Elmer Mitchell

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Elmer D. Mitchell
Elmer D. Mitchell.png
Sport(s) Football, basketball, baseball
Biographical details
Born September 6, 1889[1]
Died June 15, 1983(1983-06-15) (aged 93)[2]
Ann Arbor, Michigan[1]
Playing career
1910-1912 Michigan Wolverines baseball
Position(s) Center field, occasionally first base
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1915–1919 Michigan State Normal, Michigan
Head coaching record
Overall Football: 5–4–2 (.545)
Basketball: 47–25 (.653)

Elmer D. Mitchell (September 6, 1889 – June 15, 1983)[1][2] was an American football and basketball coach in Michigan who is considered the father of intramural sports. He was the first varsity basketball coach at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and the founder of that school's intramural sports program. Through 2010, he has the highest winning percentage of any head coach in Eastern Michigan Eagles men's basketball history.

Mitchell also coached at Union High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and received a Medal of Honor from Czechoslovakia for his work in the field of intramural athletics.[2]

Early years[edit]

Mitchell attended the University of Michigan, where he played on the varsity baseball team for three years, under head coach and eventual Baseball Hall of Fame member Branch Rickey. He usually played center field, or occasionally first base, and he was the team captain in 1912, his senior year.[3]

Immediately after graduating from Michigan, Mitchell managed the Negaunee baseball team, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, for a summer. In the fall of 1912, he was hired as a teacher and coach at Union High School, where "[h]e developed state title contenders in baseball, football, and basketball".[3] In the 1914-1915 season, his last at the high school, the basketball team posted a 14-1 record.[3]

Coaching career[edit]

Michigan State Normal College[edit]

In 1915, Mitchell was hired as an assistant professor of physical education at Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University), in Ypsilanti, Michigan. While at MSNC, Mitchell taught physical education courses geared toward the school's future teachers, covering such topics as playground direction and athletic coaching, and he co-wrote a book about basketball.[3] He was also a successful coach in basketball, football, and baseball.[3]

Mitchell was the head college football coach for the "Michigan State Normalites" for the 1915 and 1916 seasons.[4] His coaching record at the program was 5 wins, 4 losses and 2 ties. As of the conclusion of the 2010 season, this ranks him #19 at Eastern Michigan in total wins and #10 at the school in winning percentage (.545).[5]

Mitchell was also the head coach for the "Michigan State Normalites" men's basketball team for the 1915-16 and 1916-17 seasons. His coaching record at the program was 25 wins and 5 losses.[6]:104 As of the conclusion of the 2010 season, this ranks him #17 at Eastern Michigan in total wins and #1 at the school in winning percentage (.833).[6]:118 Elton Rynearson was the team captain for the 1916-1917 season, and succeeded Mitchell as the head coach.[6]:104 Although the team finished undefeated in Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association play in the 1916-1917 season, Kalamazoo College was also undefeated, and is recorded by the MIAA as the champion for that year.[7]


As a result of public and alumni demand for a basketball team, the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, fielded a team of members of the then-current student body and achieved a 1–4 record for the 1908–09 season. However, after three years of demanding a basketball program the student body did not attend the games and the program was terminated due to low attendance.[8] Basketball returned in 1917 in what was considered the inaugural season of varsity basketball, and Mitchell was hired to coach the team. The team finished 6–12 overall (0–10, Western Conference). The following year Mitchell led the team to a 16–8 (5–5) record.[8] While at Michigan, Mitchell also coached the freshman football and baseball teams.[9]

Intramural sports[edit]

Mitchell is credited with instituting intramural athletics at the University of Michigan,[8] and he was named the school's first Director of Intramural Athletics in 1919.[9] Mitchell is considered the father of intramural sports and taught a class in intramural sports taken by William Wasson, founder of the National Intramural Association (NIA), the forerunner to the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA).[10]

Mitchell later wrote Intramural Athletics (ED Mitchell - AS Barnes, 1928) and Intramural Sports,[11] and co-authored Intramural Sports with Pat Mueller.[12]

Head coaching record[edit]


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Michigan State Normal Normalites (Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1915–1916)
1915 Michigan State Normal 4–2–1 1–1
1916 Michigan State Normal 1–2–1 1–2
Michigan State Normal: 5–4–2 2–3
Total: 5–4–2


Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Michigan State Normal Normalites (Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1915–1917)
1915–16 Michigan State Normal 10–4 2–1
1916–17 Michigan State Normal 15–1 6–0
Michigan State Normal: 25–5 8–1
Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten Conference) (1917–1919)
1917–18 Michigan 6–12 0–10 10th
1918–19 Michigan 16–8 5–5 4th
Michigan: 22–20 5–15
Total: 47–25

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion


  1. ^ a b c Social Security Death Index, retrieved 2011-01-18 
  2. ^ a b c "Elmer Mitchell", The Blade, p. 10, 1983-06-17, retrieved 2011-01-18 
  3. ^ a b c d e The Michigan Alumnus, 23, Alumni Association of the University of Michigan, 1917, p. 418, retrieved 2011-01-18 
  4. ^ Shafer, Ian. "Eastern Michigan University (All seasons results)". College Football Reference. Retrieved December 30, 2010. [permanent dead link]
  5. ^ DeLassus, David. "Eastern Michigan Coaching Records". College Football Data Warehouse. Archived from the original on December 5, 2010. Retrieved December 30, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c Eastern Michigan University Men's Basketball 2010-2011 Media Guide, Eastern Michigan University, 2010, retrieved 2011-01-14 
  7. ^ Men's Basketball All-Time MIAA Champions, Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, retrieved 2011-01-14 
  8. ^ a b c 2007-08 Men's Basketball Media Guide. University of Michigan. 2007. p. 190. 
  9. ^ a b Michigan alumnus, Volume 26. University of Michigan. 1919. Retrieved January 14, 2011. 
  10. ^ Dr. William N. Wasson, NIRSA, retrieved 2011-01-14 
  11. ^ New York, A.S. Barnes and company, 1939
  12. ^ New York, Ronald Press Co. 1960