later declined an opportunity to play professional baseball.

Last, but certainly not least, on March 11, 1892, while serving as an instructor at the YMCA School, Stagg played in the first public game of basketball at the Springfield YMCA. A crowd of 200 watched as the student team beat the faculty, 5-1. Stagg scored the only basket for the losing side!

Learn More About A.A.Stagg - Highly Recommended!

Amos Alonzo Stagg - Football Coach

The 'Grand Old Man' of American Football

Stagg coached football at the University of Chicago from 1892 to 1932. In 1932, the septuagenarian was forced in 'retirement' by then-University President Robert Maynard Hutchins. Hutchins felt that the great coach was just too old to continue coaching. Boy was he wrong!

Obviously disagreeing that he was too old to coach, Stagg moved on to the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where he held the position of Head Coach for the next thirteen years!

In 1951 he was inducted into the charter class of the College Football Hall of Fame as both player and coach.

Stagg was so much more than a good player and coach. During his career, Stagg made many innovations to the sport of football, including:

* the placing of names on uniforms

* the lateral pass

* the man-in-motion

* the numbering of plays

* the tackling dummy

* helmets

* the Statue of Liberty play

"I pray not for victory, but to do my best."

A.A. Stagg (L) - 1943 Coach of the Year

Amos Alonzo Stagg Coach of the Year 1943
Amos Alonzo Stagg Coach of the Year 1943
Amos Alonzo Stagg Poll
Amos Alonzo Stagg Poll

Before this lens had you heard of Amos Alonzo Stagg?

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Amos Alonzo Stagg - Basketball Star

Innovative in the Sport

Football wasn't Stagg's only love - he also had a passion for basketball! He is known for having played in the first public basketball game at Springfield Y (Illinois), and scored the faculty team's only basket in a 5-1 loss to the student's team.

Stagg is also well known for being instrumental to the sport of basketball during its formative years. He introduced the sport to the University of Chicago in 1892 and coached the team to seven Big Ten titles. Subsequently, while serving as coach and director of athletics at UOC, he made popular the practice of five-man basketball. Stagg coached the University of Chicago against the University of Iowa in the first college game played with five players on a side on January 16, 1896.

Additionally, he organized the University of Chicago National Interscholastic Basketball Tournament in 1917. This tournament was instrumental in setting and standardizing the rules of high school basketball. In 1959 Stagg was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Amos Alonzo Stagg - More Achievements

Still More?

When he finally retired, Amos Alonzo Stagg had compiled a career college football record of 314-199-35 and his 71 years of coaching represent the longest coaching career in the history of the sport.

His Chicago Maroons teams of 1905 and 1913 have been recognized as national champions. He was also the head basketball coach for one season at the University of Chicago (1920-1921), and the head baseball coach there for 19 seasons (1893-1905, 1907-1913).

He served in 1924 as a coach with the U.S. Olympic Track and Field team in Paris, and played himself in the movie "Knute Rockne, All American," which was released in 1940. From 1947 to 1952 he served as a co-head coach with his son at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania.

Two high schools in the United States, one in Palos Hills, Illinois and the other in Stockton, California, and an elementary school in Chicago, Illinois, are named after Stagg. The NCAA Division III National Football Championship game, played in Salem, Virginia, is named the Stagg Bowl after him. The athletic stadium at Springfield College is named Stagg Field. The football field at Susquehanna University is named Amos Alonzo Stagg Field in honor of both Stagg Sr. and Jr. Stagg Memorial Stadium, the University of the Pacific's football and soccer stadium, is named in his honor as well. Phillips Exeter also has a field named for him and a statue. The Amos Alonzo Stagg 50-mile Endurance Hike is held annually along the C&O Canal outside Potomac, Maryland

Amas Alonzo Stagg died on March 17, 1965 in Stockton, California at the grand old age of 102.

"To me, the coaching profession is one of the noblest and most far-reaching in building manhood. No man is too good to be the athletic coach for youth"

Amos Alonzo Stagg - 'Grand Old Man'

Amos Alonzo Stagg - 'Grand Old Man'
Amos Alonzo Stagg - 'Grand Old Man'

"I may go on forever, because statistics say that few men die after the age of 100."

Amos Alonzo Stagg on the 'Tube

Did YOU Know About Amos Alonzo Stagg? - Let Me Know You Were Here!

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    • dwnovacek profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @anonymous: I bet he was! Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      My father, Alfred Martin, played football after WWII for Amos Alonzo Stagg at Susquehanna in Pennsylvania. He was very proud of that fact, that he'd played for Stagg.

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 

      8 years ago from So Cal

      What a great man! I had heard about him but didn't realize all his accomplishments. I like the quotes which gives me a taste of what he was like. Great lens and I don't even like football.

    • capriliz lm profile image

      capriliz lm 

      8 years ago

      I learned some new things today! Thanks.

    • rlivermore profile image


      8 years ago

      This was well-written and interesting. I think it's great that you write about people who would otherwise be forgotten.


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