Ralph Jones

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Ralph Jones
Ralph Jones.jpg
Sport(s) Football, basketball
Biographical details
Born (1880-09-22)September 22, 1880
Marion County, Indiana
Died July 26, 1951(1951-07-26) (aged 70)
Boulder, Colorado
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1908 Wabash
1913–1920 Illinois (asst.)
1920–1930 Lake Forest College
1930–1932 Chicago Bears
1933–1948 Lake Forest College
1903–1904 Butler
1904–1909 Crawfordsville HS (IN)
1904–1909 Wabash
1909–1912 Purdue
1912–1920 Illinois
1920–1930 Lake Forest College
1933–1939 Lake Forest College
1945–1946 Lake Forest College
Head coaching record
Overall 54–37–10 (college football)
232–106 (college basketball)
24–10–7 (NFL)
Accomplishments and honors
Indiana HS boys' state champions (1911)
Big Ten (1911, 1912, 1915, 1917)
Helms National Championship (1915)
Premo-Porretta National Championship (1915)
NFL (1932)

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 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 1920.

After Jones left Illinois, he went to Lake Forest College[2] 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.[3] His .706 winning percentage is the best in Bears history.[4]

During his time at Lake Forest College[5] 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."

Head coaching record[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 1899–1902 8–7
School Season Record Conference record Place Postseason
Indiana January 8–21, 1903 3–1
Indiana 1903 3–1
School Season Record Conference record Place Postseason
Butler 1903–04 2–2
Butler 1903–04 2–2
School Season Record Conference record Place Postseason
Crawfordsville HS 1903–04 13–2 State champions
Crawfordsville HS 1904–05 4–3 State champions
Crawfordsville HS 1905–06 9–6
Crawfordsville HS 1906–07 12–0 State champions
Crawfordsville HS 1907–08 10–5
Crawfordsville HS 1908–09 17–1
Crawfordsville HS 1904–09 65–17
School Season Record Conference record Place Postseason
Wabash College 1904–05 8–0
Wabash College 1905–06 17–1 Premo-Porretta national champions
Wabash College 1906–07 17–2
Wabash College 1907–08 24–0 Premo-Porretta national champions
Wabash College 1908–09 9–3
Wabash College 1904–09 75–6
School Season Record Conference record Place Postseason
Purdue 1909–10 8–5 5–5 5th
Purdue 1910–11 12–4 8–4 T1st
Purdue 1911–12 12–0 10–0 1st Big Ten champions
Purdue 1909–12 32–9 23–9
School Season Record Conference record Place Postseason
Illinois 1912–13 10–6 7–6 5th
Illinois 1913–14 9–4 7–3 3rd
Illinois 1914–15 16–0 12–0 1st Helms national champions
Premo-Porretta national champions
Illinois 1915–16 13–3 9–3 T2nd
Illinois 1916–17 13–3 10–2 T1st Big Ten champions
Illinois 1917–18 9–6 6–6 T4th
Illinois 1918–19 6–8 5–7 5th
Illinois 1919–20 9–4 8–4 3rd
Illinois 1912–20 85–34 64–31
School Season Record Conference record Place Postseason
Lake Forest College 1920–30 94–9
Lake Forest College 1920–30 94–9



Season Team League Team Regular season Postseason results
Finish W L T
1930 1930 NFL Chicago Bears 3rd 9 4 1
1931 1931 NFL Chicago Bears 3rd 8 5 0
1932 1932 NFL Chicago Bears 1st 7 1 6 Named NFL champions


School Season Record
Wabash(IN) 1908 2–6
Wabash 1908 2–6
School Season Record
Lake Forest College 1933 3–3–1
Lake Forest College 1934 3–4–1
Lake Forest College 1935 3–4–0
Lake Forest College 1936 4–2–1
Lake Forest College 1937 3–1–2
Lake Forest College 1938 7–0–0
Lake Forest College 1939 5–2–0
Lake Forest College 1940 6–0–1
Lake Forest College 1941 5–1–2
Lake Forest College 1942 2–4–1
Lake Forest College 1946 3–3–0
Lake Forest College 1947 3–4–1
Lake Forest College 1948 5–3–0
Lake Forest College 1933–48 54–37–10


  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. ^ "Hotchkiss Hall". 2006-11-01. Retrieved 2016-01-01. 
  3. ^ "NFL History". Archived from the original on January 6, 2010. Retrieved 2006-12-24. , NFL, retrieved April 3, 2006
  4. ^ "Bears coaching history". Chicago Bears. 2013-01-14. Retrieved 2013-01-16. 
  5. ^ "Hotchkiss Hall". 2006-11-01. Retrieved 2016-01-01. 

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