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  • Counter :
  • 434
  • Date :
  • 8/15/2004

Amos Alonzo Stagg

(16 Aug 1862-1965)

Amos Alonzo Stagg was born in 1862, in West Orange, New Jersey. He was the fifth child of eight and his father was a laborer and cobbler. Early on, Stagg's family instilled moral, religious ethics into his already resilient character. Stagg worked and attended public school until 1883. Following his graduation from high school, Stagg, aged twenty-one, enrolled in post-graduate courses at Philips Exeter Academy in order to prepare for Yale University Entrance exams.

In 1884, Amos Alonzo Stagg entered Yale as a freshman. He intended to study divinity and become a minister. A popular, if not mediocre student, Stagg excelled in numerous sports including baseball and football, sang in the glee club, and was the financial manager of theYale News. It was Stagg's devotion to athletics which marked his tenure at Yale. By his senior year in school, Stagg, already a star catcher on the baseball team joined the football team which provided him with a life-long love of the game and a dedication to amateur sports. In 1889, Stagg enrolled as a full-time student at Yale's Divinity School, but soon left because of his poor ability to preach sermons.

Stagg soon found work in the athletic department at the new International Young Men's Christian Association training school inSpringfield,Massachusetts. His success as a football coach at the college earned him great notoriety throughout intercollegiate athletics. At this time Stagg was contacted by his former Yale Divinity School professor, William Rainey Harper, to head up the Department of Physical Culture at the newly formed University of Chicago. Stagg's appointment came with full tenure, an assistant professorship and substantial salary, setting a precedent in selections of athletic directors in American universities. Harper and Stagg soon developed a life-long, intimate friendship that had a significant impact in the development of athletics and football at the University of Chicago.

In 1892, Stagg coached and often played in the first football season at the University of Chicago. A "green" team, Stagg's innovative coaching and personal charisma helped earn the new football players success in the field. The early years of the 1890's marked the rise of Stagg's presence not only in athletics, but within the administration of "Harper's university."

1894 brought in another prosperous season for the "Maroons." The addition of a new field donated by the prosperousChicago retailer Marshall Field and a series of successful games played in the West Coast against schools like Stanford provided Stagg with a tremendous amount of respect and popularity among the faculty and students. Intercollegiate football gave the university a significant measure of prestige.

It was at this time he met and married Stella Robertson, a young freshman from upstate New York. Their marriage was an extremely happy one and Stella, referred to as Stagg's beloved "assistant coach," often sat in the press stands, offering commentary on the football games. Together they had three children, two of whom followed their father in careers as coaches.

Under President Harper's administration, Coach Stagg enjoyed a tremendous amount of influence in the policies governing intercollegiate athletics and the Department of Physical Culture at the university. Preferential treatment of players, special athletic scholarships and controversial recruiting tactics were supported by the office of the university president. Football generated a lot of revenue for the school and even more enthusiasm from students, faculty and alumni alike.

Coach Stagg's enhanced reputation on campus allowed him a great deal of autonomy in dealing with athletics. Affectionately dubbed the "old man," he was bold and impatient with anyone who challenged his manner of leading the Department of Physical Culture and the football team. National and collegiate reforms of the game, coaching, and recruiting had little impact on Stagg's dynamic. Even the loss of Coach Stagg's long time friend and confidant, William Rainey Harper, did little to diminish his authority. The successive president, Harry Pratt Judson continued to encourage and protect Stagg and the game of football.

During the years of 1906 through 1924, Coach Stagg enjoyed success as an innovator for the game of football. He has been credited with the invention of the modern "bowl" game, the numbered jersey and the use of the forward pass. He was a productive tactician and strategist for football. Not only did Stagg coach several championship seasons, he was also the head athletic trainer for track, baseball, and basketball. From 1906 to 1932, Stagg served as a member of the American Olympic Games Committee. This period also was distinguished by his increasing difficulties with the administration of the University of Chicago.

Following the presidencies of Ernest DeWitt Burton and Max Mason, the "maroon's" football team showed a decline in the quality of the player and the performance of the game. The university administration sought out more serious and committed students and checked the recruiting tactics of Stagg's department. After the champion season of 1924, Stagg's team went downhill.

The election of Robert Maynard Hutchins in 1929 to the presidency of the University of Chicago marked the end of Stagg's influence on campus. Hutchins' commitment to academics and to the welfare of the student body placed athletics in a lesser position. The reorganization of Stagg's post and the increasing pressures placed upon him to retire, left the "old man" with little alternative. Stagg left the University of Chicago in 1933. A few years later, football would be abolished at the school.

Amos Alonzo Stagg took over as football coach for the College of the Pacific in California until 1946. From 1947 to 1952, Stagg served as offensive coach under his son, Amos Alonzo Jr., at Susquehanna University, and then as advisory coach for Stockton Junior College from 1953 to 1960. Stagg and his wife Stella died inCalifornia in 1965.

Taken from:

http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/gifts/news/staggbio.html

Also see:

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/today/sep16.html

www.hoophall.com/halloffamers/Stagg.htm

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