A Plaque for Gil Dobie
by Richard Linde, Updated April 2011; originally published in 2002

Standing in a wintry line that stretched from the registrar to Denny Hall, the fleeting thought of "class closed" failed to roil my resolve.

It was rainy at practice, and the field was as sloppy as the tackling. Clutching a player by the jersey, he bullied, "You have a streak of yellow up your back as yellow as your dirty yellow hair."

Turning away from the ruddy fellow disgustedly, he glared at the rest of the players, most of them ruffled by his stern demeanor.

“No smile, no handshakes, no slap on the back -- nothing but a pair of eyes peering coldly out of a dark face that was hidden partially by a slouch hat drawn loosely over a head of mussed black hair.” Wee Coyle

"You guys are going to get your butts kicked on Saturday. They'll use you for tackling dummies," he said, puffs of steamy vapor punctuating his words. The dreary day added to his sourness, and his shouting, almost as loud as the "Varsity Bell," could be heard all the way up to Denny Hall, where the bell still sits in its belfry, ringing on homecoming day as a nostalgic reminder to alums of its creaky wooden floors and the old-bookish smell of its library.

He came to the University of Washington in 1908 -- along with the Great White Fleet which docked in Seattle as part of a 14-month cruise around the world -- following a break-even season.

In a setting of virgin timber, the thirty-year old coach took to a campus that lacked the ivy-covered buildings of the east, to an environment where the pioneer days were still being lived, to a countryside where log cabins were not far distant. He brought along a frontiersman's spirit that included hard work and boundless energy to a provincial town lacking recognition.

In nine years' time, Gilmour Dobie markedly changed the perception of west coast football, along with the city of Seattle's.

"He's maybe a little rough," said U. W. graduate athletic manager Victor Zednick in 1908, "but real sharp. No, sir, no more seasons like the last one." [Borland2].

Losing wasn't in the stern taskmaster's vocabulary; he'd gone 8-0-0 in his first coaching stint at North Dakota State, just prior to his takeover season at UW.

Likewise, in his first season at the University of Washington, Dobie went undefeated, winning the Northwest 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, a record that is without parallel in college football to this day.

Gilmour Dobie -- Washington's Knute Rockne -- laid the foundation for the school's three other legendary coaches: Jimmy Phelan, Jim Owens and Don James.

A part of our Husky nation -- those of us who are aware of Dobie's accomplishments on the gridiron -- feel the university should venerate Dobie's legacy at Washington with a plaque, one placed on the vestiges of Denny Field. Or, say, with a statue placed next to the one of Jim Owens.

A potential-student-athlete's tour of the Washington campus should first visit Gilmour Dobie, his likeness, and his meaning to the glory of Washington.

(Note that Notre Dame dedicated a bronze sculpture of coach Rockne in October 2009, placing it just outside Notre Dame Stadium. Andy Smith is now remembered with a dedicated bench on east sideline of California's Memorial Stadium football field. Also note Cal's Football Players statue, which is located on the Berkeley campus.)

"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.

The legend, the persona, the hatred, the record

Over the years Dobie was widely characterized at times: orphaned early in life, as David Copperfield; tall and gaunt, as Ichabod Crane; a man of few words, as Calvin Coolidge; on the gridiron, as Ulysses S. Grant.

On the sidelines, his black overcoat, slouch hat and cigar were his trademark; on the practice field his steely stare and sharp rebukes both commanded respect and attention to detail.

The legendary Dobie was either loved or hated out in the golden west, there was no mister in between.

In 1914 Roscoe Fawcett, sports editor of the Oregonian, said that outside of Seattle football fans disliked Dobie because they thought he was a "mighty poor sportsman." However, as a football coach he needs no briefs, his work speaking for him, Fawcett went on to say.

Beginning the 1916 season, after eight years of winning without a defeat, Dobie was "vastly unpopular. Oregon men claim he has purposely avoided dates with them that would have meant his defeat." Oregon had its way with Washington before1908, and Dobie turned the rivalry around when he took over at Washington.

There is no doubt that the Border War, in what has become an intense rivalry between the two schools, began in the Dobie era, although modern-day thinking has it beginning in 1948. 

And they just weren't mad at Dobie in the state of Oregon.

In 1916, The Reno Gazette wrote that the University of California wanted "Revenge on the gridiron. ... Said revenge is to be peeled from the football hide of the University of Washington—that is, if the expenditure of $12,000 on a brilliant coaching staff can do it." (See Appendix C.17).

How was the indelible mark he left on west-coast football achieved?

Dobie was a master of reducing the game of football to its simplest form.

"I don't believe in having a whole lot of plays," he said. "A dozen or so are enough. Players should be kept in good mental condition. I send my boys into a game thinking they have a fine chance of being whipped and only a small chance of winning. That makes them fight."

When he worked out new plays he moved around his players like wooden pieces in a chess game and he continued to move them about until satisfied that the play was a success or failure. (The San Antonio Light).

"Overconfidence has lost more battles than superior opposition," Dobie used to say. In practices, Dobie kept his team worrying about its Mojo, even though he knew he had the superior force for an upcoming battle. Instilling the fear of failure in his men was his prime motivating force.

His life has been described as achieving, “the virtue of perfection in doing all things.”

His moniker: Gloomy Gil, a saturnine disposition

In his temperament, however, Dobie was the most unique of all of Washington's coaches.

A little rough around the edges, he was terse, gruff and somewhat irascible at times; his eternal pessimism lent him the nicknames "Gloomy Gil" and "The Apostle of Grief." 

The late Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times might have described Dobie's personality as follows: If dour Dobie had written a song, he would have called it, "Accentuate the Negative." If he'd written a book on psychology, he would have called it, "The Power of Negative Thinking." If Shakespeare had written a play about the Sad Scott, he would have called him the Dour Dane, after Hamlet. If Dobie had chosen a nickname for his team, it would have been "The Sun Dodgers." That happened in 1919, three years after Gil Dobie left Washington and the Purple and Gold. It would have been the perfect moniker for his team. The Apostle of Grief was a man who was always pessimistic, even about the weather.

Sportswriters in search of catchy sobriquets latched on to the alliteration 'Gloomy Gil' quickly. His saturnine disposition gave him a psychological edge with egocentric players -- a perfect compliment to his sternness -- as well as adding color to a sport that had evolved from rugby and in need of its own identity. Off the field, particularly with snoopy reporters and obsequious alums, he was taciturn and never talked football, his personality reduced to an unimpeachable form.

"Wee" Coyle. Courtesy of MOHAI, image number: 1960.1821.36

Although all of his players respected him, some of them were frightened by his intensity.  "I was always scared of him," quarterback (Wee) Coyle reminisced years later. "For four years, every Friday night, he'd take me to his room…he always called me kid…and he'd say, 'kid, listen to me, we're going to get licked,' He'd say the opponents were 'great, big monsters…we haven't got a prayer, but we'll do the best we can.'" [Rockne, 1975]

One sportswriter wrote, "He took no talk from his players. He was the word and his team were the listeners and doers."

Under his exterior lay a brilliant mind, one focused on reducing football to its fundamental elements: blocking and tackling.

The stubborn coach took no guff from his players, nor did he countenance any sulking or egotism on their part. His primary goal was to win games, and that the legend-in-the-making knew how to do.

Dobie, with certainly a twinkle in his eye, may have been the father of one-liners for football coaches.

A reporter once asked him about three particularly fast running backs he coached. Gloomy Gil replied, "This means they only get to the tacklers all the sooner." After winning a game, 49-0, an alumnus approached him and said, "Now you must be happy!" The Sad Scot replied, "Happy? Why? What's going to happen to us next week?" [Dallas].

Foreshadowing Jim Owens, who followed him 41 years later at Washington, Dobie taught self-discipline, self-reliance and selflessness, binding characteristics that made many of his athletes successful in later life.

For more on the Dobie persona, which has been somewhat mischaracterized over time, over the course of many discussions, reference, "Meet the Real Gilmour Dobie."

For more Dobieisms, reference, "Gloom, doom, and denomination."

The record:

(Note that throughout this document, items in red correct the putative record.)

His career, which began like a gamma-ray burst at four schools (North Dakota State, Washington, Navy and Cornell) was ended at Boston College by the expanding universe of college football.






North Dakota State












18 (*)





82 (#)



Boston College







183 (+)



* 71 consecutive games without a defeat; lost his 2nd game at Navy
# 3 unbeaten seasons, 1921, 22, 23; first losing season in 1934
+ won 78.4% of his games; 97.6% at Washington

It took Dobie fewer games to reach 100 wins than any other coach in the history of college football. (In 1920, Cornell went 6-2-0 and, in the 1921 and 1922 seasons, it posted a 16-0 record). Table courtesy of Fox Sports.


Fastest Coaches to reach 100 wins



Gil Dobie



George Woodruff



Bud Wilkinson



Fielding Yost



Knute Rockne



Urban Meyer


Denny Field:

Dobie's teams played at Denny Field -- an imperfect gridiron, a perfect metaphor for Gloomy Gil's pessimism. "The next game will be a disaster for us--a Denny Field," he might have said. About 60 to 70 yards of the original field remains on campus today. It is located on the northeast corner of the University of Washington campus near 45th street. Tennis courts and basketball courts have filled in the ends of the field, but mostly it is still an open field.

