Jack Forsythe

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Jack Forsythe
Sport(s) Football
Biographical details
Born Unknown
Died April 3, 1957
Playing career
Florida State College
Position(s) Guard, fullback
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Florida State College
Head coaching record
Overall 14–6–2 (.682)
College Football Data Warehouse

Jack A. Forsythe, Jr. (c. 1881 – April 3, 1957), nicknamed "Pee Wee" Forsythe, was an American college football player and coach.[1] Forsythe has an important place in the history of college athletics in the U.S. state of Florida as the first head coach of the team now known as the University of Florida Gators. He had previously been the second football coach at Florida State College, now Florida State University, before it was reorganized as a school for white women.

College playing career[edit]

Forysthe was a standout football player at right guard for Clemson Agricultural College (now Clemson University) in Clemson, South Carolina, playing for three years under coach John Heisman, from 1901 to 1903.[2][3] Heisman's Clemson Tigers football teams finished 3–1–1, 6–1 and 4–1–1 during those seasons,[4] and Forsythe started in each of those games.[2] Moreover, he played every minute of those eighteen games, providing a remarkable example of athletic stamina and resilience.[5] As was typical in the early 1900s, Forsythe played both offense and defense. Teammates on the line included Vet Sitton, Hope Sadler, and O. L. Derrick.

Coaching career[edit]

Forsythe became an assistant coach for the fledgling football team of Florida State College (now Florida State University) in 1903.[6] Florida State College's head coach, W. W. Hughes, planned to use Forsythe as a fullback in a game against the University of Florida in Lake City (one of the predecessor institutions of the modern University of Florida, previously known as Florida Agricultural College), creating a controversy between the teams.[7] For the 1904 season, the third and last for FSC's football team, Hughes transferred all coaching duties to Forsythe. The reason for this is unknown, but Hughes, who was also a Latin professor, may have taken on increased academic duties.[6] Forsythe played on top of his coaching duties, and was probably paid.[6] Under Forsythe, the FSC football team defeated the University of Florida at Lake City, and after defeating Stetson College (now Stetson University), FSC was declared "champion of Florida" by The Florida Times-Union newspaper of Jacksonville.[6]

In 1905 the Florida Legislature passed the Buckman Act, which reorganized higher education in Florida. The University of Florida in Lake City was merged with three other institutions to form the new "University of the State of Florida", a school for white men. Florida State College became the Florida Female College, a school for white women, and a number of its former male students transferred to the new university.[8] After the demise of the FSC football team, Forsythe coached the university school prep team in Stone Mountain, Georgia for a year.[9] In May 1906, he was hired by the new University of the State of Florida to be its first director of athletics and to coach its first official football team in the coming fall season.[9][10]

Forsythe coached at Florida for three seasons from 1906 to 1908, and he compiled a 14–6–2 overall win-loss record.[11][12] As measured by his winning percentage (.682), he is currently the eighth winningest football coach in team history.[13][12] In addition to his coaching duties for which he was paid $500, Forsythe also played on the team as a fullback and was purportedly paid an additional $500.[14] In 1907, the Florida football team posted a 4–1–1 record, due in large part to the play of William Shands, who later was elected as a state senator and helped found the University of Florida College of Medicine.[15]

Head coaching record[edit]

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Florida State College (Independent) (1904–1904)
1904 Florida State College 2–3
Florida State College: 2–3
Florida[16] (Independent) (1906–1908)
1906 Florida 5–3
1907 Florida 4–1–1
1908 Florida 5–2–1
Florida: 14–6–2[11]
Total: 16–9–2

See also[edit]


