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The Dobie schedule
Critics, stand aside!
Rich Linde, 6 May 2011

Legendary coach Gilmour Dobie came to the University of Washington in 1908 and coached nine years.

Because of his unbridled zeal for winning, Dobie markedly changed the perception of west coast football, along with the city of Seattle's.

He'd gone 8-0-0 in his first coaching stint at North Dakota State, just prior to his takeover season at UW.

In his first season at Washington, the "Sad Scott," as he has been called, also went undefeated, winning the Pacific Northwest Intercollegiate Conference championship, a six-team league consisting of Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Idaho and Whitman.

Astonishingly, he continued his winning ways for the next eight seasons -- legendary stuff -- going undefeated in his 62 games at Washington.

The Dobie record is statuesque:

-- Undefeated in his 62 games at Washington, which is the longest undefeated streak (59-0-3) for any single coach at any single school over consecutive seasons in college football.

-- At North Dakota State, Washington and Navy, he coached 71 consecutive games without a defeat -- also an NCAA record.

-- From 1908 to 1914, he compiled the second longest winning streak (no losses/no ties) in the history of college football (40 games).

-- The NCAA record for undefeated games at a single school, which stands at 64, is held by Washington; Gil Dobie coached 97% of those games.

-- Based on his coaching records at North Dakota State, Washington, Navy and Cornell, it took Dobie fewer games (just 108) to reach 100 wins than any other coach in the history of college football.

He drew his players, who were purely amateur at heart, from the same talent pool as his rivals in the Northwest Conference.

The Dobie difference: his coaching methods.

"There is one thing about that body of men I feel particularly proud of. They were strictly amateur. They played because they liked to play and because they wanted the distinction of making the Washington team. Their victories were many and they were honest victories. They are justly proud of their football achievements and need not take a back seat for the generations to come." -- A quote taken from Gil Dobie's letter to Wee Coyle, thanking him for arranging his reunion with former players at Seattle's Olympic Hotel in 1940.

"So can you blame them out in the golden west for ranking him as the greatest football mentor in America -- greater than (Percy) Haugton, greater than ('Pop') Warner, greater than (Amos Alonzo) Stagg, and (Laurence) Bankhart and (Fielding) Yost and all the others," Frank Menke wrote in December 1916.


Gil Dobie's 1911 UW football team, playing against Lincoln High School at Denny Field / David Eskenazi Collection; Dobie, on the left, is in a crouching position across the field.

(See "Wayback Machine: Tweeting, 1911 Style")
 

Not at all, but according to some critics, a kicker (an asterisk) should be attached to his record.

Because: The quest for fully recognizing Dobie's winning record at UW sometimes draws criticism based on the scheduling of cream puffs or patsies.

Is that a valid criticism?

Well, Dobie never coached in the SEC.

In my opinion, the criticism is easily answered by a number of facts relating to that era in college football. And, that is: (1) breathers in Dobie's era weren't always easy games; (2) Dobie's record against NW Conference teams; and (3) the Knute Rockne schedule.

Breathers in Dobie's era weren't always easy games.

Patsies, as they would be called today, weren't always easy games in Dobie's era. For instance, Yale beat Notre Dame 28-0 in 1914; Cornell triumphed over Michigan in 1916, 23-20. 

At UW, Dobie played 63% of his games against teams that would be considered NCAA Division I, or FBS, caliber today. The schedule his teams played was typical of college football teams of that era, including Notre Dame's, which is discussed below.

In 1907, the year before the 30-year old coach took over at UW, the U. S. S. Nebraska had beaten Washington, 19-6, and Idaho and Seattle High School had each held UW to a scoreless tie, 0-0. So much for pushovers back then. 

His two wins over high schools in his first season at Washington by 22 and 18-point margins are a measure of the progress he made in his first year as coach, along with winning the Northwest championship. UW went 4-4-2 in the prior season under coach Victor Place and its Captain Enoch Bagshaw.

His winning ways continued after he left Washington in 1916.

Dobie posted three consecutive unbeaten seasons at Cornell, and was hailed a "miracle worker." There's no gainsaying the fact that from 1906 through 1923 Gil Dobie had a firm grip on college football's winning formula, losing only five games in 18 years.

Dobie's record against NW Conference teams

From 1908-1916, Dobie's winning percentage at Washington (.976) for all games played readily trumps the combined percentage of all the other teams in the NW Conference (.538).

Table 1. The winning percentages for the six teams in the Northwest league from 1908-1916, for all games played. [Table courtesy of Lynn Borland [Borland]).

Team

Winning Percentage

Oregon

.680

Washington State

.645

Oregon State

.580

Idaho

.464

Whitman

.222

Combined percentage for the above

.538

Washington

.976

The Rockne Schedule (or the SEC paradigm)

Of all the newspaper articles I researched, dating from 1908-1948, none of them criticized Dobie for playing a "soft" schedule.

However, one writer I encountered, Stan Grosshandler, wrote the following in a 1997 article titled, "The Rockne Schedule." (See the College Football Historical Society, Vol., X, No. II, February 1997)

"Not only was Knute a genius with the Xs and Os," Grosshandler writes, "but he was quite canny in putting together a schedule (at Notre Dame) that was often liberally sprinkled with breathers, a luxury that none of his successors had. It was obvious that Knute did not want any surprises on opening day, and he took great precautions not to get his team ambushed in the first game. He opened the Notre Dame seasons against Kalamazoo College five straight years and then had the likes of Lombard, Beloit, Coe, and Loyola (LA).