Although the vestiges of Denny Field are hallowed ground to the Husky nation, it was a rocky, miserable field, according to one former player. Football was served alfresco on a bed of rocks on rainy days at the "Dobie Cafe." As Wee Coyle, the 150-pound quarterback said, "It was a terrible field. Did you ever see a field grow rocks?" They'd rake the surface to level the field, removing most of the rocks, and after the next rain, you'd see thousands of little rocks come up out of the dirt." [Rockne, 1975].

Dobie's teams ran straight at you. There were only twelve-or-so plays in his playbook, and he worked countless hours with his team to perfect them. They played smash-mouth football back then -- power football and an off-tackle slant -- on a field that grew rocks.

Countless scrimmages, up the gut, all to the tune of a metronome --  the honing of a finely-tuned watch, a Rolex of precision, a Timex of durability, his teams the epitome of synchronicity. From an off-tackle slant with a wave of interference for the ball-lugging "Hap" Miller to a scamper around end by QB Dick Bronson, it was six yards and a shower of rocks. 

The cigar-smoking Dobie, the quintessential psychologist, knew that fear of failure was a strong, motivating force. He was tempestuous, vociferous, demonic -- but never unfair.

He was conservative, a reductionist, but not without a trick play up his sleeve.

In particular, one play is of interest, the Dobie-Bunk Play, which he inserted for the Oregon game in 1911. The center faked a handoff to Coyle and kept the ball while the two guards fell down in front of the center. Coyle took off his leather helmet, tucked it under one arm and bolted around end. After counting to 3, the center turned and handed the ball off to the end, who scampered in the opposite direction from Coyle and scored a touchdown. No one knew what happened. Washington won the game 29-3. Sometime later, the play was declared illegal. (See the "Ghost of Dobie," by Mike Archbold, for a humorous description of the play and his witty characterizations of Dobie.

College football in the Dobie era at UW:

Why not take off your helmet and pretend it's a football? The uniforms and helmets, which were made of leather, didn't offer all that much protection in those days. Head protectors were not required until 1939. In 1916, the NCAA recommended that football players wear numbers on the back of their jerseys. Before 1917, soccer shoes were worn. There was extra cloth padding added to the shoulders and over the thighs and knees. But that was all; there was little protection for players in the Dobie era. Due to a public outcry against the brutality of the game, the IAA was formed in 1906, at the behest of President Theodore Roosevelt, who argued that rules should be adopted to protect players from serious injury. In 1910, the name was changed from the Intercollegiate Athletic Association to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The forward pass became a legal play in 1906. Eddie Cochems, the Saint Louis University coach, was the first coach to build an offense around the forward pass. On September 5, 1906, in the first game of the 1906 season, St. Louis faced Carroll College, and it was in that game that Brad Robinson threw football's first legal forward pass, in a pass play to Jack Schneider. Both Villanova and Carlisle threw forward passes in their game played on September 26, 1906.

"Attempting a pass in 1907 was still a risky business, because an incomplete attempt would result in stiff penalties—15 yards back from the spot from which the pass was thrown on first or second down. If the defense committed a foul, the 15 yard penalty didn't apply to the offense, but the defending team was not penalized either. In addition, a pass could not be caught in the end zone, nor more than 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage." Wikipedia. Also see the following link.

The pass did not become a major offensive tool until rules modifications in 1910 and 1912 allowed more passing flexibility. [Brief History].

Hence, in 1912, when West Virginia Wesleyan College had its first undefeated season, the pass became a major tool for success. In 1913, Notre Dame upset Army at West Point using the pass. [Ours, 2000]. 

Dobie's teams didn't pass much in those days, though Dobie used it on a long drive leading to a touchdown against Cal in 1915, in a closely fought 13-7 win.

The ball was spherically shaped, extended along the lines of two hypothetical poles, but a specific shape wasn't decided upon until 1912. Field goals counted 4 points in 1908, but were reduced to 3 a year later. Touchdowns counted 5 points and the conversion counted 1 point. In 1912, a touchdown's value was increased to 6 points. The goal posts were set on the goal line, and weren't moved back until 1929. Try for points were attempted from the 2-yard line, instead of the 3. The field was 110 yards  in length and kickoffs were made from midfield. [Ours, 2000].

There were three officials in Dobie's days at Washington, a referee, umpire, and linesman. A field judge was added for a brief period starting in 1908, and was made a permanent part of the crew in 1915. 

Typically, his team would whip the USS Milwaukee one week and beat up on Queen Anne High School the next. His teams also played Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State, Colorado, California and Idaho, as well as the Bremerton Sailors on a regular basis. Attendance varied from 2000 to 9000 fans at Denny Field. 

Older players

It was common practice at the University of Washington for a large percentage of athletes to work a year or two between high school and matriculation. This gave them a maturity and seasoning that was highly advantageous in building any sort of an athletics endeavor. This practice most likely explains the ages of the four footballers pictured on page 451 of a document published in 1914, titled, "Washington--A University of the Northwest," by Henry J. Case.

The players pictured are:

BeVan Presley, Senior, Center, age 24;
Wayne Sutton, Senior, Right End, age 22
Cedric Miller, Sophomore, Left Half, age 21
Herman Anderson, Senior, Right Tackle, Age 23

Presley's photo showed a receding hairline.

For the complete Dobie roster, see Appendix C.25.

The 1908-1914 seasons at Washington

In 1908, his first year at Washington, Dobie (top row, second from right) posted a 6-0-1 season and won the Northwest championship. This followed a break-even season in 1907, when Washington, under coach Victor Place, went 4-4-2.

From 1909 through 1913, the Dobiemen went undefeated and untied in five consecutive seasons. In 1914, Oregon State tied Washington, 0-0, in the fifth game of the season, ending a 40-game winning streak, the second longest in college football history. (Note that entries in red correct the record cast in stone over the years).

William (Wee) Coyle quarterbacked Washington in the 1908-1911 seasons, becoming the first quarterback -- and maybe the only quarterback in college football -- to go unbeaten in four seasons of leadership. Note that he also lettered in baseball and track, and is now honored in the University Hall of Fame in all three sports. [See Lomen in references below].

Coyle quarterbacked the 1909 team, which in Dobie's later life would trumpet as his best team ever.

And then there's the 1909 Thanksgiving game against Oregon, this according the Centralia Daily Chronicle, Monday, November 29, 1909, which describes left end Warren Grimm's play.

"Last Thursday, against Oregon, he (Grimm) gave the most marvelous exhibition of catching the ball under trying conditions I have ever seen. He was always on deck and the farther the game went the larger and more formidable he looked to Oregon. How Grimm got down to Oregon's line and stood there calmly waiting for the ball to come his way at the time the varsity made its second touchdown is still a mystery to nine-tenths of the crowd, and the Oregon boys in particular. But he was there, al] by his lonesome, and he caught that ball In the same easy manner that an out-fielder pulls in a fly, stepped across the line and was back of the goal posts before anybody had time to recover from the surprise. He made the last touchdown by a spectacular run, following another sensational catch."

Washington won 20-6. (The original article was written by Portus Baxter of the Seattle Post Intelligencer).

Baxter also said, "I have never bad the slightest doubt about the ability of 'Wee' Coyle to make the team in any of the big Eastern universities, and now I am convinced that the same is true of Warren Grimm."

The pair of touchdown passes to Grimm came via the triple pass play (Dobie's version of the flea flicker), where Coyle lateraled the ball to halfback Leonard Taylor. In turn, Taylor lateraled to halfback Melville Mucklestone who then threw  downfield to Grimm for the touchdowns.

On March 4, 1908, Coyle bested football star George Rouse in the short distance sprints.

As a freshman in 1908, the speedy Coyle led the Varsity to 15-0 victory over Oregon in a game played at Kinkaid Field. Although the weather was not a factor, the field had been covered with 4 to 6 inches of sawdust. Dobie blamed Oregon's track coach, Bill Hayward, who was a trainer for the football team, for the incident, fearing the slow field would intimidate his freshmen dominated team. Later, Coyle credited Dobie for the team's victory. “Boys, you’re going out and get licked, and I can’t help you, but I’ll be ashamed of you if you don’t go out and fight ’em and fight ‘em hard," were Dobie's inspiring words.

Coyle also participated in the game against Oregon in 1911, orchestrating Dobie's legendary Bunk play that led to Oregon's defeat.

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")

After Dobie prematurely resigned his job at UW in 1915, Coyle, who coached Gonzaga at the time, applied for the head coaching job at his alma mater. Later, Dobie changed his mind and went on to coach the 1916 season at Washington. Incidentally, Dobie's 1915 team beat Coyle's Gonzaga-led team 21-7.

In September of 1917, Coyle, 29, graduated from officer’s training camp at the Presidio in San Francisco, California. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on July 9, 1918, for "extraordinary heroism" in action near Cheppy, France.

He served as Lieutenant Governor of Washington State from 1921-1925. As a Seattle resident, he served for 25 years as the manager of the Seattle Civic Auditorium. (Guide to the William Jennings “Wee” Coyle Photograph Collection circa 1900-1953.)