  1. ^ There is an unresolved question regarding Forsythe's proper first name among various reference sources. Several books about Clemson football in the John Heisman years and one early Florida State College football source identify him as "Jack Forsythe." The University of Florida identifies him as "James Forsythe," the Clemson Alumni Association records ambiguously state his name as "J. A. Forsythe," the Clemson athletic department lists him as "Pee Wee Forsyth" in their 1901 to 1903 team rosters. It is unclear what source is correct, or whether "Jack" was merely an unusual nickname for James. Please see notes below.
  2. ^ a b Clemson Tigers Football, All-Time Starters, 1896–1905. Retrieved March 23, 2010.
  3. ^ 2008 Clemson Football Media Guide, Former Head Coaches, Clemson Athletic Department, Clemson, South Carolina, p. 170 (2008). Retrieved September 10, 2010.
  4. ^ College Football Data Warehouse, All-Time Records, John W. Heisman Records by Year. Retrieved March 23, 2010.
  5. ^ Wiley Lee Umphlett, Creating the Big Game: John W. Heisman and the Invention of American Football, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, p. 67 (1992).
  6. ^ a b c d Ric A. Kabat, "Before the Seminoles: Football at Florida State College, 1902–1904," Florida Historical Quarterly, vol. LXX, no. 1, p. 35 (July 1991).
  7. ^ Kabat, "Before the Seminoles," p. 34.
  8. ^ Kabat, "Before the Seminoles," p. 37.
  9. ^ a b "Coaching Job For Forsythe; He Will Have Charge of All Athletics at Florida," Atlanta Constitution, p. 9 (Mary 24, 1906). Retrieved March 24, 2010.
  10. ^ Florida Agricultural College located in Lake City, Florida, was one of four predecessor institutions that were consolidated in 1905 to create the modern University of Florida. Florida Agricultural College fielded a football team as early as 1899. Although the modern University of Florida traces its lineage to the college, it does not recognize the football games played by the college as part of the university's football record. Forsythe's 1906 team is the first one officially recognized by the university. Kevin M. McCarthy, Fightin' Gators: A History of University of Florida Football, Arcadia Publishing, pp. 1–12 (2000).
  11. ^ a b College Football Data Warehouse, All-Time Coaching Records, Jack Forsythe. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
  12. ^ a b 2012 Florida Football Media Guide, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, pp. 107, 115, 116 (2012). Retrieved September 16, 2012.
  13. ^ College Football Data Warehouse, Florida Coaching Records. Retrieved March 1, 2010.
  14. ^ Antonya English, "100 things about 100 years of Gator football," St. Petersburg Times (August 27, 2006). Retrieved March 1, 2010.
  15. ^ McCarthy, Fightin' Gators, p. 13.
  16. ^ The University of Florida football team did not adopt the "Gators" nickname until 1911.


  • 2012 Florida Football Media Guide, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida (2012).
  • Carlson, Norm, University of Florida Football Vault: The History of the Florida Gators, Whitman Publishing, LLC, Atlanta, Georgia (2007). ISBN 0-7948-2298-3.
  • Golenbock, Peter, Go Gators! An Oral History of Florida's Pursuit of Gridiron Glory, Legends Publishing, LLC, St. Petersburg, Florida (2002). ISBN 0-9650782-1-3.
  • Kabat, Ric A., "Before the Seminoles: Football at Florida State College, 1902–1904," Florida Historical Quarterly, vol. LXX, no. 1 (July 1991).
  • McCarthy, Kevin M., Fightin' Gators: A History of University of Florida Football, Arcadia Publishing, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina (2000). ISBN 978-0-7385-0559-6.
  • McEwen, Tom, The Gators: A Story of Florida Football, The Strode Publishers, Huntsville, Alabama (1974). ISBN 0-87397-025-X.
  • Nash, Noel, ed., The Gainesville Sun Presents The Greatest Moments in Florida Gators Football, Sports Publishing, Inc., Champaign, Illinois (1998). ISBN 1-57167-196-X.
  • Proctor, Samuel, & Wright Langley, Gator History: A Pictorial History of the University of Florida, South Star Publishing Company, Gainesville, Florida (1986). ISBN 0-938637-00-2.

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