Dan McGugin

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Dan McGugin
Dan McGugin.jpg
McGugin cropped from 1903 Michigan Wolverines team photograph
Sport(s) Football
Biographical details
Born (1879-07-29)July 29, 1879
near Tingley, Iowa
Died January 23, 1936(1936-01-23) (aged 56)
Memphis, Tennessee
Alma mater Drake University
Playing career
1898–1900 Drake
1901–1902 Michigan
Position(s) Guard, tackle, punter
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1903 Michigan (assistant)
1904–1917 Vanderbilt
1919–1934 Vanderbilt
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
1934–1936 Vanderbilt
Head coaching record
Overall 197–55–19
Accomplishments and honors
9 SIAA (1904–1907, 1910–1912, 1915, 1921)
2 SoCon (1922–1923)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1951 (profile)

Daniel Earle McGugin (July 29, 1879 – January 23, 1936) was an American football player and coach, as well as a lawyer. He served as the head football coach at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee from 1904 to 1917 and again from 1919 to 1934, compiling a record of 197–55–19. He is the winningest head coach in the history of the university. McGugin was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1951 as part of its inaugural class.

Zipp Newman once wrote “I believe Dan McGugin would have gone down in history as the greatest of all coaches had he given all of his time to coaching. He was a great play-maker, but football was a sport for the beloved McGugin and law was his profession.”[1][2]

Early years[edit]

McGugin was born in July 1879 on a farm near Tingley, Iowa. He was the son of Benjamin Franklin McGugin (1843–1925) and Melissa (Critchfield) McGugin (1845–1915). He was of Scottish and Irish descent.[3]

McGugin saw the baton twirling skills of W. W. Wharton in Tingley for a Sunday evening church service one day in 1896 and was intrigued. Wharton, Drake University's first football coach, suggested he play football instead. "Come to Drake University," Wharton suggested, "and we'll make you as fine a tackle as there is."[4]


McGugin enrolled at Drake University and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1901. He played football at Drake for two years at the guard and tackle positions and "was considered one of the best players that Drake ever had."[5] After one victory he purchased a small brass cannon and fired it at regular fifteen-minute intervals, nodding politely to neighbors' Sabbath complaints and merrily blasting away.[6]


After graduating from Drake, McGugin enrolled in law school at the University of Michigan. While at there, McGugin played college football for Fielding H. Yost. He was a player on Michigan's "Point-a-Minute" teams that outscored their opponents, 1,211 to 12 in 1901 and 1902, and served as Yost's assistant coach at Michigan in 1903. A profile of McGugin in the 1903 University of Michigan yearbook noted:

McGugin is the lightest guard that Michigan has had in the last ten years, but he has not met his match during the past two seasons. ... As a guard he is careful yet nervy. He gets the jump on his opponents and keeps the advantage. Although a hard player he goes into each scrimmage with as much composure as if he were walking along the campus. McGugin, although good in every department of his position, has two qualities that are pre-eminent: namely, making interference and opening holes. [Willie] Heston has been especially fortunate this year in having a good interference, and part of that interference has been McGugin.[5]


McGugin was the head football coach for the Vanderbilt Commodores of Vanderbilt University from 1904 to 1917 and from 1919 to 1934. During his tenures, the Vanderbilt Commodores compiled a 197–55–19 record, had a .762 winning percentage, and won 11 conference titles. He had numerous intersectional triumphs: defeating the Carlisle Indians in 1906, and tying the Navy Midshipmen in 1907, the Yale Bulldogs in 1910, and the Michigan Wolverines in 1922. McGugin used his mentor Yost's short punt formation.[7]

McGugin stood out in the South like Gulliver among the native sons of Lilliput

In his first career game, McGugin's team defeated Mississippi A&M, 61–0. He went on to win his next two games by 60 points as well. He remains the only coach in NCAA history to win his first three games by 60 points. He also won each of his first 11 games by more than 20 points. Vanderbilt outscored their opponents 452–4 during his first year. Sportswriter Fuzzy Woodruff once wrote: "The plain facts of the business are that McGugin stood out in the South like Gulliver among the native sons of Lilliput. There was no foeman worthy of the McGugin steel.” The Vanderbilt athletics office building, the McGugin Center, bears his name. McGugin was also named to the Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class.[8] Fred Russell wrote of McGugin:

For years he ruled supreme in Dixie, and his teams won many glorious intersectional victories. More than any one man, he was responsible for the progress of southern football.... He was the first coach to successfully work the onside kick. He was among the first to bring out guards in the interference.... His name will never die.[9]