In 2009, Coyle was inducted into the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame.

In Lynn Borland's biography, "Pursuit of Perfection," Coyle's characterizations and recollections of Gil Dobie, the man and his coaching methods, make for priceless reading. (Borland2].

The UW won seven Northwest Conference championships over the 1908-1914 seasons, and one more in 1916, along with the Pacific Coast Conference championship.

In 1913, Washington beat Whitworth 100-0, which is still among the school's records for most points scored.

1910 football team:
Row 4: Eakins, Wand, ?, ? ?, ?, ? , Dobie, ?, ? Walker, ?, Sutton, ?
Row 3: Febiger, ?, Flint, ?, ?, Grimm, Husby, ?, Grimm, Galloway, Swarva, Cutting
Row 2: Presley, Pullen, Cook, Diether, ?, Hosely, ?, ?, Coyle, Pike, Spargur
Row 1: Collon, Hawley, Beebe, Ohmick, Bliss, ? Cahill

 -- Photo courtesy of Will Lomen

The boycott season in 1915:

During his stay at Washington, Dobie posted 43 shutout wins, holding his opponents to an average of 1.9 points per game. His players went full bore the entire game and refused to let up on anyone. Apparently, Dobie built up some enmities over time. “…he was loathed by opponents, who by 1911 resented the fact that Dobie was the one to dictate who played whom and on what days,” one historian wrote. “His thunderous victories were even felt and resented years later,” this writer continues.

Dobie was an intense man, and winning without losing took its toll, both physically and mentally. The prescient Dobie resigned in November 1915, but later on, University President, Henry Suzzallo talked him into staying another year. Dobie and Suzzallo, who was hired in 1915, had strong personalities, which produced more than one conflict between them.

Adding to Dobie's woes, the northwest schools dropped Washington from their schedules in 1915, “in an attempt to derail the dynasty.”

This was compounded by the fact that Dobie didn't want to play WSC anywhere but in Seattle. When WSC balked after doing so for four straight seasons, the series took a two-year break in 1915 and 1916.

It's a shame the Dobiemen didn't play the team coached by William "Lone Star" Dietz (1915-1917, 17-2-1) back in 1915. Instead, Dietz's team, Washington State, beat Brown in the 1916 Rose Bowl, to lay claim to the mythical national championship.

Dobie had to scramble for opponents in 1915 with Oregon, Oregon State and Washington State off the schedule. In that season he played California twice, whipping the Bears 72-0 in an away game. The next week at Denny Field, Cal played smash-mouth defensive football against UW, holding Washington to just eight positive gains the entire game, yet succumbed to the Purple and Gold 13-7. Washington fans carried Cal's Roy Sharpe off the field on their shoulders for his superlative defensive and offensive effort.

In the last game of the season, the Dobiemen beat Colorado 46-0.

The rout, 1915

Following, Dobie's rout of California, the Oakland Tribune ran this headline on November 7, 1915, "Golden Bear crushed beyond recognition by Dobie's Washington Indians." A photo of Washington QB Allan Young scoring the second touchdown of the game sat under the headline. The paper noted that "Lockhart, the Bears left tackle, was the heaviest man on the field. He weighed 198. His 6-foot-3 inches also made him the tallest...The lightest Washington man was (Elmer) Leader, the left tackle, who weighed 165."

The paper said that Dobie brought 22 men with him and that each regular had a substitute; it went on to say that Dobie was noted for his eleventh hour changes in his lineup and that fans expected a change any minute. Also, according to the Tribune, the numbering of players was distributed before the game, with the number 13 being avoided. The two captains, Canfield and Mike Hunt, UW's left end, were each given number one.

"He (Dobie) has seen so many heroes fail and unheard of players rise to great heights, that he considers the 'good boy pat on the back stuff' useless," the paper continued.

In discussing the game between the two teams to be played at Denny Field the next week, the paper noted that although the field was a dirt one, it was very fast.

At halftime of the first game, a Washington stunt group produced a halftime burlesque pantomime in which the California Bear and the "Washington Indian" were the principle actors, the paper went on to say. The Washington "Hook," a 10-foot by 3-foot wooden replica of a hook, made its appearance in the Washington rooting section. It seems the hook was captured by Washington rooters -- a few years back -- in a game played between UW and Oregon in Eugene, the Oregon fans saying they would throw the "hook" into Washington. After UW beat Oregon, UW fans paraded the hook in downtown Eugene.

The Tribune went on to say that UW's fourth touchdown in a "disastrous" third quarter -- from the Bears' standpoint -- came by way of a pass from "Hap" Miller to Mike Hunt.

The Washington lineup: "Tramp" Murphy played left end; Elmer Leader and Bill Hainsworth were at left tackle; Harry Wirt and Van De Bogart were at left guard, with David Logg at center; Louis Seagrave played right guard; Tom Markam right tackle and Mike Hunt and George Abel played right end. Allen Young was the quarterback and Elmer Noble and Gardner shared right half duties, with "Hap" Miller and Ross MacKechnie at left half. Walter Shiel and Newton shared the fullback position. "MacKechnie" is spelled "McKechnie" in Washington's media guides.

The paper said that Dobie lived up to his nickname, the "silent wonder," sat on the bench without a "wrinkle" the entire game and barely spoke to his assistant Wayne Sutton. The paper went on to say that "Gil sent in the same bunch that represented the Siwash institution against Whitman last Saturday." UW's passes were low and quick and, in the main, the passer didn't try to throw the ball past the secondary coverage of the California defense.

The second game with Cal, 1915

After the second game with California, Dobie said that his team had been outplayed, having won by a 13-7 score. Some California fans felt the game was a good piece of "stage work" by Dobie, who figured the competition was scarce with him, too, and another 72-0 whipping might send the Bears back to the "English game." (November 22, 1915, the Oakland Tribune).

According to the Northwest papers, the Tribune said, the game was a "straight one," that California was a scrappy bunch. It also mentioned that it was rumored that Dobie might move to Berkeley to live with his two sisters, paving the way for his advent into athletic circles in the Bay area upon his retiring from Washington.

Of course, that never happened.

As a result of the disastrous 72-0 loss to Washington, Cal's 14th coach, James Schaeffer, resigned under fire. He'd coached rugby at California from 1909-14 and then football in 1915.

In 1921, Enoch “Baggie” Bagshaw (1921-1929, 63-22-6) paid the piper for the Dobiemen's unrelenting effort at Berkeley, surrendering the same number of points Dobie had piled up on California -- Cal bagging Bagshaw with a 72-3 pasting -- in what was called a revenge game. Cal outgained the Sun Dodgers, as they were called then, 390 to 8 yards, and threw 12 times and completed 8, in a game played at California Field in Berkeley. The Bears, coached by Andy Smith, were also known as the "Golden Bruins," in those days.

Two of Cal's legacy coaches and their remembrances

Andy Smith is now remembered with a dedicated bench on east sideline of California's Memorial Stadium football field. Engraved on the bench are two of Andy Smith's great sayings: (1) "We do not want men who will lie down bravely to die, but men who will fight valiantly to live." (2) "Winning is not everything; it is far better to play the game squarely and lose than to win at the sacrifice of an ideal."

Also note Cal's Football Players statue, which is located on the Berkeley campus. And on the back of the statue's base, there are engraved the names of all the players on the 1898 and 1899 Cal team, plus the name of their extraordinary coach, Garrett Cochran.

Dobie retires and the PCC is formed

On November 26, 1915, the Reno Evening Gazette reported that Dobie had retired at Washington, saying "Dobie was out of the game for all time." The Gazette said he had offered his services to Wisconsin.

Reportedly Dobie told friends that he was dissatisfied with the conditions at the school, that the students lacked loyalty and had no pep, that they did not understand what it meant to have such an athletic record for one's school. (Evening News, December 3, 1915, Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan).

In December 1915, the Oakland Tribune reported that Washington had lost $3,560 on its football program, on the same day men's hats went on sale for 95 cents in Oakland.

The Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) was formed in December 1915, with four charter members consisting of Washington, Oregon, Oregon State, and California. Oregon State and Oregon were back on Washington's schedule after a year's absence (See Appendix A), and each team's record was counted in both conferences. (Clipping left: Times Democrat, Muskogee, Oklahoma, 3 December 1915).

Note that Dobie's status at Washington was in limbo at this time since he had resigned his position in November. Also, at the time of the new conference's formation, the old NWC had imploded, with Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington State being off Washington's schedule in 1915. Absent from the "secret meeting" held in Portland were former NWC members Washington State, Whitman and Idaho.

The 1916 season and the player mutiny:

On February 3, 1916, Dobie agreed to stay on for another season, at his current compensation, despite his friction with Suzzallo, in what turned out to be a turbulent ending to his career at Washington. Wisconsin had wanted Dobie to coach its team, but couldn't meet his salary demands. (Clipping: Oakland Tribune, February 8, 1916).

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorialized, "Tune up the sackbut, psaltery, harp and lute, and anything else that will make a noise, and let us sound a paean of joy over the return of the mentor whom we had mourned as officially dead."

