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Jock Sutherland

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Jock Sutherland
Jock Sutherland poses for the 1939 Owl, Pitt's annual student yearbook
Sutherland pictured in the 1939 Owl, Pitt's annual student yearbook
Personal information
Born:(1889-03-21)March 21, 1889[1][2]
Coupar Angus, Scotland
Died:April 11, 1948(1948-04-11) (aged 59)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Career information
Career history
As a player:
As a coach:
As an administrator:
  • Pittsburgh Steelers (1946–1947)
Career highlights and awards
Military career
AllegianceUnited States United States
Service/branchUnited States Navy seal U.S. Navy
Years of service1941–46
Rank Lt. Commander
Battles/warsWorld War II
Coaching stats at PFR

John Bain Sutherland (March 21, 1889[1][2] – April 11, 1948) was an American football player and coach. He coached college football at Lafayette College (1919–1923) and the University of Pittsburgh (1924–1938) and professional football for the Brooklyn Dodgers (1940–1941) and Pittsburgh Steelers (1946–1947). He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.


A native of Coupar Angus in Scotland, Sutherland got his start in football by playing end at the University of Pittsburgh, commonly known as Pitt, under legendary coach Glenn Scobey "Pop" Warner. Sutherland was named an All-American and played on Pitt's national championship teams in 1915 and 1916.

Sutherland also played on Pitt's undefeated 1917 team. The 1917 team was known as "The Fighting Dentists" because on occasion every position was filled by dental students.[5] The dental students on the 1917 team included Sutherland,[6] Katy Easterday,[7] Skip Gougler,[8] "Tank" McLaren[9] and "Jake" Stahl.[10] Sutherland also lettered in wrestling and captained the track and field team at Pitt for which he specialized in the hammer throw, discus, and shot put. He was also a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, Psi Omega national dental fraternity, Omicron Delta Kappa, and the Druids Society, a secret society at the university.[11] Sutherland graduated from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Dentistry, where he also held a professorship in the instruction of bridge and crown.[6]


In 1919, Sutherland played in a few games with the Massillon Tigers of the Ohio League, which was the direct predecessor to the modern National Football League. However, he soon left the team and began his head coaching career at Lafayette College from 1919 to 1923, leading the Leopards to the 1921 Eastern Collegiate Championship.[12]

University of Pittsburgh[edit]

Jock Sutherland sitting on a track and field hurdle.
Sutherland in 1937

In 1924, Sutherland replaced "Pop" Warner, his former coach and mentor, as head coach at Pitt. Sutherland, who was described as "a national hero" in a Saturday Evening Post article,[13] became a highly admired and influential coach at the university while compiling a record of 111–20–12. On offense, he ran a double-wing formation known as the "Sutherland Scythe".[14] He was known for his calm and direct demeanor, never shouting or ranting to motivate his team.[15]

During his tenure, Sutherland's teams were named Eastern football champions seven times including 1925, 1927, 1929, 1931, 1934, 1936, and 1937.[16] During this time, Pitt appeared in four Rose Bowl games (1928, 1930, 1933, and 1937) and turned down a bid for the 1938 Rose Bowl.[14] Sutherland's teams were named "National Champions" by various selectors for nine different seasons including 1925, 1927, 1929, 1931, 1933, 1934, 1936, 1937, and 1938.[17][18] Of these, the University of Pittsburgh officially recognizes five of those years as national championship seasons (1929, 1931, 1934, 1936, and 1937),[18] while one of them, 1937, includes the Associated Press national championship designation which, at the time, was only the second instance in which the AP poll had been published. Sutherland coached the famed "Dream Backfield" of John Chickerneo, Dick Cassiano, Harold Stebbins, and Marshall Goldberg, which at the time was considered to be the best backfield in history by some, including Don Miller, a member of The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame.[19]

After years of struggling with the university for sustained financial support, Sutherland resigned in 1938 because the school's Chancellor, John Gabbert Bowman, instituted a policy of de-emphasis for the football program, eliminating athletic scholarships, student athlete stipends, and the recruiting funds. Bowman's moves, which resulted in Sutherland's departure, were controversial among students and supporters of the football program.[20]

As of 2009, his career coaching record of 144–28–14 in 20 seasons at the collegiate level, an .812 winning percentage, is the 25th best winning percentage in all divisions of college football[21] and 11th best among coaches from the top division,[22] currently known as the Division I FBS. His .812 winning percentage is also the 5th best such mark during the first 20 years of any coaches' career.[23] He is also tied for the 23rd fewest games to reach 100 victories, accomplished in his 132nd game as coach.[24]

Professional football and military service[edit]

Sutherland later coached in the National Football League with the Brooklyn Dodgers for two seasons, 1940–41, before leaving the team to serve the United States during World War II.[25]

During the war, Sutherland served in the United States Navy and achieved the rank of Lieutenant commander.[26]

Upon returning to the United States, Sutherland landed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he was head coach and team vice president.[26] He led the Steelers to their first playoff appearance in 1947.

