Ralph Jones

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Ralph Jones
Ralph Jones.jpg
Biographical details
Born(1880-09-22)September 22, 1880
Marion County, Indiana, U.S.
DiedJuly 26, 1951(1951-07-26) (aged 70)
Boulder, Colorado, U.S.
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1913–1919Illinois (assistant)
1920–1929Lake Forest Academy
1930–1932Chicago Bears
1933–1948Lake Forest
1899–1903Shortridge HS
1904–1909Crawfordsville HS
1920–1930Lake Forest Academy
1933–1939Lake Forest
1945–1946Lake Forest
Head coaching record
Overall54–37–10 (college football)
232–106 (college basketball)
32–15 (college baseball)
24–10–7 (NFL)
Accomplishments and honors
1 NFL (1932)
2 ICC (1938, 1940)

Helms National (1915)
3 Premo-Porretta National (1906, 1908, 1915)
4 Western Conference (1911, 1912, 1915, 1917)

Ralph Robert "Curley" Jones (September 22, 1880 – July 26, 1951) was an American high school and college football and basketball coach. He also served as the head coach for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League (NFL) from 1930 to 1932, leading them to the 1932 NFL championship.

Early years[edit]

State of Indiana[edit]

Jones was an integral part of the development of high school basketball in Indiana and a successful college coach at Purdue and Illinois. He was the recipient of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame's inaugural Centennial Award on November 27, 2010. It is believed that Jones was the first high school basketball coach in the state of Indiana. While still a high school student, he organized the team at Indianapolis Shortridge High School in 1899—the first high school team in Indiana. Jones led the Indianapolis YMCA to statewide prominence, and then led the Crawfordsville YMCA, both of which claimed state YMCA championships under his guidance. Due to his success with YMCA-based leagues, Butler University contracted Jones to coach basketball for the 1903–04 season. This was the first "official" head coaching job in the long and successful career Jones would continue for the next 30 years.

Jones continued his coaching at Crawfordsville, this time at the local high school and additionally took on the head coaching duties of Wabash College. His teams at both institutions featured hall of fame inductees Ward "Piggy" Lambert, Pete Vaughn and David Glascock, with the 1906–07 Crawfordsville squad finishing 12–0 (prior to the first high school state tournament) and his 1907–08 Wabash team going 24–0. While at Wabash, his team was selected from only 300 students, yet in five years lost only four games, twice to Notre Dame and once to Purdue. Known as the "Little Giants", Jones's Wabash teams compiled a record of 75–6 and defeated teams from much larger institutions, including Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota and Notre Dame. During this same time period, Jones's Crawfordsville High School teams lost only one game.

Purdue University[edit]

Jones moved on to Purdue in 1910, beginning a three-year tenure that resulted in a 32–9 record and the first two Big Nine championships in program history (1911 and 1912). He also mentored the first All-American in Purdue basketball history, as Dave Charters garnered consensus honors in both 1910 and 1911.

University of Illinois[edit]

After his three seasons at Purdue, Jones headed to the University of Illinois. During his tenure at Illinois, Jones took a mediocre team and within two years established a dominant system that led to a 16–0 record in 1914–15. His 1914–15 team was retroactively named the national champion by the Helms Athletic Foundation and the Premo-Porretta Power Poll.[1] Jones's basketball teams at Illinois won 85 games and lost 34. He also won two Big Ten or "Big Nine" titles. Jones also was the athletic director for two years as well as being the assistant football coach to Bob Zuppke from 1913 through 1919.

After Jones left Illinois, he went to Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois. He was there for 10 years coaching both basketball and football. His football teams won 76 games and lost only six games in his 10 years. During this tenure, his basketball teams had a record of 94–9.

Chicago Bears[edit]

After George Halas retired as a player-coach in 1930, he hired Jones to take over his team as head coach. Even though Jones led the team to a 24–10–7 record, due to the economic depression which was affecting every business across the United States, the financial health of the franchise began to suffer. With many people out of work, fewer and fewer individuals could pay for the cost of a ticket to attend a Bears game. Consequently, even though the team won the NFL championship in 1932, by the end of the season the franchise had lost approximately $18,000. Dutch Sternaman sold his half of the team to Halas, and Halas resumed coaching the team in order to save the cost of a head coach's salary. During his tenure with the Bears, Jones lined the quarterback directly under center, the first time this had been done. Next, he spaced out the offensive line and devised blocking schemes that would open holes in the defense. He refined the T formation by introducing wide ends and a halfback in motion. While Jones was head coach, Bronko Nagurski made his NFL debut as a member of the Chicago Bears.[2] His .706 winning percentage is the best in Bears history.[3]

During his time at Lake Forest College[4] Jones tinkered with simple options on the basic T formation. Many coaches were searching for answers to an easy-to-teach formation that was also not easy to defend. Jones approached Halas with various diagrammed options. Not until Clark Shaughnessy, head coach at the University of Chicago, approached Halas with very complex formations in 1935 did the T become effective. Many coaches contributed to the success of the T-formation that swept college and pro football in 1940. Shaughnessy's Stanford University team went 10–0 and defeated the University of Nebraska in the Rose Bowl with his elaborate T-formation. Weeks later, Halas's Bears defeated the Washington Redskins 73–0 with the same system. Jones left the Bears to become athletic director at Lake Forest College.

All told, Jones tallied 404 wins in his coaching career for a winning record of better than 83 percent. He also mentored nine college All-Americans.

Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Ward Lambert dedicated his 1932 book, Practical Basketball, to "Ralph Jones, my coach."