The first game with Cal, 1916

A formidable, powerful team in 1916, the Purple and Gold (4-0-1) prepared for their last two games with California and a chance to win the first-ever PCC title. Prior to the games with California, the only blot on Washington's record, a tie game against Oregon, was played in Eugene on a field that "resembled a lake." Dobie, the eternal pessimist, complained of not having a dropkicking specialist before the game with Oregon, saying that Ted Faulk, a rowing specialist, was good for one out of every six dropkicks and that he'd been tutoring him in the "art of how to kick." The UW line averaged 180 pounds per man.

On Friday, November 18, 1916, on the eve of the first big game with the Bears, The Oakland Tribune reported, "Signal practice was then indulged in and the Washington boys showed plenty of speed and ability in running through their plays. Dobie's bunch stacks up as a formidable outfit this year, and, in size, they are every bit as husky and powerful. The Washington backfield—Cy Noble and ("Tramp") Murphy at halves, (Bill) Hainsworth at full, and (Ching) Johnson at quarter—constitutes a smooth-running machine, while Captain Louis Seagrave and (Bill) Grimm, are the two Stars in the line, and are backed up by a formidable set."

The paper then noted Dobie's eternal pessimism. "But, then, Dobie never fails to come out with the 'old man gloom' stuff before his important games. He does not expect to come close, he states, but this is an old story with Gilmour."

The Dobiemen beat Cal 13-3 the next day, and Dobie continued on in his winning ways, which was another old story with "Gilmour."

However, the taste of victory was bittersweet in the minds of the victors.

(1) "We didn't expect this. They're a wonderful lot and I tell you that their team is on a par with ours and on Thanksgiving day I guess I will have a tougher time of it than at any other period during my football career. This Sharpe was the best man on the field and a marvel. California did some great passing work. If they would have been more fortunate executing a few of those forward throws, we might be leaving for Washington a defeated team, " Seagrave was quoted as saying.

(2) Dobie complimented the team on their victory over California in this manner: "You're a pack of bums. Lucky you had the breaks with you. Half of you fellows who played today will be lucky if you are on the sidelines on Thanksgiving day. If I keep you in, they'll surely beat us."

Ironically, President Suzzallo was among the dignitaries who attended the game at Berkeley.

The second game with Cal and Dobie's dismissal, 1916.  

The next week the university suspended Bill Grimm, left tackle, because of "irregularities in (taking) an examination." He evidently had copied someone else's paper during the test. Because of his suspension, which some players, including Seagrave, felt was too harsh, the varsity players went on strike.

This occurred on November 23, 1916, a week before the next game with California, which was to be held on Thanksgiving day.

Dobie "announced himself ready to train a volunteer team, although stating his sympathies were with the varsity."

The alumni and Grimm convinced the team to play "for the greater good." On voting to end the strike, it was reported that "Team members today passed a resolution denying their action in refusing to play without Grimm was inspired by Coach Gilmour Dobie." (Nevada State Journal, November 24, 1916).

On Thanksgiving Day, the Varsity beat Cal 14-7, its victory securing the PCC championship. Although Oregon was unbeaten, Washington was awarded the championship because Oregon had used an ineligible player.

According to most historical references, the common thread has it that university president Henry Suzzallo fired Dobie after the 1916 season for failing to fully train character on the football field.

On December 9, 1916, the Seattle Post Intelligencer printed  Dr. Suzzallo's statement explaining Dobie's termination.

“Mr. Dobie will not be with us next year. That is now final. The chief function of the university is to train character. Mr. Dobie failed to perform to his full share of that responsibility on the football field. Therefore we do not wish him to return next year.

“It has become quite apparent that Mr. Dobie and I disagree as to the functions of a university coach. He has not accepted in practice the obligation to be a vigorous moral force as well as an excellent technical instructor. In such a disagreement it is natural that we cannot utilize Mr. Dobie. Every part of the university organization must cooperate toward one end, character building.”

Dobie countered Suzzallo's criticism with the following statement, "I performed my services in as conscientious and thorough manner as was possible under the conditions. Dr. Suzzallo does me wrong, when he says I did otherwise." [100 Years].

According to Wisconsin's Janesville Daily Gazette (December 11, 1916), "President Suzzallo said the chief function of the university was to train character, that Dobie had failed to perform his full share of the work. Dobie, it was said, made it known recently that he had no intention of ever again acting as coach for any team."

Dobie demanded that each of his players be loyal to the team, and in turn, ironically, his steadfast loyalty to his players led to his termination -- that is, his support of them during the mutiny, which in his mind was their only line of defense when they were unfairly attacked.

In his response to his termination, Dobie wrote that, "Neither the members of the football squad nor myself ever approved of the alleged offense of the player who was removed..." (See Appendix C.23 for the response in its entirety.)

However, Dobie felt that Grimm should have been given more time to prepare for his examinations because of a stint he performed in the National Guard that had deprived him of studying time, and that is, he had been "obliged to crowd two months' work into one month's study."

"Had there been any faculty mercy the student-player would have been allowed to make up his studies during the holiday vacation..." Dobie wrote.

The bottom line

In my opinion, the disagreement between Dobie and Suzzallo can be summed up by several key words and phrases in Suzzallo's statement made to the Post-Intelligencer regarding Dobie's termination, "It has become quite apparent that Mr. Dobie and I disagree as to the functions of a university coach. He has not accepted in practice the obligation to be a vigorous moral force as well as an excellent technical instructor. In such a disagreement it is natural that we cannot utilize Mr. Dobie. Every part of the university organization must cooperate toward one end, character building."

In other words, if Dobie had supported the faculties' actions in suspending Grimm and encouraged the players to call off their strike, he would have demonstrated his function, as  coach, of "being a vigorous moral force."  He would have cooperated with the university organization toward the one end, character building.

His termination was as simple as these highlighted key words and phrases (above) and doesn't need the further interpretation and extrapolation that muddies the Dobie literature regarding his firing.

Addressing a meeting of the Seattle branch of the University of Washington Alumni Association, President Suzzallo turned Dobie's own words against him, saying that the coach's statement that the "strike had shown that the football team has a weapon to use when similarly attacked" was an expression recommending resort to a forceful rather than rational solution of problems. (see appendix C.26). ("Coyle's coaching, the Prez's couching.")

Dobie and Suzzallo's disagreement illustrates a schism between the upper and lower campuses at the University of Washington, a division, in following years, that reopened and consumed several other football coaches at UW. (See Appendix C below, sections C.19,  C.20, and C.24)

Much later in time it was learned that Murphy, Seagrave (team captain) and a member of a YMCA squad had actually instigated the mutiny. That fact was disclosed by Murphy in 1949, a year after Dobie's death.

Did Dobie resign to save face or had he planned it all along?

Previously at Washington, Dobie had resigned twice before, after the 1909 and 1915 seasons, only to change his mind and resume his career at UW.

In his termination letter in 1916 (Appendix C.23), Dobie wrote, “I did not suggest or incite the rebellion against a faculty authority, but I did stand with the players when they rebelled. I did it with a full knowledge of the responsibility I had to assume. I knew at that time—and long before—that I could no longer work as football coach under the conditions with which I had been surrounded.

A couple of articles I found also contribute to the notion that Dobie was prepared to quit Washington after the 1916 season no matter what happened between him and Dr. Suzzallo -- at least, so it seems.

During my research, I came upon this article printed on December 23,1916, by the Daily Courier, Connellsville, Pa., which said in a headline that "Gilmour Dobie quits again." It quoted Dobie as saying, "I wouldn't coach another team here for $3,000 or for three times $3,000. I am tired, and I am through with Washington for all time."

The resignation angle appears again, this time in a Pennsylvania newspaper.

On March 28, 1917, the New Castle News, writes about Dobie having resigned again in the Fall of 1916 and that "Dobie thinks, no doubt, that he has been coaching Washington teams long enough, and will be glad to get into a new field." Dobie had recently signed with the University of Detroit to coach its football team, but, somehow, managed to void that contract to coach Navy for the 1917 season.

Actually, Dobie tendered his resignation a few hours before Suzzallo's official statement. This resignation was reported in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer by Royal Brougham the afternoon of December 9, 1916: “I’m tired of the job, and have positively coached my last team. I have fought for Washington for nine years on the field but have met with too much opposition in my own university to consider another year of it. I’m through for good."

In his book, "Pursuit of Perfection," Borland sums up the statement as follows, "It would seem that it was Dobie who was the first in taking action and quit before he was fired. By the time the coach made this statement, it was clear to him and everyone else that all indicators pointed towards his firing. The afternoon statement was a face-saving gesture and likely an agreement between the two sides in a vain attempt to make it appear that Dobie’s leaving was independently arrived at by both. There should be no mistake about how this sorry episode ended: Dobie was indeed fired." [Borland2].

Did Suzzallo follow the procedures set forth by the Student and Faculty committees in his firing of Dobie?