Sudden illness and death[edit]

While on a scouting trip for the Steelers in April 1948, Sutherland was found in his car in Bandana, Kentucky, where he was experiencing confusion and was then taken to a hospital in Cairo, Illinois, where he was initially diagnosed with "nervous exhaustion".[26][27] He was flown back to Pittsburgh for further treatment. An exploratory surgery was required to determine whether he was suffering from a hemorrhage or a tumor.[26] Sutherland died in Pittsburgh on April 11, 1948, following surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor.[28] He is interred in Pittsburgh's Homewood Cemetery.


Sutherland running a practice at Pitt in 1935

Sutherland was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 as a coach. He is memorialized on the Pitt campus with a street, Sutherland Drive, and the student residence Sutherland Hall.

Head coaching record[edit]


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs AP#
Lafayette (Independent) (1919–1923)
1919 Lafayette 6–2
1920 Lafayette 5–3
1921 Lafayette 9–0
1922 Lafayette 7–2
1923 Lafayette 6–1–2
Lafayette: 33–8–2
Pittsburgh Panthers (Independent) (1924–1938)
1924 Pittsburgh 5–3–1
1925 Pittsburgh 8–1
1926 Pittsburgh 5–2–2
1927 Pittsburgh 8–1–1 L Rose
1928 Pittsburgh 6–2–1
1929 Pittsburgh 9–1 L Rose
1930 Pittsburgh 6–2–1
1931 Pittsburgh 8–1
1932 Pittsburgh 8–1–2 L Rose
1933 Pittsburgh 8–1
1934 Pittsburgh 8–1
1935 Pittsburgh 7–1–2
1936 Pittsburgh 8–1–1 W Rose 3
1937 Pittsburgh 9–0–1 1
1938 Pittsburgh 8–2 8
Pittsburgh: 111–20–12
Total: 144–28–14
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth


*The Pittsburgh Panthers claim a share of the 1934 national championship per a 1970 Sports Illustrated study on national championships that the school has used since its publication as the basis of its claims.[30] However, this championship is not included in the Official NCAA Records Book's list of national champions.



  • Alberts, Robert C. (2006) [1986]. Pitt: The Story of the University of Pittsburgh 1787–1987 (TIFF) (Digital ed.). Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 543. ISBN 0-8229-1150-7. Retrieved December 10, 2009.
  • Campbell, Richard M.; Johnson, Gary K.; Straziscar, Sean; Hamilton, J.D.; Williams, Jeff; Worlock, David; Wright, Jim; Nagdeman, Kyle (August 2009). "Official 2009 NCAA Division I Football Records Book" (PDF). Official ... NCAA Division 1 Football Records Book. Indianapolis, Indiana: National Collegiate Athletic Association: 235. ISSN 0735-5475. Retrieved December 15, 2009.
  • Jock Sutherland: Architect of Men. Harry G. Scott. New York, NY: Exposition Press, 1954.