In 1906 (the first year of the legal forward pass and onside kick) his team defeated the Carlisle, had a third-team Walter Camp All-American in Owsley Manier, and were for some writers the entire All-Southern eleven. McGugin had his team practice the pass by playing baseball with a football.[10]

The next season Vanderbilt tied Navy and met rival Sewanee, in a battle of the unbeaten, for the crown of the south and won using a trick double-pass play. Sewanee led 12 to 11 with twelve minutes to play. At McGugin's signal, the Commodores went into a freakish formation in which Stein Stone remained at center but all the other players shifted to his left.[11] Quarterback Hugh Potts took the snap and lateraled the ball to Vaughn Blake, who lateraled it across to Bob Blake, who had lined up deep in punt formation, as Stone ran down the field.[11] Blake completed a 35-yard pass to Stone who was inside the 5-yard line.[12][13] Honus Craig ran it in to win the game.[14] It was cited by Grantland Rice as the greatest thrill he ever witnessed in his years of watching sports.[15] The 1908 squad was hampered by a wealth of sophomores which McGugin, with the help of halfback Ray Morrison, led to a 7–2–1 record.[16]

McGugin on the sidelines.

In 1910, Vanderbilt's only blemish was fighting defending national champion Yale to a scoreless tie. Team captain Bill Neely, recalling the tie with Yale said: "The score tells the story a good deal better than I can. All I want to say is that I never saw a football team fight any harder at every point that Vanderbilt fought today – line, ends, and backfield. We went in to give Yale the best we had and I think we about did it."[17] The team was led by third-team Walter Camp, All-American lineman Will Metzger,[18] and piloted by Morrison.

The Atlanta Constitution voted the 1911 team's backfield the best in the South.[7] It consisted of: Lew Hardage, Wilson Collins, Ammie Sikes, and Ray Morrison. The team's only blemish was a one-point loss to Michigan. The 1912 team led the nation in scoring by a margin of victory and lost only to national champion Harvard, though it did suffer a tie with Auburn, the next season's champion.

After his first losing season in 1914, and returning only ten players with experience, McGugin's 1915 team bore the moniker "point-a-minute" like his old teams at Michigan, scoring 514 points in 510 minutes of play. The team was built around 130 pound junior quarterback Irby "Rabbit" Curry. In the line was sophomore tackle Josh Cody.

The 1917 season featured Vanderbilt's worst-ever loss, 83–0 to Georgia Tech. McGugin never stopped keeping his men "up." Before the Alabama game, he shouted to reserve fullback Top Richardson to "hit hard on every play." "Yes, sir!" Richardson replied, "I'll knock hell out of anyone who comes near this bench!"[19]

McGugin took time off from coaching to work in the mining business during the First World War. On a draft registration card completed in 1918, McGugin stated that he was the president of the Kensee Mining Company in Marion, Kentucky.[20] On August 10, 1918, while on protection patrol, Rabbit Curry was killed in an aerial combat over Perles, France.[21][22] After learning about Curry's death McGugin wired this telegram to The Tennessean:

McGugin, c. 1921

During the four years of my intimate association with Irby Curry, I never heard him utter a word his mother might not hear and approve. A game sportsman and scholar, truly he was gentle as a dove. He had a lion's heart, and now a hero's death. Poor Little Rabbit! How he pulls at the heart-strings of all of us who knew him and therefore honored and loved him tenderly.[23]

For many years after Curry's death, McGugin had three photographs displayed over his desk. The three pictures were of Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, and Curry.[24] McGugin read military history, and before a tough game enjoyed reading about Lee's strategies.[25]

In 1921, the Commodores hired Wallace Wade as an assistant[26] and posted an undefeated, 7–0–1 record. "The Texas game, sparked by McGugin's unforgettable oratory, was the big one." "Instead of hammering detailed strategy into them,"[27] coach Dan McGugin had taken his team to the nearby grave of former Vanderbilt quarterback Curry in Marlin, Texas. In a noted speech just before the teams took to the field, referring to this grave, McGugin tapped his fingers on the floor and began:[28]

You are about to be put to an ordeal which will show the stuff that's in you! What a glorious chance you have! Every one of you is going to fix his status for all time in the minds and hearts of his teammates today. How you fight is what you will be remembered by. If any shirk, the Lord pity him. He will be degraded in the hearts of the rest as long as they live...