Biographer Lynn Borland answers that question, as follows:

"Suzzallo failed to go through either the Student or Faculty committees that were the administrative bodies in place to act on such matters. By his own statement of failure to "train character" he directly contradicted himself of his prior praising of Dobie for doing just that. Suzzallo was absent when the team strike took place. Also, in his own words by telegram, he proved he did not understand the details of the unfolding problem. He then did not go through the Faculty Committee to adjudicate the matter - he did not attend their hearing and ruled on the matter himself. He held no public hearings and seized the opportunity to take his action during the busy Thanksgiving, Christmas holiday season. He did not arrange for any type of hearings or reviews with the many parties involved. He made an executive decision to terminate Dobie that today would have resulted in a wrongful termination lawsuit. Back then, had Dobie felt the need to fight the matter, public opinion would have greatly weighed in his favor. Would Suzzallo back down under such pressure? Probably not - but the bottom line of the whole matter is that Suzzallo did not follow the procedures set down to rule on such matters. For this he can be faulted. He did irreparable harm to the football program which was felt for generations."

The aftermath:

Although both UW and Oregon went unbeaten in 1916, Oregon went to the 1917 Rose Bowl because of traveling cost considerations; reportedly, it was $215 cheaper to get to Los Angeles from Eugene by train than it was from Seattle.

Washington State, back on the UW schedule in 1917 and a member of the PCC, scored a 14-0 victory over Claude J. Hunt, who had replaced Dobie as head coach. The game was played in Seattle.

Stanford joined the PCC in 1917, as well. Idaho and USC joined the conference in 1922. Montana and UCLA were added in 1924 and 1928, respectively. It remained that way until Montana exited the conference in 1950. 

I counted 15 letter winners on the 1916 team (See Appendix B below).

Eastern Bias?

In 1916, Paul R. Purman of the Des Moines Daily News, wrote, " Here is "The New's own all American team for 1916. Stars in every section (of the country) are given recognition. This gets away from the idea of picking stars almost entirely from one section as is done in most all-American selections. The selection of a real representative team presents obstacles few other years have developed."

Purman went on to list Louis Seagrave of Washington, as a first-team all-American selection.

Grounded pessimism, Navy and Cornell:

Dobie coached three years at Navy (1917-1919) before moving on to Cornell where he posted three unbeaten seasons in 1921, '22 and '23. Previously he was 17-3-0 at Navy and went 6-2-0 in his first season at Cornell in 1920.

On October 20, 1917, the Lima Daily News, Lima, Ohio, printed an article written by Dobie titled, "Dobie gives lesson on interference and Aerial." In his article, Dobie wrote, "There are several ways of passing," and then describes them. "The most practical way," he wrote, "seems to be to hold the ball in the hand, in the crotch made by the thumb and fingers, with the arm well up above the head. When the ball is shot forward It starts from a higher elevation and has more accuracy and precision..."

So much for the apocryphal that states his affinity for off-tackle slants and aversion to forward passes.  As early as 1908, Dobie was talking about the pass, according to this newspaper article. "Coach Dobie believes football players, particularly the backs, will be benefited by playing the game. His theory is that men who learn to handle a basketball and shoot it accurately can utilize this knowledge in football when the forward pass is used. Besides, says Dobie, the game develops quick thinking and greater ability." (Centralia Daily Chronicle, Centralia, Washington, Dec 15, 1908)

Writing about Dobie's stint at Navy, a columnist from the Carbon Dale Free Press (Illinois) wrote the following on July 2, 1929:

When coaching at Navy "Gil Dobie is, perhaps, the only football coach who ever devised a legitimate set of signals, only to have them barred by an official at game time. That happened when Dobie was piloting the Navy squad and Charley Daly was the tutor at West Point. There was great rivalry between Dobie and Daly before that incident took place and this was intensified afterward. Gil Doble's signals that year involved use of the word 'hike'. That was chanted immediately after the numbers. But there was a variation. The call on the first play would end merely with 'hike'. But the second would be 'Hike-Hike'."

The variation in play calling was used to draw opponents offside.

From 1924 through 1933, under Dobie, Cornell posted seven-winning seasons and three break-even seasons. Cornell had a losing season in 1934, with a record of 2-5-0.

At the beginning of the 1935 season, the eternally pessimistic coach may have not just been blowing smoke in a press release when he said, "just a bunch of boys -- no team. I just line them up and let them work out."

On October 5, 1935, the morning before Cornell's game with Western Reserve, the Cornell Daily Sun wrote, "Western Reserve is evidently going to provide plenty of opposition for the Dobiemen this afternoon. The Red Cats, supposed to be a warm up game for the Cornell gridmen, may bring with them a little more heat than was expected when they were substituted for Richmond by the schedule makers. Corenellians will remember how the Virginia boys warmed up Gil Dobie's protégés last season, 6-0."

That afternoon, the Red Cats beat the Dobiemen, 33-19. His last season at Cornell, Dobie finished 0-6-1 on the '35 season, his early pessimism being grounded in fact.

On February 2, 1936, The Syracuse Herald published this headline on its sports page, "Gil Dobie quits Cornell football," and in a subhead, wrote, "Harmony is motive given as veteran steps aside."

His "controversial" $12,500 per-year contract, not due to expire until May 1,1938, was bought out by the school for $11,000.

The Herald writer continued, "At first Cornell was satisfied to blame defeats on a lack of material, due to rigid regulations, exonerating the coach who managed to bob up with a 'surprise victory or two' each season until last fall when a tie with Columbia was the only redeeming feature of a season which did not see Cornell victorious In a single game."

The Cornell Daily Sun said that undergraduate sentiment caused Dobie to resign.

Accepting Dobie's termination letter, Cornell's director of athletics wrote, "On the other hand it is only fair to inform you that it is a matter of record that you have a host of loyal supporters, particularly among the men you have coached."

Upon his departure, Dobie quipped, "You can't win games with Phi Beta Kappas."

He finished up at Cornell with a 82-36-7 record.

On September 22, 1936, the Big Spring Daily Herald (Big Spring, Texas) wrote, "Dobie left an amazing record at Cornell despite the lean years which marked the ending of his service at that school. When Cornell defeated its traditional rival, Penn, in 1921, '22 and '23 to break the spell of Franklin field, on which the Ithacans had gained only four victories in a series dating back to 1893, Dobie was hailed as a miracle man. His left-tackle smash was the most-dreaded power play in football."

The paper continues, "His record on the Pacific coast was one of the most brilliant chapters ever written by a football coach. Over a stretch of nine years, from 1908 through 1916, his teams at the University of Washington never once were defeated. His Huskies played 61 games over that period and their record showed 58 victories and three ties. In only nineteen games were these teams scored on."

His career was lost to the expanding universe of college football, Boston College:

Dobie coached at Boston College from 1936-1938, posting a 16-6-5 record. Prior to the '36 season, the 58-year old coach broke his collarbone in spring practice while scrimmaging with his team.

In September 1936, a Lowell, Mass. columnist wrote,  "Dobie is a fundamentalist, first, last and always. He has insisted on reducing football to its simplest form, declaring that not only it is unfair to the boy to expect him to grasp too many complications, but that there Is nothing as effective as good blocking and tackling. In his later years at Cornell, Dobie was forced to fight off an Insurgent alumni block which believed his brand of football was outmoded. They accused him of neglecting forward and lateral passes. On the other hand, It was no secret that Cornell did not have the material which once rode high and wide along the shores of Lake Cayuga. Dobie prevailed when he  had the talent with which to fashion a winner."

After the '36 season, in December, he was severely injured in an automobile accident in Boston when his car hit a bridge support. A few days before the accident, his Boston College team had pulled off a "surprise" 13-12 victory over Holy Cross.

After a four-loss season at Boston College in 1937, the Lowel Sun (Lowel, Massachusetts, July 27, 1938) , wrote:

"Something of ominous significance is detected in the fact that Boston College is the first of the New England football forces to call training. The Eagles will report on   September 1, and that, sirs, is real early. It isn't early enough, apparently, for Gil Dobie who last year saw one of the most potentially powerful squads in the east bog down and wallow like an elephant in a fish pond. The collapse almost cost Dobie his job. 'Practice' he crisply states, 'will start this year on Sept. 1" Hot dog!'"

In poor health, Dobie left Boston College after the '38 season, a season in which his team won every game but one.

One newspaper columnist reminisced, "that early in the '30's, at Cornell, Dobie's teams started to lose. Power was overcome by trick plays of more modern coaches...He did much better at Boston College, but the players, I understand, resented his old-fashioned training methods and the Eagles' old-fashioned showing."

Power football, the dreaded off-tackle slant and rigorous scrimmages had sadly seen their day, and in the world of college football, the Sad Scott faded from view.

"A football coach can only wind up two ways--dead or a failure," is one of Dobie's most famous quotes.

After he retired, Dobie said, “I don’t miss football. Sleep comes easily now, and I get up when I choose. The pressure, and it was terrific, is gone now. Sometimes I think football has gotten out of hand. I prefer the old-fashioned way when the game was played not so much for the gate receipts, but for itself.”

Reunion in Seattle, Washington Athletic Club, 1940

In 1940, Gil Dobie met with a group of his former Washington players at the Washington Athletic Club in Seattle, making the long trip by train from Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. The event, which was organized by his players, was led by legendary Washington quarterback Wee Coyle (1908-1911).

