Frank Thomas (American football)
November 15, 1898|
|Died||May 10, 1954
|1917–1918||Western State Normal|
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|Administrative career (AD unless noted)|
|Head coaching record|
|Accomplishments and honors|
|2 National (1934, 1941)
4 SEC (1933–1934, 1937, 1945)
3 SIAA (1926, 1927)
|SEC Coach of the Year (1945)|
|College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1951 (profile)
Frank William Thomas (November 15, 1898 – May 10, 1954) was an American football player and coach. He served as the head football coach at the University of Chattanooga from 1925 to 1928 and at the University of Alabama from 1931 to 1946, compiling a career college football record of 141–33–9. During his tenure at Alabama, Thomas amassed a record of 115–24–7 and won four Southeastern Conference titles while his teams allowed an average of just 6.3 points per game. Thomas's 1934 Alabama team completed a 10–0 season with a victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl and was named national champion by a number of selectors.
Thomas's total wins and winning percentage at Alabama rank second all-time among Crimson Tide football coaches, behind only Paul "Bear" Bryant, who Thomas coached in the mid-1930s. Thomas never coached a losing season, and twice his teams had undefeated, 10-win campaigns. Thomas was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.
He played quarterback for coach Knute Rockne at University of Notre Dame from 1920 to 1922. According to Rockne, Thomas was the smartest player he ever coached. Thomas's roommate and best friend at Notre Dame was George "The Gipper" Gipp.
After graduating from Notre Dame, Thomas became an assistant coach at the University of Georgia for two years before earning his first head coaching job in 1925 at the University of Chattanooga, where his teams' record was 26–9–2 in four seasons. In 1931, he accepted the head coaching job at the University of Alabama, where he established himself as one of the top coaches in the nation. His bowl record at Alabama was 4–2, with wins at the Rose Bowl (1935, 1946), Cotton Bowl Classic (1942), and Orange Bowl (1943). He became the coach and mentor to future Hall of Fame coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. Other notable players included Don Hutson, Vaughn Mancha, Harry Gilmer, Johnny Cain, and Riley Smith.
A frequent smoker, Thomas commonly smoked cigars on the sidelines during games. Thomas fell ill with heart and lung disease. Too weak to both coach and take care of his mentally ill daughter, his declining health finally forced his resignation from coaching in 1946. He remained Alabama's athletic director.
Death and legacy
In 1951, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Thomas died in 1954 at the age of 55 at Druid City Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. An illustrated book published later that year told his story. The football practice fields at the University of Alabama are named for Thomas and his successor, Harold Drew.
In 2006, a bronze statue of Thomas was erected outside of the University of Alabama's Bryant–Denny Stadium alongside the statues of Wallace Wade, Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings and now Nick Saban, the other head coaches who have led Alabama to national championships.
Head coaching record
|Chattanooga Mocs (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1925–1928)|
|Alabama Crimson Tide (Southern Conference) (1931–1932)|
|Alabama Crimson Tide (Southeastern Conference) (1933–1946)|
|1943||No team—World War II|
|National championship Conference title Conference division title|
|#Rankings from final AP Poll.|
- Stone, Naylor (1954) Coach Tommy of the Crimson Tide. Birmingham, Alabama: Vulcan Press.
- Groom, Winston. The Crimson Tide - An Illustrated History. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2000. ISBN 0-8173-1051-7
- Bowling, Lewis. "EOA Links." Encyclopedia of Alabama: Frank Thomas. N.p., 26 Feb. 2009. Web.