Jake Gaither

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Jake Gaither
Jake Gaither portrait.jpg
Biographical details
Born(1903-04-11)April 11, 1903
Dayton, Tennessee
DiedFebruary 18, 1994(1994-02-18) (aged 90)
Tallahassee, Florida
Playing career
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1938–1944Florida A&M (assistant)
1945–1969Florida A&M
Head coaching record
Accomplishments and honors
1 AP small college national (1962)
8 Black college national (1950, 1952–1954, 1957, 1959, 1961–1962)
20 SIAC (1945–1950, 1952–1965)
3 SIAC Division A (1967–1969)
Walter Camp Man of the Year (1974)
Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (1975)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1975 (profile)

Alonzo Smith "Jake" Gaither (April 11, 1903 – February 18, 1994) was an American football coach. He served as the head football coach at Florida A&M University (FAMU) for 25 years, from 1945 to 1969, compiling a record of 204–36–4. His won–loss record is among the best of any college football coach.

Gaither was born in 1903 in Dayton, Tennessee. His father was a preacher, and as a youth Gaither expected to also become a preacher. He graduated from Knoxville College, where he played football, in 1927. Gaither's father died around that time, and Gaither became a high school football coach to help support his family. Gaither later completed a master's degree at Ohio State University in 1937.

Coach Jake Gaither (standing, middle, white shirt with whistle) in the locker room with his Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) football team: Tallahassee, Florida, 1953

Gaither went to work as an assistant to head coach William M. Bell at Florida A&M College for Negroes (as it was called then) in 1938. The FAMC Rattlers had an undefeated (8–0) season that year, and won their first black college football national championship. The school won the national title again in 1942. Bell left to enter military service in 1943. After two years of problems in the football program, Gaither was hired as the head football coach for Florida A&M College in 1945. One story is that the president of the college could not find anyone else to take the job.

Gaither worked very hard to motivate his players. He would say, "I like my boys to be agile, mobile, and hostile." It is reported that he would hide an onion in his handkerchief to work up tears in his pre-game pep talks. He built up an effective recruiting network, and by the 1960s did not even bother to recruit players from outside the state of Florida. Gaither was dedicated to his job. After retiring, he told his biographer, "I run into so many people who have no deep sense of morals—people who got a price tag on them, who'd sell their soul. I want to find the man who has no price tag on him. I'm not for sale."

Gaither instituted an annual coaching clinic at FAMU in the late 1950s. He recruited major college coaches, including Paul "Bear" Bryant, Frank Broyles, Darrell Royal, Woody Hayes and Adolph Rupp, among others, to staff the clinics.

Gaither introduced the Split-T formation in 1963, and it was soon adopted at other colleges. In 1969 Florida A&M defeated the Spartans of the University of Tampa, 34–28, in the South's first football game between a white college and a historically black college.

Gaither also coached basketball and track in his early years as football coach. He later became Director of Athletics and Chairman of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at FAMU. He continued to hold the last two positions after he retired as coach until his retirement from teaching in 1973.

When Gaither retired from coaching in 1969, his Florida A&M teams had a 204–36–4 record, for a .844 winning percentage. Thirty-six players from Gaither's teams were All-Americans, and 42 went on to play in the National Football League (NFL). Gaither was named Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Decade. He was named College Division Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association in 1962, and was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1975. He also received the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award that year, and the Walter Camp Man of the Year award in 1974. The Jake Gaither Trophy has been awarded to the best Black collegiate football player each year since 1978. The Jake Gaither Gymnasium is located on the FAMU campus.

Gaither died in Tallahassee, Florida in 1994. The Jake Gaither House where he lived is now a cultural center.[1]

Head coaching record[edit]

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs AP# UPI°
Florida A&M Rattlers (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) (1945–1969)
1945 Florida A&M 9–1 L Orange Blossom Classic
1946 Florida A&M 6–4–1 L Orange Blossom Classic
1947 Florida A&M 9–1 W Orange Blossom Classic
1948 Florida A&M 8–2 L Orange Blossom Classic
1949 Florida A&M 7–2 L Orange Blossom Classic
1950 Florida A&M 7–1–1 L Orange Blossom Classic
1951 Florida A&M 7–1–1 4–1 3rd W Orange Blossom Classic
1952 Florida A&M 8–2 W Orange Blossom Classic
1953 Florida A&M 10–1 L Orange Blossom Classic
1954 Florida A&M 8–1 W Orange Blossom Classic
1955 Florida A&M 7–1–1 L Orange Blossom Classic
1956 Florida A&M 8–1 L Orange Blossom Classic
1957 Florida A&M 9–0 W Orange Blossom Classic
1958 Florida A&M 7–2 L Orange Blossom Classic
1959 Florida A&M 10–0 W Orange Blossom Classic 14
1960 Florida A&M 9–1 W Orange Blossom Classic 5
1961 Florida A&M 10–0 W Orange Blossom Classic 4 6
1962 Florida A&M 9–1 L Orange Blossom Classic 1 2
1963 Florida A&M 8–2 W Orange Blossom Classic 7 6
1964 Florida A&M 9–1 W Orange Blossom Classic 9 12
1965 Florida A&M 7–3 L Orange Blossom Classic
1966 Florida A&M 7–3 W Orange Blossom Classic
1967 Florida A&M 8–2 (Division A) L Orange Blossom Classic
1968 Florida A&M 8–2 (Division A) L Orange Blossom Classic T–19
1969 Florida A&M 8–1 (Division A) W Orange Blossom Classic 16
Florida A&M: 204–36–4
Total: 204–36–4
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

  1. ^ "Jake Gaither House". The Jake Gaither Memorial House Foundation. 2018. Retrieved May 22, 2019.