1939 Stanford Indians football team

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1939 Stanford Indians football
Stanford block S.jpg
Conference Pacific Coast Conference
1939 record 1–7–1 (0–6–1 PCC)
Head coach Tiny Thornhill (7th year)
Offensive scheme Single-wing formation
Home stadium Stanford Stadium
← 1938
1940 →
1939 PCC football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
#3 USC $ 5 0 2     8 0 2
#7 UCLA 5 0 3     6 0 4
Oregon State 6 1 1     9 1 1
Washington 4 4 0     4 5 1
Oregon 3 3 1     3 4 1
Washington State 3 5 0     4 5 0
Montana 1 2 0     3 6 0
California 2 5 0     3 7 0
Stanford 0 6 1     1 7 1
Idaho 0 3 0     2 6 0
  • $ – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll

The 1939 Stanford Indians football team represented Stanford University in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) intercollegiate competition during the 1939 season. Seventh-year head coach Claude "Tiny" Thornhill led the team to a 1–7–1 record, which ultimately contributed to his relief at the end of the season. He was replaced by Clark Shaughnessy, who surprised critics by leading the following year's team, largely made up of the same players, to the Rose Bowl.[1] Shaughnessy noted that the players were not suited to the single-wing offense that Thornhill had employed.[2]

Before the season, the Stanford Board of Athletic Control retained Thornhill as head coach, despite opposition from some of the alumni base.[3] The Indians finished last in the Pacific Coast Conference with a 0–6–1 record against league opponents.[4] It was the first time in history that Stanford failed to win a single Pacific Coast Conference game in a season.[5] Contemporary sources called the 1939 squad the worst football team to represent Stanford University in the history of the program.[1]

Stanford's only victory came in the season finale against Dartmouth at the Polo Grounds in New York City. At halftime, Stanford trailed 3–0, and Thornhill and his assistants, at a loss for words, asked former "Vow Boys" back Bones Hamilton to deliver a halftime pep talk. He told the downtrodden players, "You are by far and large the worst group of players who have ever worn the Stanford red."[1] The insult motivated the team to score 14 unanswered points to take away their only win of the season.[1]

After the game, the United Press wrote, "Stanford, the worst team the West Coast has produced in years, pulled the day's gridiron surprise by walloping the strong Dartmouth eleven."[6]


Date Opponent Site Result
September 30 Oregon State Stanford StadiumStanford, CA L 12–0  
October 7 vs. Oregon Multnomah StadiumPortland, OR L 10–0  
October 14 UCLA Stanford Stadium • Stanford, CA T 14–14  
October 28 at Washington Husky StadiumSeattle, WA L 8–5  
November 4 Santa Clara* Stanford Stadium • Stanford, CA L 27–7  
November 11 at USC Los Angeles Memorial ColiseumLos Angeles, CA (Rivalry) L 33–0  
November 18 Washington State Stanford Stadium • Stanford, CA L 7–0  
November 25 California Stanford Stadium • Stanford, CA (45th Big Game) L 32–14  
December 2 vs. Dartmouth* Polo GroundsNew York, NY W 14–3  
*Non-conference game.

Players drafted by the NFL[edit]

Player Position Round Pick NFL Club
Hampton Pool End 9 77 Chicago Bears
Stan Andersen Tackle 12 101 Chicago Cardinals



  1. ^ a b c d Ron Fimrite, A Melding Of Men All Suited To A T; Clark Shaughnessy was a dour theoretician, Frankie Albert an unrestrained quarterback and Stanford a team of losers, but combined they forever changed the game of football, Sports Illustrated, September 5, 1977.
  2. ^ James W. Johnson, The Wow Boys: a Coach, a Team, and a Turning Point in College Football, pp. xvii-xix, University of Nebraska Press, 2006, ISBN 0-8032-7632-X.
  3. ^ Stanford Retains Coach Thornhill, The Pittsburgh Press, February 13, 1939.
  4. ^ Stanford Game-by-Game Results; 1935–1939, College Football Data Warehouse, retrieved August 14, 2010.
  5. ^ Trojans Stage Thriller To Beat Irish, Lodi News-Sentinel, November 27, 1939.
  6. ^ Dartmouth Upset by Stanford; Navy Wins, Berkeley Daily Gazette, November 29, 1939.
  7. ^ "1940 NFL Draft". Retrieved September 16, 2014.