Andy Smith (American football)

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Andy Smith
Andy Smith.jpg
Smith pictured in Debris 1914, Purdue yearbook
Sport(s) Football
Biographical details
Born (1883-09-10)September 10, 1883
Du Bois, Pennsylvania
Died January 8, 1926(1926-01-08) (aged 42)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Playing career
1901–1902 Penn State
1903–1904 Penn
Position(s) Fullback
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1908 Penn (assistant)
1909–1912 Penn
1913–1915 Purdue
1916–1925 California
Head coaching record
Overall 116–32–13
Bowls 1–0–1
Accomplishments and honors
3 National (1920–1922)
5 PCC (1918, 1920–1923)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1951 (profile)

Andrew Latham "Andy" Smith (September 10, 1883 – January 8, 1926) was an American football player and coach. He served as the head football coach at the University of Pennsylvania (1909–1912), Purdue University (1913–1915), and the University of California, Berkeley (1916–1925), compiling a career college football record of 116–32–13. As head coach of the California Golden Bears football program, Smith guided his "Wonder Teams" to a record of 74–16–7, captured five Pacific Coast Conference titles, and three national championships.[1] Smith was the winningest football coach in school history until he was surpassed by Jeff Tedford in 2011. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.[2]

Early life[edit]

Andrew Latham Smith was born in Dubois, Pennsylvania on September 10, 1883. As a freshman he played for Penn State as a fullback. He shined at his position, both fearless and dominating on the field.[citation needed] In two years he was convinced to transfer to Pennsylvania, then a superior program. There, in his senior season of 1904, he was named first-team All America for the national champion Quakers. After college, he entered the workforce with a degree in chemistry.

Early coaching career[edit]

However, he returned to Penn in 1905 as the coach of the freshmen team and in 1909, when he was 26, he became the head coach of Penn. During the next four years he led Penn with a record of 30 wins, 10 losses and 3 ties. Following this success he switched to Purdue where during the next four years he went 12-6-3.[3]

Coaching career[edit]

University of California had fielded a competitive football team since 1886. However in 1906 it began playing rugby instead of football. This was because by that time football became considered as dangerous sport that could lead to serious injuries. California switched back to football in 1915, this was partly due to the fact that by that time rule changes made the game considerably safer. Because of his reputation Smith was recruited to come out west and become the first head coach of California's golden era.[3]

In 1916, his first year at Cal, Smith went 6 wins, 4 losses and 3 ties.[4] And in 1918 Cal won its first Pacific Coast Conference championship.[5] Also in 1918 Smith hired the future Cal football and basketball head coach Clarence Nibs Price as his assistant. Price had a southern California connection and was able to recruit key players including Harold "Brick" Muller. The 1919 freshmen team went 11-1 and became the core of next year's varsity squad, that would also be known as the "Wonder Team." The 1920 Golden Bears team won all 9 games, outscored their opponents, 510 to 14, and capped off the season by defeating Ohio State in the Tournament of Roses East-West Game (now known as the Rose Bowl) 28-0. NCAA has officially recognised them to be the National Champions of that season.[6]

Next year the 1921 Golden Bears also finished undefeated and were again invited to play in the Rose Bowl. Smith initially declined this invitation because he thought it was problematic that Cal's opponent, a little known team named Washington and Jefferson Presidents, players were above average college and at the same time its scholarship requirements were well below California's.[7] Eventually Smith agreed to the match. With California being the overwhelming favorite, the match went nothing like it was expected. Because of the heavy rain the night before, it was played in a virtual mud pit, both defenses were able to hold off their opponents and the game finished in a 0-0 tie.[7] This 1922 Rose Bowl would turn out to be Smith's last. Next season the 1922 team team was also undefeated and won the PCC. And same with the 1923 team. Both years the teams were invited to the Rose Bowl, however because of Smith's continuing disputes with the Rose Bowl committee, California declined both invitations.[3][8] Like the 1920 team, the 1921 and 1922 teams are recognized as the National Champions by the NCAA.[6] On January the 1st of 1925 and instead of the Rose Bowl the 1924 Bears played an independently scheduled game against Pennsylvania at California's Memorial Stadium. Cal had 7 wins, 0 losses, and 2 ties, while 1924 Penn had 9 wins and 1 tie. Some consider Penn to be the best team of that year.[9] California won that game 14-0.[10] During an incredible five-season span from 1920 to 1924, Smith's Wonder Teams went undefeated, running up a record of 44 wins, 0 losses and 4 ties.[3]

Even though the two had never met during the Roaring Twenties, Smith's "Wonder Teams" are thought to rival Knute Rockne's Notre Dame teams.[11] Furthermore, when in 1960 the Helms Athletic Foundation considered both the Wonder Teams and the Four Horsemen among others, it crowned the 1920 Cal Bears as the greatest football team in American history.[12]

Strategy and approach to coaching[edit]

1922 From left: Smith, Nibs Price, Walter Gordon, and Albert Rosenthal.

Smith said: "There are four mental qualifications necessary for success -- Aggressiveness, Obedience, Concentration and Determination. Add to this, Harmonious co-operation and you have the making of a real team."[3] Always tough on his players, Smith drilled them until a technique was perfected regardless of the time that it took. Despite this, his players were known to idolize Smith, for they felt his respect towards them and his commitment to the team.[3]

"Kick and wait for the breaks"[edit]