Vanderbilt went on to upset the Longhorns 20 to 0. Later the same season, Vanderbilt faced Georgia in a contest for the southern crown, tying on an onside-kick-from-scrimmage 7–7.[29]

On the Vanderbilt athletics site, Bill Traughber describes McGugin's speech before the 1922 game against the Michigan Wolverines at the dedication of Dudley Field:

In the locker room prior to the kickoff, McGugin gave his hopeful pregame inspirational talk. Referring to the Michigan players, McGugin said, "You are going against Yankees, some of whose grandfathers killed your grandfathers in the Civil War." Unknown to the Commodore players was the fact that McGugin's father had been an officer in the Union army.[30]

The quote is also reported, probably more accurately,[31][32] as "Out there lie the bones of your grandfathers;" referring to Curry and the nearby military cemetery, "And down on that field are the grandsons of the Yankee soldiers who put them there."[33][34] Next season Wade left to coach Alabama and was replaced by former tackle Josh Cody.[n 1] The 1923 Commodores won Vanderbilt's last conference title in football to-date. Lynn Bomar was consensus All-American. Fred Russell dubbed the 1924 season "the most eventful in the history of Vanderbilt football," featuring wins over Georgia Tech and Minnesota, as well as losses such as to Sewanee.[35] Hek Wakefield was consensus All-American. The 1925 Commodores introduced the world to speedy back Bill Spears. In 1927, Spears posted multiple passing records and Jimmy Armistead led the nation in scoring. After the 32 to 0 defeat of Bernie Bierman's Tulane Green Wave that year, Bierman thought of ditching his single-wingback formation. McGugin convinced him to keep it.[36]

Armistead took Spears' spot at quarterback in 1928 and did admirably. Ranked second-team All-Southern, Vanderbilt suffered its only two losses - both to undefeated teams: Georgia Tech and Tennessee. Guard Bull Brown was All-American in 1929. The 1930 team again beat Minnesota. Following the 1932 season, Vanderbilt—at the pinnacle of its athletics dominance in the South[n 2]—joined the other SoCon schools south and west of the Appalachians in founding the Southeastern Conference. McGugin retired after the 1934 season.[37] He remains the most successful Vanderbilt head football coach in the history of the program.[37]

McGugin selected: Bull Brown, Josh Cody, Lew Hardage, Ray Morrison, Bill Spears, and Hek Wakefield as the six best players he ever coached.[38]


McGugin was married to Virginia Louise Fite on December 6, 1905, at Detroit, Michigan. His former coach, Fielding Yost, was married to Eunice Fite, making McGugin and Yost brothers-in-law. Yost was best man at McGugin's wedding.[39]


McGugin died in 1936, just two years after quitting the coaching profession.[2]

Coaching tree[edit]

McGugin's disciples include:

  1. Bob Blake, played for Vanderbilt (1903; 1905–1907), assistant for Vanderbilt (1910).
  2. Enoch Brown, played for Vanderbilt (1911–1913), assistant for Vanderbilt (1920).
  3. Josh Cody, played for Vanderbilt (1914–1916, 1919) and assistant for Vanderbilt (1923–1927; 1931–1934), head coach for Mercer (1920–1922), Clemson (1927–1930), Florida (1936–1939), and Temple (1955). McGugin got him the Florida job.[40]
  4. Russ Cohen, played for Vanderbilt (1913–1916), head coach for LSU (1928–1931) and Cincinnati (1935–1937). McGugin got him the LSU job.[40]
  5. Sam Costen, played for Vanderbilt (1906–1908), head coach for The Citadel (1909–1910)
  6. Honus Craig, played for Vanderbilt (1904–1907), head coach for Texas Wesleyan (1909)
  7. Alex Cunningham, played for Vanderbilt (1906), head coach for Georgia (1910–19).
  8. Zach Curlin, played for Vanderbilt (1910–1913), head coach for Memphis (1924–1936)
  9. Ewing Y. Freeland, played for Vanderbilt (1908–1911), head coach for TCU (1915), Austin (1919–1920; 1936–1938), Millsaps (1921), SMU (1922–1923), and Texas Tech (1925–1928)
  10. Johnny Floyd, played for Vanderbilt (1915–1916; 1919–1920) and assistant for Vanderbilt (1927–1928), head coach for Middle Tennessee State (1917; 1935–1938), Auburn (1929), The Citadel (1930–1931)
  11. Lewie Hardage, played for Vanderbilt (1911–1912) and assistant for Vanderbilt (1922–1931), head coach at Mercer (1913), Oklahoma (1932–1934). McGugin got him the Oklahoma job.[40]
  12. Frank Kyle, played for Vanderbilt (1902–1905), head coach for Ole Miss (1908)
  13. Ray Morrison, played for Vanderbilt (1908–1911), head coach for SMU (1915–1916; 1922–1934), Vanderbilt (1918; 1935–1939), Temple (1940–1948), Austin (1949–1952). McGugin got him the SMU job.[40]
  14. Garland Morrow, played for Vanderbilt (1919–1920; 1922) and assistant for Vanderbilt (1927–1932), head coach for Cumberland (1932–1935)
  15. Jess Neely, played for Vanderbilt (1920–1922), head coach for Southwestern (TN) (1924–1927), Clemson (1931–1939), Rice (1940–1966). McGugin got him the Southwestern job.[40]
  16. Preston Vaughn Overall, played for Vanderbilt (1921), head coach for Tennessee Tech (1923–1946; 1952–1953)
  17. Robert C. Patterson, played for Vanderbilt (1905), assistant for Vanderbilt (1908)
  18. Joe Pritchard, played for Vanderbilt (1905–1906), head coach for LSU (1909)
  19. Gil Reese, played for Vanderbilt (1922–1925), head coach for New Bry's Hurricanes of the American Football League (1934)
  20. Fred A. Robins, played for (1910–1912), head coach for Mercer and Ole Miss.
  21. Bo Rowland, played for Vanderbilt (1923–1924), head coach for Henderson-Brown (1925–1930), Ouachita Baptist (1931), The Citadel (1940–1942), Oklahoma City (1946–1947), George Washington (1948–1951)
  22. Henry Russell Sanders, played for Vanderbilt (1923–1927), head coach for Vanderbilt (1940–1942; 1946–1948) and UCLA (1949–1957)
  23. Stein Stone, played for Vanderbilt (1904–1907), head coach for Clemson (1908)
  24. Frank Thomas said McGugin was the first man to encourage him as a coach.
  25. Wallace Wade assistant at Vanderbilt (1921–1922), head coach for Alabama (1923–1930), Duke (1931–1941, 1946–1950). McGugin was pursued by Alabama and recommended Wade.[19]
  26. Hek Wakefield, played for Vanderbilt (1921–1924), assistant for Vanderbilt (1925–1928)
  27. E. M. Waller, played for Vanderbilt (1924–1926), head coach for Middle Tennessee State (1933–1934)
  28. John Weibel, assistant for Vanderbilt (1925–1926), assistant for Duquesne (1927)
  29. Hubert Wiggs, played for Vanderbilt (1919), head coach for Louisville Brecks of National Football League (1922)
  30. Tom Zerfoss, played for Vanderbilt (1915–1919), assistant for Vanderbilt (1922–1924).

Head coaching record[edit]

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Vanderbilt Commodores (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1904–1917)
1904 Vanderbilt 9–0 4–0 T–1st
1905 Vanderbilt 7–1 6–0 1st
1906 Vanderbilt 8–1 6–0 1st
1907 Vanderbilt 5–1–1 4–0 1st
1908 Vanderbilt 7–2–1 3–0–1 3rd
1909 Vanderbilt 7–3 3–1 T–2nd
1910 Vanderbilt 8–0–1 5–0 T–1st
1911 Vanderbilt 8–1 4–0 1st
1912 Vanderbilt 8–1–1 4–0–1 1st
1913 Vanderbilt 5–3 2–2 T–6th
1914 Vanderbilt 2–6 1–3 13th
1915 Vanderbilt 9–1 4–0 1st
1916 Vanderbilt 7–1–1 4–1–1 4th
1917 Vanderbilt 5–3 5–2 8th
Vanderbilt Commodores (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1919–1921)
1919 Vanderbilt 5–1–2 4–1–2 4th
1920 Vanderbilt 5–3–1 3–3 11th
1921 Vanderbilt 7–0–1 4–0–1 T–1st
Vanderbilt Commodores (Southern Conference) (1922–1932)
1922 Vanderbilt 8–0–1 4–0 T–1st
1923 Vanderbilt 5–2–1 3–0–1 T–1st
1924 Vanderbilt 6–3–1 3–3 T–11th
1925 Vanderbilt 6–3 3–3 T–10th
1926 Vanderbilt 8–1 4–1 3rd
1927 Vanderbilt 8–1–2 5–0–2 3rd
1928 Vanderbilt 8–2 4–2 T–7th
1929 Vanderbilt 7–2 5–1 5th
1930 Vanderbilt 8–2 5–2 5th
1931 Vanderbilt 5–4 3–4 12th
1932 Vanderbilt 6–1–2 4–1–2 5th
Vanderbilt Commodores (Southeastern Conference) (1933–1934)
1933 Vanderbilt 4–3–3 2–2–2 T–6th
1934 Vanderbilt 6–3 4–3 6th
Vanderbilt: 197–55–19 115–35–13
Total: 197–55–19
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wade won Alabama's first national titles.
  2. ^ As witnessed by its win/loss records to that date


