Andy Smith (American football)

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Andy Smith
Smith pictured in Debris 1914, Purdue yearbook
Biographical details
Born(1883-09-10)September 10, 1883
Du Bois, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedJanuary 8, 1926(1926-01-08) (aged 42)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Playing career
1901–1902Penn State
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1905–1908Penn (assistant)
Head coaching record
Accomplishments and honors
4 National (1920–1923)
5 PCC (1918, 1920–1923)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1951 (profile)

Andrew Latham 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.[3] 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.[4] After college, he entered the workforce with a degree in chemistry.

Coaching career[edit]

Early coaching career[edit]

Smith 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 until 1912. During those four years Smith had 30 wins, 10 losses and 3 ties. Following this success he switched to Purdue in 1913, where until 1915, he went 12–6–3.[5]

Cal and the "Wonder Teams"[edit]

1920 Cal "Wonder Team"

The 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 was considered a dangerous sport that could lead to serious injuries. California switched back to football in 1915, partly due to the fact that by that time rule changes made the game considerably safer. Due to his reputation, Smith was recruited to come out west and became the first head coach of California's golden era.[6]

In 1916, his first year at Cal, Smith posted 6 wins, 4 losses and 3 ties.[7] In 1918, Cal won its first Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) championship.[8] Also in 1918 Smith hired 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 to the team including Harold "Brick" Muller. The 1919 freshmen team went 11-1 and became the core of next year's varsity squad, to 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. The NCAA has officially recognized them as the national champion of that season, the first from the Pacific Coast.[1] "The Wonder Team at California in 1920 changed the entire picture of Western football."[9]

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 the Washington and Jefferson Presidents, had players better than the average college, and at the same time had scholarship requirements well below California's.[10] 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.[10] This Rose Bowl was Smith's last.

The 1922 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.[11] Like the 1920 team, the 1921 and 1922 teams are recognized as a national champion by the NCAA.[1] On January 1, 1925, 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.[12] California won that game 14–0.[13] 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.[5]

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.[14] 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.[15]

Strategy and approach to coaching[edit]

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."[16][17] 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.[18]

"Kick and wait for the breaks"[edit]

Smith's strategy is encapsulated in a motto: "Kick and wait for the breaks."[19][20] 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.[21]

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.[22]

Death and legacy[edit]

Tribute to Smith in 1926 Big Game program

While in Philadelphia shortly after the 1925 season, Smith was hospitalized with pneumonia.[23] Several weeks later on January 8, 1926, he died at age 42 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.[24][25] He left no family, all of his $30,000 estate going to the Berkeley community, including the Elks Club, California chapter of his fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and California Skull & Keys Society, with $10,000 going towards football scholarships.[26]

Smith's memorial service was held on January 16 at the gates of California Memorial Stadium, and in accordance with his wishes, his ashes were scattered over the stadium field.[27] In 1927, the Andy Smith Bench on the sideline was dedicated in his honor. Built 100 years ago in 1923, the stadium is still known as "The House that Andy built" because the Wonder Teams' season tickets completely paid for it.[28] 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.[29]

In 1949, Garff Wilson, Professor of Dramatic Art and Speech, was asked to write a eulogy for Andy Smith, which was delivered by the ASUC President at the annual Big Game Bonfire Rally. Since then, the Andy Smith Eulogy has been delivered annually by candlelight at the conclusion of the bonfire.[30][31]

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 predominantly white college or university.[32] Similarly, after graduating Brick Muller was hired by Smith to coach the defensive ends.[33]

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

Smith's coaching tree includes:

  1. Ernest Cozens
  2. Charles F. Erb
  3. Walter A. Gordon
  4. Edwin C. Horrell
  5. Leroy Mercer
  6. Brick Muller
  7. Alvin Pierson
  8. Nibs Price
  9. Crip Toomey

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 (Western 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 or championship game berth