The event, which filled a ballroom at the hotel, was well-covered by both Seattle newspapers, The Seattle Times and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (namely by sportswriter Royal Brougham at the P-I). During the trip, Dobie met with UW head coach Jim Phelan and toured the campus, as well as Husky Stadium.

Will Lomen, a grandson of Coyle, has commemorated this reunion with an exact copy of the thank-you letter written by Dobie to his grandfather and an old photo taken at the get-together.

From the collection of Will Lomen, a grandson of Wee Coyle (thank-you letter and photo from the event):

Left to right: Maxwell Eakins, Gilmour Dobie, Wee Coyle

(See the adventures of Wee Coyle).

In defense of Dobie's record at UW:

The quest for elevating Dobie's accomplishments to their proper station will always draw an opposing argument that is founded in the scheduling of cream puffs, patsies, or whatever you want to call them.

No, Dobie never coached in the SEC.

In addressing that argument, remember that Dobie at Washington 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, which played its share of juggernauts, such as Alma, the Christian Brothers, Ohio Northern, Rose Hulman, North Division High, American Medical, Bennett Medical, and Kalamazoo. Wabash beat Notre Dame, 5-0, in 1905. Patsies, as they would be called today, weren't always easy games in Dobie's era. Yale beat Notre Dame 28-0 in 1914. Cornell triumphed over Michigan in 1916, 23-20. 

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.

The eight games with high schools over his nine seasons at Washington may be likened to the "soft" out-of-conference opponents scheduled by some of the major FBS schools today. Soft? Remember that Seattle high school had tied Washington in the season before Gloomy Gil's arrival. UW had narrowly beaten Seattle high school the year before that, 4-0.

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

The Rockne Schedule [Grosshandler]

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 X’s and O’s," Grosshandler wrote, "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. (Also, see Appendix C.22).

The weather in the Northwest

Also the weather in the Northwest benefited the opposition more than once. Inclement weather can be a 12th man for an underdog. Yet Dobie continued to win, whether it was on a soggy field or on a day when the skies poured, the winds howled or the snow fell. 

For instance, on November 4, 1916, a reporter in the Oakland Tribune wrote, "Eight years without a rival worthy of his metal Gil Dobie, pessimistic czar of Washington's football forces, found his match today when the team of the University of Oregon held his charges to a scoreless tie on a field (in Eugene) that resembled a lake. Oregon covered herself with glory and mud, and her students tonight are celebrating a "victory" in Portland and lauding the heroes who held Dobie's eight-year champions to an even break and foretold his fall as undisputed czar of football in the Northwest...the field was so slippery that open attacks were useless, and both sides got down to a working basis of old-fashioned line plunging."

The table below shows the winning percentages for the six teams in the Northwest league from 1908-1916, for all games played. [Table courtesy of Lynn Borland [Borland2]).


Winning Percentage



Washington State


Oregon State






Combined percentage for the above




Need for a statue:

Gil Dobie, in his nine years at Washington, never lost a game. He is the founder and father of Husky fever. His team beat Cal on November 6, 1915, when the "fight" song was first played. In 1916, his team won the first ever Pacific Coast Conference championship. In addition to his membership in the Husky Football Hall of Fame, he is a member of the Washington State Sports Hall of Fame.

Not only is the Husky nation proud of Dobie's unsurpassed record on the gridiron but it respects equally his many accomplishments in instilling "character and manhood" in the players he coached.

Upon Dobie's departure from Washington in 1916, Coyle had this to say about his old coach, “The man who is about to leave our midst has developed more character, more manhood, than any member of the faculty, except our beloved Professor Meany.” [Johnson]. Coyle served as the Lieutenant Governor of  Washington State from 1921-1925.

As a testimony to Coyle's remarks about character building, Demming "Dick" Bronson won the Medal of Honor for heroism in France in World War I. Bronson was awarded an honorary letter in 1915 (Appendix A below).

Apparently hit by shrapnel, football star Cy Noble (1913) was killed in World War I. (November 14, 1918, The Centralia Daily Chronicle).

Gil Dobie is to Washington as Knute Rockne is to Notre Dame. Along with Rockne, he was a contemporary of such famed football coaches as Fielding H. Yost, Percy Haughton, Major Frank Cavanaugh, Bill Roper, Johnny Heisman and Bob Folwell.

The Dobie record at Washington is 'statuesque'

-- Dobie went undefeated in his 62 games at Washington, which is the longest undefeated streak (59-0-3) for any coach at any one school in college football.

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

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

-- Washington's undefeated streak of 64 games, of which Gil Dobie coached 97% of them, is an NCAA record.

-- 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.

Immortality: This article is dedicated to the memory of William ("Wee") Coyle, who played quarterback for Gil Dobie from 1908 until 1911. He is no longer frightened of his coach. It is said they have been seen walking across Denny Field on moonlit nights, arm-in-arm, always smiling, always laughing, always upbeat. "Run it for me, kid, just one more time. Come on, kid, just one more time, one more time for Gloomy Gil."

Eerily, likenesses of Wayne Sutton and BeVan Presley, in glistening form, join Coyle onto a playing field transforming into its original state. It is said that Coyle tucks his leather helmet into his gut and runs the Dobie-Bunk Play, while Sutton takes a handoff from Presley and runs towards an end zone that engulfs him in its swallowing shadow.

At the gonging of the Varsity Bell, the Sled Dawgs embrace the gathering, their sled circling the field. 'Joyfully they sled on high, those sled Dawgs joined from afar. Mals and Huskies in the sky, their gravitas pulling at our star.'

"Sutton, Presley, once more," Dobie shouts skyward while Coyle dons his helmet and barks out the play that calls the slowly brightening apparitions into formation, blank faces, too, called to the fore, this wiliness repeating itself until the tiring field, deafened by the roar of the glistening gathering, returns to its present state.

In an infinite multi-verse, there'll be another night to practice the bunk play, for this ardent assembly of playfulness is an inexorable amalgam of elements created by the stars.     

Scraps from the table:

Gil Dobie was born Jan 31, 1878 in Hastings, Minnesota and died December 23, 1948 at the age of 70. [Borland].

Orphaned at a young age, he grew up in a milieu of penury and hard work (see "Gilmour Dobie: Why the Pursuit of Perfection?") Whipsawed between indentured servitude and school, Dobie didn't graduate from high school until the age of 21. 

"Dobie became a widower at a very young age, when his wife, Eva (Butler) Dobie, died of stomach cancer in 1927, leaving three children, the oldest of whom was 12. Eva died while Dobie was head coach at Cornell (where his teams won two national championships)." [Johnson].

Oregon State tied Washington in 1914, snapping a
40-game winning streak, the second longest in college football history. 

In 1900, as quarterback, Dobie led Minnesota to a Big-10 championship. He graduated from Minnesota with a law degree.

After leaving Washington, he would go on to coach at Navy, Cornell and Boston College. He was selected to the College Football Hall of Fame, and was a charter member of the Football Coaches association when it was formed in 1921. He served as its president until 1928. 

Over the course of 12 years and
70 games, Dobie's teams never lost a game [8-0-0 at North Dakota State (1906-07); 59-0-3, Washington (1908-1916); one win at Navy before losing to West Virginia, 7-0, on October 6, 1917)].

During his thirty-three year career, he was
183-45-15, had fourteen undefeated seasons, posted 26-straight wins at Cornell, and held opposing teams scoreless almost half the time. 

Besides winning the first PCC title in 1916, Dobie's teams won 8 conference titles in the Northwest Conference, which includes the 1916 championship.

Gil Dobie's starting salary was $1,200. It was eventually raised to $3,000, which occurred on December 9, 1910, when he was elected to the student board of control. His final salary was $3,100 per year.


I wish to thank Mike Archbold, who, early on, was the first to spark my interest and subsequent effort in researching the life of Gilmour Dobie. Also thanks go to Lynn Borland for his hard work and dedication in researching Dobie's career and for setting the record straight. For example, his research uncovered the fact that the Dobiemen played 62 games at UW, not the 61 written into stone by the football literature. [Borland].