Smith's strategy is encapsulated in a motto: "Kick and wait for the breaks."[3] He became known for his emphasis on the kicking game and defense-oriented strategy out of the short punt formation. During this era, the ball was often moved up the field–not through offensive plays, but rather through punting. For Smith this was standard when the ball was held deep in one's territory. And once the opposing team got the ball, the defense was relied on to make the other team's offense lose yards or fumble. To confuse the opponent, the punting could be done on first or second downs. If the opponent's safeties were close to the line of scrimmage, anticipating a short pass or a run, then the ball could be kicked over their heads resulting in a longer punt. This was repeated until a breakthrough play like a long yard rush would eventually occur and flip the field position. It was not uncommon for a team to kick more than 40 punts a game.[13]

Smith also became known for trick plays such as the now-classic lateral to the halfback followed by a long, forward pass. At the time, because of the plump, rugby-like ball, long passes were unanticipated. Brick Muller, both an offensive and defensive star of the Wonder Teams, became known for this play. His 50-yard passes were previously thought impossible.[14]

Death and legacy[edit]

A tribute to Andy Smith in the 1926 Big Game program

Shortly after the completion of the 1925 season and while he was in Philadelphia Smith died unexpectedly because of pneumonia.[3] This was on January 9, 1926 when he was 42 years years old. He left no family, all of his $30,000 estate went to the university and the city of Berkeley. With $10,000 going towards football scholarships. His memorial service was held at the gates of Memorial Stadium and in accordance with his wishes, his ashes were scattered over the field. In 1927, the Andy Smith Bench put at a sideline of the Memorial Stadium was dedicated in his honor. The built in 1923 California Memorial Stadium is still known as "The House that Andy built" because the Wonder Teams' season tickets completely payed for it .[15] Andy Smith was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.[2]

Both of the following quotes are inscribed on the Memorial Stadium's Andy Smith Bench -

  • "We do not want men who will lie down bravely to die, but men who will fight valiantly to live" and
  • "Winning is not everything; it is far better to play the game squarely and lose than to win at the sacrifice of an ideal."

The first was Andy Smith's coaching creed and the second was reportedly said by him during his last interview in Philadelphia.[16]

Coaching tree[edit]

Smith often hired his former players as his assistant coaches. Walter Gordon who played on both offensive and defensive lines and became a third-team All American in 1918. Shortly after graduating, he was hired as an assistant coach and likely became the first African-American coach at a predominately white college or university.[3] Similarly, after graduating Brick Muller was hired by Smith to coach the defensive ends.[17]

Head coaching record[edit]

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Penn Quakers (Independent) (1909–1912)
1909 Penn 7–1–2
1910 Penn 9–1–1
1911 Penn 7–4
1912 Penn 7–4
Penn: 30–10–3
Purdue Boilermakers (Big Ten Conference) (1913–1915)
1913 Purdue 4–1–2 2–1–2 4th
1914 Purdue 5–2 2–2 T–4th
1915 Purdue 3–3–1 2–2 5th
Purdue: 12–6–3 6–5–2
California Golden Bears (Pacific Coast Conference) (1916–1925)
1916 California 6–4–1 0–3 T–3rd
1917 California 5–5–1 2–1 2nd
1918 California 7–2 2–0 1st
1919 California 6–2–1 2–2 T–3rd
1920 California 9–0 3–0 1st W Rose
1921 California 9–0–1 4–0 1st T Rose
1922 California 9–0 4–0 1st
1923 California 9–0–1 5–0 1st
1924 California 8–0–2 2–0–2 2nd
1925 California 6–3 2–2 5th
California: 74–16–7 26–8–2
Total: 116–32–13
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title


  1. ^ "Football Championship History". NCAA. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Hall of Fame: S-Z". Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Cal's Greatest Football Coaches: #1 Andy Smith". California Golden Blogs. Archived from the original on October 31, 2015. Retrieved October 31, 2015. 
  4. ^ "1916 California Golden Bears". College Football at Archived from the original on 2015-11-04. Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  5. ^ "1918 Pacific Coast Conference Year Summary | College Football at". College Football at Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  6. ^ a b "Football Championship History". NCAA. Archived from the original on 29 October 2015. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "2007 California Golden Bears Football Media Guide" (PDF). p. 162. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 October 2015. 
  8. ^ "1923 Rose Bowl | World Public Library - eBooks | Read eBooks online". Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  9. ^ "Football Bowl Subdivision Records" (PDF). NCAA. p. 72. 
  10. ^ "1924 California Golden Bears". College Football at Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  11. ^ Sperber, Murray A. (1993-01-01). Shake Down the Thunder: The Creation of Notre Dame Football. Indiana University Press. pp. 90, 525 and 530. ISBN 0253215684. 
  12. ^ Wood, Hal (October 20, 1960). "Cal's 'Wonder Team' of 1920 Called Best All-Time Gridders". Eugene Register-Guard. 
  13. ^ "Hobey Baker was a star athlete and a character straight out of Fitzgerald, right down to his untimely death". Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  14. ^ "Athlete, Officer in Law Enforcement and Administration, Governor of the Virgin Islands: Walter Gordon". p. 75. Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  15. ^ "The House That Bear Built". California Golden Blogs. December 16, 2010. Retrieved October 31, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Andy Smith Bench to Become Accessible to All". Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  17. ^ Hibner, John. "Brick Muller" (PDF). LA84 SPORTS LIBRARY & DIGITAL COLLECTION. 

External links[edit]