  1. ^ a b c "Football Championship History". NCAA. Archived from the original on December 29, 2010. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Hall of Fame: S-Z". Retrieved November 5, 2015.
  3. ^ "Gridiron Fame Gained By Smith as Player". Oakland Tribune. January 8, 1926. p. 3. Retrieved February 15, 2016 – via open access
  4. ^ Bob Matherne (December 25, 1927). "Penn-California Game To Honor Andy Smith". The Pittsburgh Press.
  5. ^ a b "All-Time Coaching Records by Year". Archived from the original on February 23, 2016. Retrieved February 15, 2016.
  6. ^ "Golden Bear Stars A Glittering Array". The Pittsburgh Press. October 29, 1935.
  7. ^ "1916 California Golden Bears". College Football at Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  8. ^ "1918 Pacific Coast Conference Year Summary | College Football at". College Football at Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  9. ^ Joe Marvin (February 1996). "The Old P. C. C.". College Football Historical Society. 9 (2) – via LA84.
  10. ^ a b "2007 California Golden Bears Football Media Guide" (PDF). p. 162. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 12, 2012.
  11. ^ "Reigels, Collapsed Pigskin Added Thrills". The Bakersfield Californian. December 20, 1949. p. 23. Retrieved February 15, 2016 – via open access
  12. ^ "Football Bowl Subdivision Records" (PDF). NCAA. p. 72.
  13. ^ "1924 California Golden Bears". College Football at Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  14. ^ Sperber, Murray A. (January 1, 1993). Shake Down the Thunder: The Creation of Notre Dame Football. Indiana University Press. pp. 90, 525 and 530. ISBN 0253215684.
  15. ^ Wood, Hal (October 20, 1960). "Cal's 'Wonder Team' of 1920 Called Best All-Time Gridders". Eugene Register-Guard.
  16. ^ Bradley, Michael (November 30, 2006). Big Games. ISBN 9781574889093.
  17. ^ California Alumni Monthly. 1922.
  18. ^ "[No title]". Young Men. 54: 17. 1928.
  19. ^ "Pop To Start Reserve Men Against Idaho". The Stanford Daily. October 18, 1928.
  20. ^ "Stages All Set For Big Grid Clashes Tomorrow". The News. December 30, 1924.
  21. ^ "Hobey Baker was a star athlete and a character straight out of Fitzgerald, right down to his untimely death". Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  22. ^ "Athlete, Officer in Law Enforcement and Administration, Governor of the Virgin Islands: Walter Gordon". p. 75. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  23. ^ "Pneumonia sends Andy Smith, Trojan coach, to hospital". Chicago Sunday Tribune. Associated Press. December 20, 1925. p. 1, sec. 2.
  24. ^ "Andy Smith passes". Eugene Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. January 8, 1926. p. 1.
  25. ^ "Andy Smith, football coach of California's Bears, dies". Chicago Daily Tribune. Associated Press. January 9, 1926. p. 15.
  26. ^ Burgoa, Jorge "CalBear81". "Cal's Greatest Football Coaches: #1 Andy Smith". California Golden Blogs. Archived from the original on July 28, 2019. Retrieved November 11, 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  27. ^ "Smith's ashes scattered over grid he loved". Chicago Sunday Tribune. January 17, 1925. p. 4, sec. 2.
  28. ^ "The House That Bear Built". California Golden Blogs. December 16, 2010. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  29. ^ "Andy Smith Bench to Become Accessible to All". Retrieved November 5, 2015.
  30. ^ "Berkeley: Traditions — Andy Smith Eulogy". University of California History. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
  31. ^ Wilson, Garff B. (1978). "Appendix B: Tribute to Andy Smith". Color them blue and gold: Memories of students, athletes, housemates and rascals I have known at Cal (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 26, 2017. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
  32. ^ "Walter Gordon: A Pioneer On The Field And Beyond".
  33. ^ Hibner, John. "Brick Muller" (PDF). LA84 SPORTS LIBRARY & DIGITAL COLLECTION.

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