Stagg, Amos Alonzo, 1862-1965

Alternative names
Birth 1862-08-16
Death 1965-03-17

Biographical notes:

Athlete, educator. Great baseball player at Yale College (1880s). Attended Springfield College, a YMCA training school, became coach at University of Chicago (1892). A founder of Western Athletic Conference, National Collegiate Athletic Association and American Football Coaches Association. Member of U. S. Olympic Committee (1916-32). Retired after forty-one years at University of Chicago and became coach at College of the Pacific, Stockton, Calif. (1933-1946). Left C. O. P. and became coach at Susquehanna (Pa.) University (1947-1953) and finally Stockton (Calif.) Junior College (1953-1959).

From the description of Amos Alonzo Stagg papers, 1905-1939. (University of the Pacific). WorldCat record id: 35191720

First Athletic Director and football coach, University of Chicago, 1892-1933. Born, 1862, West Orange, N.J. Died, 1965, CA. A.B., Yale University, 1888. Instructor in the practice and theory of training, International Y.M.C.A. Training School, Springfield, MA., 1891. Associate professor and Director of the Division of Physical Culture, University of Chicago, 1892-1900; professor and Director of the Department of Physical Culture and Athletics, 1900-1933. Football coach, College of the Pacific, 1933-1946.

From the description of Papers, 1866-1964. (University of Chicago Library). WorldCat record id: 52246224

Biography / Administrative History

Amos Alonzo Stagg, the "Grand Old Man of Football" was born on Aug 16, 1862, in West Orange County, N. J. during the American Civil War, and seven years before the first intercollegiate football game was played. When it was time for Amos to decide whether or not he should go to college, he asked for the advice of one of his teachers and after being greatly inspired by his talk, he decided to go. After attending Philips Exeter Academy, Stagg went on to Yale to become a minister, but while there Stagg found another calling in life, to promote Athletics. While at Yale, Stagg became one of Yale's greatest baseball pitchers of all time, and later he was chosen to be a member of Walter Camp's first All America Team in 1889. After graduating from Yale Stagg decided that he was not ministerial material and thus began the career of one of football's greatest legends. In 1890, Stagg began coaching football at Springfield College, and by 1892 he was a coach at the University of Chicago. Stagg stayed at Chicago for 41 years until his retirement in 1933. After which, Stagg traveled by train to the Pacific Coast to what was then a tiny college that would someday become the University of the Pacific. While coaching at Pacific, Coach Stagg had such an impressive impact on the school's team that he was voted coach of the year for 1943. In 1946, he left Pacific to join his son at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, and there Stagg continued to coach until 1953, when his beloved wife Stella began to suffer from declining health and he decided to return to Stockton for her sake. Even then, Coach Stagg continued to coach, and until 1959 he coached the Stockton Junior College Football Team, now Delta College. Stagg's influence on football included more than his activity on the field. Since its founding, Stagg was an active member of the NCAA and played an important role in the development of football as well as many other sports.

Throughout his life, Coach Stagg believed that football provided young men with high ideals, and a good strong character. While Coach Stagg coached his teams, he forbid his players to smoke, drink, or commit other vices under penalty of being thrown off the team. A strong advocate of prohibition, and a witness to the saddening effects of alcohol abuse, Stagg strongly spoke against alcohol on many occasions. His belief was that he could shape the young men he coached by giving them a strong character, enhanced by good morals and leadership qualities, and by doing so he could improve society. Coach Stagg died peacefully at the age of 102.

From the guide to the Amos Alonzo Stagg collection, 1869-1989, (University of the Pacific. Library. Holt-Atherton Dept. of Special Collections)

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 the Yale 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 that 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 in Springfield, Massachusetts. His success as a football coach at the college earned him great notoriety throughout intercollegiate athletics. At this time his former Yale Divinity School professor, William Rainey Harper, to head up the Department of Physical Culture at the newly formed University of Chicago, contacted Stagg. 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 also 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 prosperous Chicago 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.

mos Alonzo Stagg took over as athletic director and football coach for the College of the Pacific in California. Coaching well up into his nineties, Stagg continued to enjoy many successful seasons with the football team. He and his beloved wife Stella died in California in 1965.

From the guide to the Stagg, Amos Alonzo. Papers, 1866-1964, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)


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  • Football--Coaching
  • Prohibition
  • Coaches (Athletics)--Correspondence
  • Olympics--History
  • College sports
  • Football--History
  • Physical education and training
  • Coaches (Athletics)--History
  • Football
  • Coaching (Athletics)--Study and teaching
  • Football coaches
  • Chautauquas


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  • United States (as recorded)
  • Chicago (Ill.) (as recorded)
  • Illinois--Chicago (as recorded)