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
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
“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
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
In nine years' time, Gilmour Dobie
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."
Losing wasn't in the stern
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.
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
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
of coach Rockne in October 2009, placing it just
outside Notre Dame Stadium.
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,
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
in what has become an intense
rivalry between the two schools, began in the Dobie era, although modern-day thinking has
beginning in 1948.
And they just weren't mad at Dobie in the state of
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
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
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
"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].
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."
(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
71 consecutive games without a defeat; lost his 2nd game at Navy
# 3 unbeaten seasons, 1921, 22, 23; first losing season in 1934
78.4% of his games;
97.6% at Washington
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
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
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
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."
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,
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
Presley, Pullen, Cook, Diether, ?, Hosely, ?, ?, Coyle, Pike, Spargur
Collon, Hawley, Beebe, Ohmick, Bliss, ? Cahill
-- Photo courtesy of Will Lomen
The boycott season in 1915:
his stay at Washington, Dobie posted
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
On December 9, 1916, the Seattle Post
Intelligencer printed Dr. Suzzallo's statement explaining Dobie's
“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."
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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."
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
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).
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
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."
$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
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
scrimmaging with his team.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Left to right: Maxwell Eakins, Gilmour Dobie, Wee Coyle
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
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
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
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]).
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
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.
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
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);
(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
titles in the Northwest Conference, which includes the 1916
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)]
(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.
Queen Anne HS 34-0; (10-16)
(10-23) Lincoln HS 20-0;
(10-30) at Idaho, 50-0;
(11-6) Whitman 17-0; (11-13) at Oregon State
(11-25) Oregon 20-6.
(10-8) Lincoln HS, 20-0; (10-15) at College of Puget Sound, 51-0;
12-8; (11-5) Idaho 29-0;
(11-12) at Washington
State 16-0; (11-24) Oregon State 22-0.
(10-2) Lincoln HS, 42-0; (10-14) Fort Worden,
(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.
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.
(9-27) Everett HS, 26-0; (10-11) All-Navy, 23-7; (10-18) Whitworth, 100-0;
(10-25) Oregon State 47-0;
(11-15) at (Portland) Oregon 10-7; (11-27) Washington State, 20-0.
(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.
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.
(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;
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
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
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
'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
"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,
"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
"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
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
"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
“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
“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.
Wikipedia, Dobie coached basketball at North
Dakota Agricultural from 1906-1908 (17-5).
The Rockne Schedule (breathers):
Mt Union (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."
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
For the complete Dobie Roster,
click below. (Table provided by biographer Lynn Borland).
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;
"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
[huskyfan] Husky Score Archive, huskyfan.com
[Dallas] Dallas Morning News web site
[Rockne, 1975] Rockne, Dick, "Bow Down to Washington," The Strode
Publishers, Huntsville, Alabama, 1975.
[100 Years] "100 Years of Husky Football," Professional Sports
Publications, New York City, New York.
[Ours, 2000] Ours, Robert, "An authoritative Guide to 131 Years of
College Football, 3rd Edition," CD ROM edition, 2000.
[Lomen] Lomen, Will, "Wee
Coyle: A memoir of my grandfather, Chapter I," www.4malamute.com,
21 March 2011.
[Brief History] Introduction: A brief
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