  1. ^ Zipp Newman (December 5, 1950). "The History of Southern Football (Chapter Two)". The Anniston Star. p. 8. Retrieved October 15, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  2. ^ a b Kara Furlong (October 3, 2011). "Looking Back". news.vanderbilt.edu. 
  3. ^ Henry Jay Case. "Vanderbilt–A University of the New South". Outing. 64: 327. 
  4. ^ "Dan McGuigan". Des Moines Register, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc. Archived from the original on 15 October 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2016. 
  5. ^ a b 1903 Michiganensian, p. 142.
  6. ^ Pope, p. 341
  7. ^ a b e. g. Weatherby, pp. 13-17
  8. ^ "Vanderbilt Athletics Announces Inaugural Hall of Fame Class". Vanderbilt University. June 26, 2008. Archived from the original on October 15, 2016. Retrieved June 26, 2008. 
  9. ^ "Vanderbilt Commodores: Dan McGugin". ESPN Internet Ventures. Archived from the original on 15 October 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2016. 
  10. ^ "Tupelo Flash: Recalling Gil Reese". Commodore History Corner/CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on 15 October 2016. 
  11. ^ a b Pope, p. 338
  12. ^ "Brown Calls Vanderbilt '06 Best Eleven South Ever Had". Atlanta Constitution. February 19, 1911. p. 52. Archived from the original on January 13, 2016. Retrieved March 8, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  13. ^ "Claiming Rampant". The Miami News. February 9, 1954. 
  14. ^ Bill Traughber (December 5, 2007). "CHC: Stein Stone's Famous 1907 Catch". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. 
  15. ^ "Grantland Rice Tells Of Greatest Thrill In Years Of Watching Sport". Boston Daily Globe. April 27, 1924. 
  16. ^ Pope, p. 342
  17. ^ Traughber, p. 44
  18. ^ Walsh, p. 120
  19. ^ a b Pope, p. 344
  20. ^ Draft Registration Card for Dan Earl McGugin of Nashville, Tennessee. Ancestry.com. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Registration Location: Davidson County, Tennessee; Roll: 1852932; Draft Board: 1.
  21. ^ "Gridiron Hero Killed". Racine Journal-News. September 16, 1918. 
  22. ^ "1st Pursuit Group History 1918". 1st Fighter Association. September 18, 2009. Archived from the original on April 25, 2009. 
  23. ^ Bill Traughber (August 18, 2005). "Rabbit Curry Inspired McGugin". Archived from the original on August 26, 2016. Retrieved October 15, 2016. 
  24. ^ "Curry Is Favorite of Coach McGugin: Vandy's Mentor Keeps Picture of 130-Pound Player". Charleston Daily Mail. October 28, 1930. 
  25. ^ "History For Plans Vanderbilt Football". Corsicana Daily Sun. November 5, 1934. p. 8. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved August 11, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  26. ^ "Former Brown Star To Help Coach Vanderbilt". The Houston Post. February 3, 1921. p. 12. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016. Retrieved May 13, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  27. ^ Charles Cason (December 22, 1964). "Public Forum". Delta Democrat-Times.
  28. ^ Pope, p. 336
  29. ^ "Commodores Tie In Last Period". The Palm Beach Post. November 13, 1921. 
  30. ^ Traughber, Bill (August 30, 2006). "Vandy Ties Michigan in 1922". Vanderbilt University - Official Athletic Site. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on February 1, 2016. Retrieved March 16, 2010. 
  31. ^ Bill Traughber (September 5, 2012). "Q&A with George McGugin". Archived from the original on November 20, 2015. 
  32. ^ Scott, pp. 24-25; 30
  33. ^ Campbell, Judith D. "Vanderbilt Football: The Glory Years." Nashville Business and Lifestyle 15.8 (1992): 58
  34. ^ "Obituary: Daniel Earle McGugin". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. 
  35. ^ Russell, pp. 42-43
  36. ^ Pope, p. 330
  37. ^ a b "Commodore History Corner: Vanderbilt Celebrates A Century of Dan McGugin". vucommodores.com. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. 
  38. ^ "Vandy Coach Picks Greatest Grid Players of Long Football Career". The Evening Independent. August 26, 1930. 
  39. ^ "Coach McGugin to Wed". The Atlanta Constitution. December 3, 1905. p. 3. Archived from the original on October 9, 2016. Retrieved October 8, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  40. ^ a b c d e Pope, p. 339
  41. ^ "Dan McGugin Records by Year". cfbdatawarehouse.com. Retrieved October 15, 2016. 


External links[edit]