Appendix A. The Dobie Record at Washington (59-0-3) [Corrections to 1956 media guide in red (Borland2)]

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 B. Meet the Dobiemen, long since passed into eternity (72 letter winners); also see appendix C.25

Abel, Don 1914, '16
Abel, George 1914
Anderson, Herman 1911-1914
Babcock, Frank 1904, '05, '08
Baker 1909
Bantz, Burwell 1905-1908
Bliss, Bernard 1911-1913
Bruce, James 1913
Cahill, Will 1910
Calkins, Julius 1916
Chapman, Myers 1914
Clark, Earl F. 1912-1913
Cook, Bill 1910
Coyle, William "Wee" 1908-1911
Cushman, Tom 1915
Devine, Richard 1911
Diether, Louis 1909
Dorman, Harry 1912, '13
Eakins, Mawell 1908-1910
Faulk, Ted 1916, '19, '20
Gellateley, Lester 1914
Griffiths, Burke 1913
Griffiths, Tom 1909-1912
Grimm, Huber 1905, '07, '09, '10
Grimm, Warren 1908-1911
Grimm, William 1915, '16, '19, '22
Hainsworth, Bill 1916
Hardy, Warren 1913
Hazelett, Calvin 1913
Hosely, Rex 1910
Hunt, Ray "Mike" 1912-1915
Husby, Pete 1910-1911
Jaquot, Frank 1912-1913
Jarvis, Paul 1905, '06, '08
Johnson, Ching 1916
Leader, Ed 1912, '13
Leader, Elmer 1913-1915
Logg, David 1915
Maguire, Ernest 1910
Markham, Tom 1915
Mattson, William 1907-1909
May, Charles 1909
Mayfield, Ben 1916
McKechnie, Ross 1915
McPherson, Andrew 1914
Miller, Cedric "Hap" 1912-1915
Morrison, Victor 1916
Mucklestone, Mellville 1908, '09, '11
Murphy, Ernest C. "Tramp" 1915-1917
Noble, Bernard 1913
Noble, Elmer 1914-1916
Patten, Jack 1911-1912
Pike, Roscoe 1910
Presley, BeVan 1910-1913
Pullen, Royal 1910, '11
Savage, Tony 1914
Seagrave, Louis 1913-1916
Shiel, Walter 1912-1915
Smith, Charles 1913-1914
Smith, George 1914, '15, '16, '19
Spargur, Fred 1909-1911
Sutton, Wayne 1910-1913
Swarva, G. L 1910
Taylor, Leonard 1908, '09
Tegtmeier, Fred 1906-1909
Tidball, Ben 1916, '19
Wand, Walter 1909-1911
Westover, Ralph 1908
Wick, Sanford 1916
Winn, Grover 1911
Wirt, Harry 1915, '16
Young, Allan 1912, '13, '15

Honorary Letter Winners:

Bronson, Dick 1915
Schiveley, Hugh 1913
Sweeney, Edward 1914 (This entry is questionable [Borland2])
Wand, Thomas 1912 [Borland2]

APPENDIX C. Tidbits from old Newspaper Articles and other publications.

In writing this article, I researched a number of old newspaper articles and publications looking for references to Dobie. Somehow, these bits and pieces never made into main article, so I'm including some of the more interesting stuff here.



Washington's football team in 1913:

Ray Hunt, LE, 178 pounds
Elmer Leader, LT, 170
Tom Griffiths, LG, 180
BeVan Presley, C, 178
Louis Seagrave, RG, 182
Herman Anderson, RT, 186
Wayne Sutton, RE, 170
Allan Young, QB, 165
"Hap" Miller, LH, 185
Walter Shiel, FB, 180
Frank Jaquot, RH, 170

"Washington -- A University of the Northwest," Henry J. Case, 1914.



"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, Brownsville Daily Herald, December 30, 1916



"Never since the forward pass was made a part of the football game has any team used the play with such wonderful effect as W. and J. used it against Yale. It was bewildering, astonishing—and oven beyond. W. and J. tried 38 forward passes during that game and 31 were successful. It was an exhibition, the like of which may not be duplicated for years to come." Frank Menke, The San Antonio Light, Nov 7, 1915



"Dobie some years ago decided upon secret practice. He closed the gates to the field, and plugged up the knotholes In the fences. A roar went up from the students who had been in the habit of spending their afternoons watching the workouts. 'Roar all you want,' snapped Dobie, when protests were made to him. 'I've decided that secret practice Is the best thing for the team—and the practice will be secret.' And it was." November 7, 1915, the San Antonio Light.



'Some years ago two members of the Washington faculty passed by the football field and overheard Dobie using 'shocking language.' They hustled to the Prexy and made a complaint. Dobie explained at his 'trial' that he had to use 'language' at times to emphasize his orders, and that he intended to go right ahead and use 'language.' And he is." November 7,  1915, the San Antonio Light.



"Dobie will spend an entire afternoon on one item of offense or defense and consider the time well spent if his charges grasp the Idea. When he works out new plays he moves around his players like wooden pieces in a chess game and he continues to move them about until satisfied that the play is a success or failure." November 7,  1915, the San Antonio Light.



"Dobie is tall and gaunt and cynical and with an almost overmastering hatred for publicity. Off the football field he keeps to himself; he talks but rarely — and never on football. That's his business — and he leaves business behind when business hours are over." November 7,  1915, the San Antonio Light.



"PORTLAND. July 27.—Gilmour Dobie, of the University of Washington football team, is the first of the coaches to open the new season with a 'hard luck' story which become so plentiful as the season progresses and which nowadays always are taken with liberal applications of salt. Dobie is radiating gloom, and the source is the Mexican situation. President Wilson, Carranza and Villa, all of which he feels are conspiring to break his wonderful record of nine seasons of unbroken victory on the gridiron. With the call of the national guard for border duty, four of seven of last season's veterans joined the colors as well as three of his best second string men on whom he counted to fill up the gaps made by graduation. These men are Murphy, Grimm, McKechnie, Logg, Waring, Hardie and Boyle.

"'I am not certain what proportions of our opponents' teams have gone out with the guard,' said the coach, "and the situation may be better in September. However, we are confronted with a difficult schedule at the best, and In the present circumstances I have no high hopes.'

"Rival coaches smile knowingly. Similar wails have been emitted by Dobie  during the past nine years, during which time him teams have yet to feel , the sting of defeat. "Oakland Tribune, July 27, 1916.



"'The best trainer of an athlete is his mother. When I can get the mothers to care for my football players I never worry about the physical condition of my team. Most of the credit  given me as coach belongs to the mothers of the boys. A football player should be kept normal. Give him the good home cooking he is accustomed to, his home bed and home surroundings.  The one thing I, bar is intoxicants. I never have small men on my teams. The small man does not belong in football. A good player needs to be big  from the waist down. He gets his drive, the thing, that counts, from his legs;  I don't believe in having a whole lot of plays. A dozen or so are enough. Players should be kept in good mental condition. I send my boys into a game thinking they have a fine chance of being whipped and only a small chance of winning. That makes them fight.'" Reno Evening Gazette, Nov 1, 1915.



"Gilmour Dobie, coach of the University of Washington football team, who resigned at the conclusion of the past season, is the 'miracle man' of football." The Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, Dec 23, 1915.



ITHACA, April 25.— "Announcement  that Gilmour Dobie's contract to coach Cornell football teams had been extended to May 1, 1933, was made here yesterday by Graduate Manager Romeyan Berry. The extension runs from May 1, 1026, the time the existing contract would have expired, and is in line with Cornell's  attempted policy-of permanent resident coaching as in the case of the late Charles E. Courtney, coach of rowing, and John F. Moakley, present track coach, who has been here since 1899." Olean Evening Herald, Olean, New York, April 25, 1923.



"Coach Dobie believes football players, particularly the backs, will be benefited by playing the game. His theory is that men who learn to handle a basketball and shoot it accurately can utilize this knowledge in football when the forward pass is used. Besides, says Dobie, the game develops quick thinking and greater ability." Centralia Daily Chronicle, Centralia, Washington, Dec 15, 1908.



"Gilmour Dobie, who has coached the University of Washington to three consecutive Northwest championships, was last night elected to the student board of control to continue as head coach for the next three years, his salary to be $3000 for each season's work." Oakland Tribune, December 9, 1910.



The University of Washington Daily has the following to say of John Markham, the big Centralia athlete who participated in the university's defeat of Gonzaga at Spokane Saturday:

Tried out in the line and found dependable, John Markham, "Mark," of Centralia was one of the men whom Dobie took with him to Spokane last night to help wallop "Wee" Coyle's aggregation of all stars from prep schools, athletic clubs and other institutions about the state now playing for Gonzaga.

Markham is on the squad for his second year. He is 23 years of age and is 5 feet 11 inches in height. He is trying out for right tackle on the first team.

Centralia Daily Chronicle Examiner, Monday, October 25, 1915.



SEATTLE, Wash., Dec. 6.—William "Wee" Coyle, last year coach of Gonzaga, may be the next football coach at the University of Washington. Coyle has applied for the job and will probably land it. Last year he coached the Gonzaga eleven with wonderful success, and has been offered a contract for next year, but he wants to go to Washington. Coyle was the greatest quarterback to appear on the coast when playing under Dobie at Washington. He was a marvelous open-field runner and punter, and the best field general that Dobie ever had. He only weighed 132 pounds when in condition.

The Bakersfield Californian, Monday, December 6, 1915



"'From what I saw in the east cannot say that the east is superior to the west. My last year's University of Washington team could have easily beaten any eastern eleven this fall.

"'However, it is not fair to make a comparison this year. Take the Navy for instance—due to hurried graduations because of the war. The  Navy did not have her usual material. Our colleges and universities In the  east were affected in  similar way, and I guess the west in general outclassed the east.'" The LaCross Tribune and Leader-Press, Dec 25, 1917, La Cross, Wisconsin



"Revenge on the gridiron. That's what the University of California wants and demands. Said revenge is to be peeled from the football hide of the University of Washington—that is, if the expenditure of $12,000 on a brilliant coaching staff can do it.

"Glittering among the personalities of this high priced coaching band are Eddie Mahan, great Harvard star, and Andy Smith of Columbia University.  ...