Personal life[edit]

Jones married Florence C. Pyle in 1903 and remained with her until his death, a 48 year marriage. Jones wrote his first published book entitled, "Basketball from a Coaching Standpoint", published by Flanigan-Pearson Company, Printers and released in 1916. He also co-wrote, "The Modern "T" Formation with Man-in-motion" with Clark Daniel Shaughnessy and George Halas. This book was related to football and released in 1946.[5]

Head coaching record[edit]

High school basketball[edit]

School Season Record Conference record Place Postseason
Shortridge High School 1899–1900 5–2
Shortridge High School 1900–01 3–5
Shortridge High School 1901–02 ?
Shortridge High School 1902–03 ?
Shortridge 1899–1903 8–7
Crawfordsville HS 1903–04 13–2 mythical State champions
Crawfordsville HS 1904–05 4–3 mythical State champions
Crawfordsville HS 1905–06 9–6
Crawfordsville HS 1906–07 12–0 mythical State champions
Crawfordsville HS 1907–08 10–5
Crawfordsville HS 1908–09 17–1
Crawfordsville HS 1904–1909 65–17
Lake Forest Academy 1920–21
Lake Forest Academy 1921–22
Lake Forest Academy 1922–23
Lake Forest Academy 1923–24
Lake Forest Academy 1924–25
Lake Forest Academy 1925–26
Lake Forest Academy 1926–27
Lake Forest Academy 1927–28
Lake Forest Academy 1928–29
Lake Forest Academy 1929–30
Lake Forest Academy 1920–1930 94–9

College basketball[edit]

Statistics overview
Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Butler Christians (Independent) (1903–1904)
1903–04 Butler 2–2
Butler: 2–2
Wabash Little Giants (Independent) (1904–1909)
1904–05 Wabash 8–0
1905–06 Wabash 17–1
1906–07 Wabash 17–2
1907–08 Wabash 24–0
1908–09 Wabash 9–3
Wabash: 75–6
Purdue Boilermakers (Western Conference) (1909–1912)
1909–10 Purdue 8–5 5–5 5th
1910–11 Purdue 12–4 8–4 T–1st
1911–12 Purdue 12–0 10–0 1st
Purdue: 32–9 23–9
Illinois Fighting Illini (Western Conference / Big Ten Conference) (1912–1920)
1912–13 Illinois 10–6 7–6 5th
1913–14 Illinois 9–4 7–3 3rd
1914–15 Illinois 16–0 12–0 1st
1915–16 Illinois 13–3 9–3 T–2nd
1916–17 Illinois 13–3 10–2 T–1st
1917–18 Illinois 9–6 6–6 T–4th
1918–19 Illinois 6–8 5–7 5th
1919–20 Illinois 9–4 8–4 3rd
Illinois: 85–34 64–31
Lake Forest Foresters (Independent) (1933–1939)
1933–34 Lake Forest 7–7
1934–35 Lake Forest 2–10
1935–36 Lake Forest 8–6
1936–37 Lake Forest 2–12
1937–38 Lake Forest 9–7
1938–39 Lake Forest 8–5
Lake Forest Foresters (Independent) (1945–1946)
1945–46 Lake Forest 2–8
Lake Forest: 38–55
Total: 232–106

      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

College football[edit]

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Wabash Little Giants (Independent) (1908)
1908 Wabash 2–6
Wabash: 2–6
Lake Forest Foresters (Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) (1933–1937)
1933 Lake Forest 3–3–1 2–1 12th
1934 Lake Forest 3–4–1 0–4 20th
1935 Lake Forest 3–4 0–1 18th
1936 Lake Forest 4–2–1 2–1 T–5th
1937 Lake Forest 3–1–2 1–1–1 T–11th
Lake Forest Foresters (Illinois College Conference) (1938–1945)
1938 Lake Forest 7–0 4–0 T–1st
1939 Lake Forest 5–2 2–2 T–7th
1940 Lake Forest 6–0–1 3–0 T–1st
1941 Lake Forest 5–1–2 2–1–1 T–4th
1942 Lake Forest 2–4–1 0–3 T–7th
1943 No team—World War II
1944 No team—World War II
1945 No team—World War II
Lake Forest Foresters (College Conference of Illinois) (1946–1948)
1946 Lake Forest 3–3 3–1 T–2nd
1947 Lake Forest 3–4–1 2–2–1 T–5th
1948 Lake Forest 5–3 4–1 T–2nd
Lake Forest: 52–31–10 25–18–3
Total: 54–37–10
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth


One-Game Playoff Berth
NFL coaching statistics
Season Team Regular Season Postseason Results
Finish W L T
1930 Chicago Bears 3rd 9 4 1
1931 Chicago Bears 3rd 8 5 0
1932 Chicago Bears 1st1 7 1 62 Named NFL champions1
Total 24 10 7

1 The result of the 1932 NFL Playoff Game to determine the NFL champion between the Chicago Bears and the Portsmouth Spartans counted in the regular season standings.
2 Prior to the 1972 season ties did not count in the NFL Standings therefore the Bears (6-1-6) and the Spartans (6-1-4) were considered tied atop the standings ahead of the Packers (10-3-1)


  1. ^ ESPN, ed. (2009). ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Men's Game. New York, NY: ESPN Books. p. 533. ISBN 978-0-345-51392-2.
  2. ^ "NFL History". Archived from the original on January 6, 2010. Retrieved December 24, 2006.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), NFL, retrieved April 3, 2006
  3. ^ "Bears coaching history". Chicago Bears. January 14, 2013. Archived from the original on August 7, 2017. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
  4. ^ "Hotchkiss Hall". November 1, 2006. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  5. ^ The Career of Ralph Jones A lesser-known Indiana coaching legend

External links[edit]