  1. ^ a b "Jock Sutherland (American football coach)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Sutherland Resigns Head Football Coaching Job At U. Of Pittsburgh". The Sun. Baltimore, Maryland. March 6, 1939. Archived from the original on February 20, 2017. Retrieved July 6, 2017. Dr. John B. (Jock) Sutherland ... will be 50 years old on March 21
  3. ^ Campbell, et al.: p 4
  4. ^ Scott, Harry G. (1954). Jock Sutherland: Architect of Men. New York: Exposition Press. p. 220. ASIN B003AX9W9Y. LCCN 54-9996.
  5. ^ "50th Anniversary: Last Unbeaten Pitt Team, 1917 'Fighting Dentists', Will Be Honored Saturday". Daily Courier. November 2, 1967.
  6. ^ a b "Jimmy Phelan to Fulfill Promise Of Coaching Job". Nevada State Journal. December 12, 1936.
  7. ^ "All-American Gridder: Former Wildcat Mentor Retires". Leader Times. Kittanning, Pennsylvania. July 6, 1959. (Easterday graduated from Pitt in 1919 with a degree in dentistry.)
  8. ^ "'Skip' Gougler New Coach is Training Backfield Player". The Lafayette. October 5, 1921. (Gougler completed his education in dentistry at Pitt in 1920.)
  9. ^ "Pitt Crack Athletes Secure Coaching Jobs". Altoona Mirror. April 30, 1919. [McLaren] graduates from the university dental school in June.
  10. ^ "Dr. Stahl was dentist in Hampton". North Hills News Record. October 12, 1966.
  11. ^ Scott, Harry G. (1954). Jock Sutherland: Architect of Men. New York, NY: Exposition Press. pp. 43–47. ASIN B003AX9W9Y. LCCN 54-9996.
  12. ^ P.F.R.A. Research (1979). "Sutherland" (PDF). Coffin Corner. 1 (9). Professional Football Researchers Association: 1–3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-11-27. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  13. ^ Alberts, p. 158
  14. ^ a b Wallace, William N. (October 15, 1994). "COLLEGE FOOTBALL; This Pitt Backfield Is Still a Dream". The New York Times. Associated Press. p. 30, section 1. Retrieved December 10, 2009. They ran an offense called the Sutherland Scythe after Coach Jock Sutherland, a titan of his time. It was a precision double-wing attack that ravaged opponents. But more distinctive than its offensive power game was the players' decision at the end of the season to turn down an invitation to play in the Rose Bowl.
  15. ^ Rice, Grantland (Oct 20, 1938). "The Blade of the Sutherland Scythe" (PDF). Utica Observer-Dispatch. p. 11–A. Retrieved December 10, 2009. Sutherland manages to keep his players at a high level all season by coaching them in a calm, professional manner. Dressing room histrionics have no part in his system. There are no blood-tingling pep talks from the doctor before a game or between halves. Before a game he tells the players what he wants them to do. Between halves he tells them wherein they have failed to do it. If they are trailing at the half he doesn't try to whip them to a fury by yelling at them, pleading with them or shedding tears over the disaster that is about to befall the old school. He merely points out their mistakes...
  16. ^ University of Pittsburgh 1975 Football Media Guide. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: University of Pittsburgh. 1975. p. 54. Retrieved December 10, 2009.
  17. ^ "Pittsburgh Total National Championships". CFBDataWarehouse.com. College Football Data Warehouse. Archived from the original on July 4, 2008. Retrieved August 26, 2008.
  18. ^ a b Hursen, Steve (2007). "Panther History: Pitt Football 2006" (PDF). 2007 Pitt Football Media Guide. University of Pittsburgh. p. 176. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 22, 2011. Retrieved December 10, 2009.
  19. ^ Moshier, Jeff (October 25, 1938). "Playing square". The Evening Independent. St. Petersburg, Florida. p. 8. Retrieved December 10, 2009.
  20. ^ Alberts, p. 167
  21. ^ Campbell, et al.: p 216
  22. ^ Campbell, et al.: p 219
  23. ^ Campbell, et al.: p 223
  24. ^ Campbell, et al.: p 225
  25. ^ "Jock Sutherland Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved 2024-03-11.
  26. ^ a b c d "Jock Sutherland's Condition Serious". St. Petersburg Times. Associated Press. April 11, 1948. p. 25. Retrieved December 10, 2009.
  27. ^ "SUTHERLAND STAYS IN CAIRO HOSPITAL; Football Worries Blamed for Steeler Coach's Breakdown -- General Condition Good". The New York Times. Associated Press. April 9, 1948. p. 32, Sports sect. Retrieved December 10, 2009. Coach John B. (Jock) Sutherland, 59, of the National Football League's Pittsburgh Steelers was in a hospital today reported suffering from either a nervous breakdown or amnesia. Sutherland, on a talent scouting trip through the South, was found in a dazed condition in his mired automobile in Bandana, Ky., yesterday.
  28. ^ "Sutherland Dies Following Brain Surgery". Ellensburg Daily Record. Ellensburg, Washington. Associated Press. April 12, 1948. p. 8. Retrieved December 10, 2009.
  29. ^ David DeLassus, All-Time Coaching Records:Dr. John B. "Jock" Sutherland Archived 2010-10-30 at the Wayback Machine, College Football Data Warehouse, August 5, 2010.
  30. ^ Jenkins, Dan (September 11, 1967). "This Year The Fight Will Be In The Open". Sports Illustrated. 27 (11). Chicago, IL: Time, Inc.: 30–33. Retrieved 2009-04-29.

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