"In his undefeated season of 1920, Notre Dame beat Kalamazoo, Western State Normal, Valparaiso and the Michigan Aggies by a combined score of 133-3. The next season, a 10-1 year in 1921, Notre Dame annihilated Kalamazoo, DePauw, Haskell, and the Michigan Aggies by a 203-18 total score."

Grosshandler then lists the breathers Rockne played, which accounted for almost 29% of his games. (His record: 105-12-5; with an .881 winning percentage; 1918-1930).

Accordingly, 37% of Dobie's opponents at UW fit in that category.

Rockne's other opponents (the tough ones) were distributed over a wider geographical area than were Dobie's non-breathers, which mainly consisted of those teams in the NW league.

The point of all this is that Rockne played his share of breathers, too, and Dobie at Washington is as deserving of a statue as Rockne, who has been honored in this way at Notre Dame. (Also, see Appendix A below).


Appendix A:

The Rockne Schedule (breathers):
Kalamazoo (5)
Lombard (3)
Wabash (2)
Beloit (2)
Mt Union (1)
Coe (1)
Drake (5) Michigan Aggies (4)
Valparaiso (2) Western State Normal (2)
DePauw (2) Butler (2)
Case Tech (1) Morningside (1)
Haskell (1) Loyola of LA (1)

35 games out of 122 (29%)

Taken from an article written by Stan Grosshandler, in a 1997 article titled, "The Rockne Schedule."

Dobie's breathers at Washington:

Lincoln High School (4), Washington High School, Whitworth (2), Queen Anne High School, USS Milwaukee, College of Puget Sound (3), Fort Worden, Everett High School (2), Bremerton Sailors, All Navy, Aberdeen High School, Washington Park AC (2), Rainier Valley AC, Ballard Meteors (2), Bremerton Submarines

24 games out of 62 (37%)

Appendix B. The Dobie Record at Washington (59-0-3) [Corrections to  Washington's 1956 media guide, which are in red, are based on research done by biographer Lynn Borland (see the reference below.)]

1908 (6-0-1)

(9-26) Lincoln HS 22-0; (10-3) Washington HS, 23-5; (10-17) Whitworth, 24-4, (10-24) Whitman 6-0, (11-7) Washington State 6-6, (11-14) at Oregon 15-0, (11-28) Oregon State 32-0.

1909 (7-0-0)

(10-9) Queen Anne HS 34-0; (10-16) USS Milwaukee, 39-0, (10-23) Lincoln HS 20-0; (10-30) at Idaho, 50-0; (11-6) Whitman 17-0; (11-13) at Oregon State 18-0; (11-25) Oregon 20-6.

1910 (6-0-0)

(10-8) Lincoln HS, 20-0; (10-15) at College of Puget Sound, 51-0; (10-22) Whitman 12-8; (11-5) Idaho 29-0; (11-12) at Washington State 16-0; (11-24) Oregon State 22-0.

1911 (7-0-0)

(10-2) Lincoln HS, 42-0; (10-14) Fort Worden, 99-0; (10-21) College of Puget Sound, 35-0; (10-28) at (Spokane) Idaho, 17-0; (11-4) Oregon State, 34-0; (11-18) at (Portland) Oregon, 29-3; (11-30) Washington State, 30-6.

1912 (7-0-0)

(9-28) Everett HS, 55-0; (10-12) College of Puget Sound, 53-0; (10-19)Bremerton Sailors, 55-0; (10-26) Idaho, 24-0; (11-9) at (Portland) Oregon State, 9-3; (11-16) Oregon 30-14; (11-28) Washington State, 19-0.

1913 (7-0-0)

(9-27) Everett HS, 26-0; (10-11) All-Navy, 23-7; (10-18) Whitworth, 100-0; (10-25) Oregon State 47-0; (11-1) Whitman, 41-7; (11-15) at (Portland) Oregon 10-7; (11-27) Washington State, 20-0.

1914 (6-0-1)

(9-26) Aberdeen HS, 33-6; (10-3) Washington Park AC, 45-0; (10-10) Rainier Valley AC, 81-0; (10-24) Whitman 28-7; (10-31) at (Albany) Oregon State, 0-0; (11-14) Oregon 10-0; (11-26) Washington State, 45-0.

1915 (7-0-0)

(10-2) Ballard Meteors, 31-0; (10-9) Washington Park AC, 64-0; (10-23) at (Spokane) Gonzaga, 21-7; (10-30) Whitman, 27-0; (11-6) at California, 72-0; (11-13) California, 13-7; (11-25) Colorado, 46-0.

1916 (6-0-1)

(9-30) Ballard Meteors, 28-0; (10-14) Bremerton Submarines, 62-0; (10-28) Whitman, 37-6; (11-4) at Oregon, 0-0; (11-11) Oregon State, 35-0, (11-18) at California, 13-3; (11-30) California, 14-7.

Appendix C:

The Dobie record (entries in red correct the putative record)

School

Years

W

L

T

North Dakota State

1906-07

8

0

0

Washington

1908-16

59

0

3

Navy

1917-19

18

3

0

Cornell

1920-35

82

36

7

Boston College

1936-38

16

6

5

Total

33

183

45

15

Appendix D:

N

Fastest Coaches to reach 100 wins

Games

1

Gil Dobie

108

2

George Woodruff

109

3

Bud Wilkinson

111

4

Fielding Yost

114

5

Knute Rockne

117

6

Urban Meyer

118

 

Reference:

[Borland]. Borland, Lynn, "Pursuit of Perfection," Tribute Publishing, November 2010. (Gilmourdobie.com ).

 

Richard Linde can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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