"Dobie, taciturn and defeatless, doubtless ponders in his tent at the stirring scenes on the rejuvenated California campus. In Oregon, sister state to Washington, Dobie is vastly unpopular. Oregon men claim he has purposely avoided dates with them that would have meant his defeat. There will be joy in Oregon if California licks Dobie. But the big idea is that Dobie has never been defeated. His cohorts buried California beneath a scandalous score. The blue and gold is building all its hopes anent the day when California again faces Washington ...

"Twelve thousand dollars to win a football game?

"Will California and her coaching stars turn the trick?"

Reno Evening News, Sept 14, 1916



Gil complimented the team on their victory over California in this manner: "You're a pack of bums. Lucky you had the breaks with you. Half of you fellows who played today will be lucky if you are on the sidelines on Thanksgiving day. If I keep you in, they'll surely beat us."

Ironically, President Suzzallo was among the dignitaries who attended the game, a 13-3 victory over California at Berkeley.

"(Sanford) Wick, Washington center, had a great deal of annoyance from his shoulder pads and time out was called on two occasions so he could set them right. In one of the melees Wick then got Into trouble with himself over his sweater. It was terribly ripped and he beat it as quick as his legs could carry him to the Washington bench so he could get a new sweater. That one didn't seem to fit, or something was the matter, and Wick then changed with (Ben) Mayfield."

Oakland Tribune, November 19, 1916

Rockne 1918-1930



“The disagreement between Dobie and President Suzzallo is caused by a misunderstanding on part of the president. In some manner President Suzzallo has gotten the idea into his head that the educational functions of the university are of vastly more importance than the football team. This error of judgment, while regrettable, is excusable. For nine long years, spurred on by Dobie's zeal and profanity, Washington has waged successful football warfare.

“Coach Dobie, assisted by such material as he was able to gather from the rolls of the University, has won victory after victory. And all this time the University has grown and prospered. Any football fan will tell you that this growth has been entirely due to the wonderful record which Dobie has achieved. There can be no question of this—in their minds. Now with a president who puts mathematics over muscle, brain over brawn, the future of the university is indeed shrouded in uncertainty.”

The Argus, following Dobie's dismissal, weighs in with a sarcastic editorial in 1916. ("The Argus was a longstanding Seattle, Washington weekly newspaper. Founded in February 1894 and published until November 1983, it had a satiric bent and was aligned with the Republican Party." Wikipedia.)



"It is only right and is well deserved to commend Suzzallo for his success in advancing the university’s academic standards. Dobie made numerous public statements placing academics above sports and never took a position that his players should shortchange class work for football. The editorial writers (the Argus) took a position against Dobie, which they had every right to do, but the final judgment of this case should be based on the actions of the parties and not on whether there was some overarching conflict between scholarship and athletics. For entirely different reasons than the editorial writers chose, both Dobie and Suzzallo are entitled to praise, just as both are deserving of criticism."

From Dobie biographer Lynn Borland, "Pursuit of Perfection," 2010, in response to Argus editorial.



According to Wikipedia, Dobie coached basketball at North Dakota Agricultural from 1906-1908 (17-5).



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%)



“Yes, I am through as football coach at the University of Washington. And while my regret in severing these relations is most keen, my greater regret is that I could not have stepped out of the position I have held for nine years with a feeling that the greatest goodwill existed between myself and the head of the great university and his faculty associates.

“At this time I am torn between conflicting emotions. I do not feel that publicity can do the situation a bit of good: while on the other hand, there are thousands of University of Washington students and alumni and thousands of friends of the institution who have kindly interested themselves in the matter, that it seems they are entitled to know briefly what has happened to place me in this position.

“It is unfortunate for the state university that a football coach should be given a distinction totally out of proportion to the relative position he should occupy in the scheme of things. I am placed through no fault of my own, in the position of being a ‘big issue,’ when as a matter of fact I am not entitled to it. I didn’t want it. I am sorry, very sorry, it has happened.

“Briefly as possible, I am going to sketch what has happened to provoke from Dr. Suzzallo, head of the university, a statement to the effect that, ‘Dobie will not be with us next year. The chief function of the university is to train character. Mr. Dobie failed to perform to his full share of that responsibility on the football field. Therefore we do not wish him to return next year.’

“This statement of mine must be considered only as an explanation due to those who have gone so far as to favor me with a vote of approval, which took the form of a movement to have me retained at the institution as a football coach. I am not seeking a further approval. I am simply explaining, with the assurance that it will be the last and only word from me on the subject.

“The statement issued last Friday night by President Suzzallo was based on an investigation conducted by him into the incidents of a so-called ‘strike’ on the part of the football team on the eve of the Thanksgiving day game with California, a ‘strike’ caused by the removal of a member of the team from participation in that game, the removal directed by the student board of control and the faculty.

“The incident of that ‘strike’ and its ultimate outcome—the squad returning to the game—are too fresh in mind to repeat here.

“Now the position of the football coach in that ‘strike’ has never been in doubt. The coach was ‘for the team.’ That attitude has cost the coach a public reprimand, as bound up in the statement of President Suzzallo last night.

“And yet that reprimand, administered publicly, be it justified or not, I can bear with equanimity; for, I believe that my support of the ‘strikers’ was justified, and that a great good has been accomplished. I cannot believe but that the strike revealed that the football players hold a weapon of defense that can be used when, in the future, they are similarly attacked.

“I did not suggest or incite the rebellion against a faculty authority, but I did stand with the players when they rebelled. I did it with a full knowledge of the responsibility I had to assume. I knew at that time—and long before—that I could no longer work as football coach under the conditions with which I had been surrounded.

“I felt that the football team was being grossly wronged by robbing it of a member whom I had approved as the best man in the defensive scheme of the team’s existence; robbed of his services on the eve of the season’s crucial game; taken out ten days after he had been adjudged guilty of an offense against college ethics; taken out after he had been already allowed to participate in another football game subsequent to his conviction; eliminated without having committed any breach of conference eligibility.

“If I can do a service for the man or men who come after me by preventing the possibility of making the football team suffer at the whim and caprice of outsiders, then I will be perfectly willing to accept all the abuse they can heap upon me.

“That was my attitude expressed at the time I took my step and came out into the open in support of the position of the ‘strikers.’

“Neither the members of the football squad nor myself ever approved of the alleged offense of the player who was removed; but he had been placed in the position of being obliged to crowd two months’ work into one month’s study. This was due to his national guard service on the border and at American Lake encampment.

“Had there been any faculty mercy the student-player would have been allowed to make up his studies during the holiday vacation; had there been any co-ordination of spirit between the faculty and the student body this young man would never have been ‘put under the guns.

“If he committed an offense it was so that he could remain with the team. Would it have been just for the men for whom he was fighting not to have stood by him when he was trying to do as much for them?

“The truth of the whole matter, in a nutshell, is that there are men close to the athletic situation at the University of Washington, who realize, as I have realized for years, that the student body has become settled in its smug satisfaction that ‘Washington can’t be beaten in football.’

“It’s fatal—such an attitude—to the good of college spirit. These athletic authorities have felt that a beating would be a good thing for the school. It should shake everybody up. And I felt just exactly as these men felt; but we were approaching it from different angles—a solution of this problem. I felt that a defeat would be effective; but I wanted it to come through the course of the fortunes of war.”


December 9, 1916



The schism between the upper and lower campuses at UW was first visible as early as 1908 when Dobie wrote the following for The Washingtonian during his first football season: “Washington is laboring under one handicap which I feel that a little serious initiative on the part of the faculty would serve to remove. I am the last man to say that football players should not be in good standing; but I do believe that the standards set should be the same in all the colleges whose teams meet in regular contests. I understand that Oregon, Idaho and Pullman have lower standards than has Washington, and feel that this is an unfortunate state of affairs, and one that should not be allowed to go by default.”


For the complete Dobie Roster, click below. (Table provided by biographer Lynn Borland).

Dobie Players    



Appeals to force

President Suzzallo then quoted from coach Dobie's public statement to show that the coach had not accepted his responsibility in developing the character of the students. The coach's statement that the "strike had shown that the football team has a weapon to use when similarly attacked" was quoted by the president as an expression recommending resort to a forceful rather than rational solution of problems.

"The University teaches men to settle problems by an appeal to facts instead of force," said the president," I would not tolerate on the football field or faculty of any institution which I head a man who advocated a resort to coercion."

Thanks for Dobie

"The resolution adopted by the meeting follows: "Whereas. Considerable publicity is given to the retirement of Gilmour Dobie as football coach at the University of Washington, and incidents leading thereto, and it seems advisable that the Seattle branch of the University of Washington Alumni Association expresses its sentiments regarding these matters; now, therefore;

"Be it resolved. That we herewith extent (sic) to Mr. Dobie our sincere thanks for his valuable services to Washington during the past nine years and our good wishes for his future success and.

"Be it further resolved. That we express our approval of the action taken by President Suzzallo and congratulate him for his courageous insistence upon the principle that athletics shall, at all times, be subservient to the building of character, the main and unalterable purpose of the University of Washington."

12/17/1916 President's Suzzallo's talk given at a meeting of the University of Washington Alumni Association


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











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

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