Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History
The history of American college football and the history of football at Tufts are, surprisingly, closely intertwined. Although several colleges claim the honor, it seems that the first true football game between two American colleges took place on June 4, 1875, when Tufts College beat Harvard 1-0 at Jarvis Field in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Although Princeton and Rutgers claimed to have played the first football game on November 6, 1869, their game was basically a rough version of soccer, and carrying the ball and tackling were forbidden. Tufts students first learned of the game during a rugby match between Harvard and McGill University in May, 1874. The game was played with rugby rules, but was seen as an early version of football. Several Tufts students attended the game, and challenged Harvard to a match the following year. Using the recently established "Boston rules" for football, Tufts handed Harvard its first ever football loss. Although there are almost no records of the game, players recount that Scott Campbell scored the game's only touchdown behind a block from Austin Fletcher with Francis Harrington kicking the extra point. After the completion of the match, Tufts players ran all the way back to the hill, rang the bell at Ballou, and celebrated with a buffet supper, toasts, and speeches.
Football had been present on the Tufts campus informally since at least 1864. The first issue of Tuftonia reported that football was becoming quite popular, and by 1875, it had almost superseded baseball as the most popular sport on campus.
After the first game against Harvard, Tufts took its squad to Bates College for the first football game played in Maine. The next year, Harvard avenged its loss to Tufts, and football on campus mostly disappeared until 1884, when the team was again quite successful. On October 9, 1885, the Tufts Football Association entered the Northern Intercollegiate Football Association, the first official college football league in the northeast, and finished the year with a two and four record. In 1887, Tufts withdrew from the league, and would remain independent for eighty years.
Tufts hired its first official football coach, A.G. Baillet, in 1892. The team's record that year caused enough excitement around campus to bring about the construction of a large oval with grounds for both football and baseball. The oval was completed and ready for use by 1895.
In 1902, Tufts produced its first All-American. Captain Tom Knight, a fullback, was named to the team as a substitute behind a Harvard player. In 1906, Tufts joined the Intercollegiate Athletic Association in an attempt to limit the roughness of the game and the attention played to athletics. The 1906 team was quite good, with only two teams scoring more than one touchdown against them all season. Soon after, in 1908, Tufts became a charter member of the New England College Conference on College Athletics. The membership allowed Tufts to limit the amount of time the team had to travel, and also the number of games played annually.
Between 1908 and 1912, Tufts football was generally unsuccessful. Coach Charles Whelan, who had come to Tufts in 1903 and became a major innovator among coaches in the east, had left to resume his medical practice in 1908.Whelan returned to Tufts in 1912, however, and helped to put the struggling program back on its feet. In a 1912 game versus Bowdoin College, Whelan used the first ever Minnesota Shift, a play in which both tackles begin in the backfield and shift to one side of the line to outflank the defense. In 1913, Tufts went almost unbeaten, losing only one game. Their one loss became the most famous and remembered game of the season, as a prominent West Point sophomore halfback named Dwight D. Eisenhower had his leg broken halfway through the match.
During the 1913 season, Clarence "Pop" Houston established himself as one of the team's strongest players. He played guard and fullback for all four years at Tufts, and returned to Tufts as Manager of Athletics in 1920. From there he went on to be Director of Athletics, and in 1953, became the Tufts Vice President for Development. He also served as the President of the NCAA from 1955-1957.
The 1913 team also lays claim to another major innovation in football. After a loss to Army, Tufts player George Angell, one of the first in football to throw the long pass, sent information to Notre Dame recommending that they try a short pass offense. Notre Dame then completed thirteen of fourteen passes and upset Army 35-13. The overwhelming publicity surrounding the Notre Dame game, seen as the first game to utilize a short pass offense, drowned out Tufts' role in the game.
In 1914, William F. Brown became the first African-American Jumbo to play football, and his quickness made him quite a force at left tackle. 1916 also brought prestige to Tufts football, as Tufts defeated Harvard for the first time since 1875, and also became the first team to use the huddle on offense. The crowd and the band at a game versus the University of Indiana were so loud that the quarterback couldn't call the plays. Instead, he had the players huddle and then simply counted at the line. Although the claim is disputed because the huddle was not planned in advance, it does seem to be the first time it appeared during a game.
After seeing Tufts football wane during the First World War, Edward L. Casey was hired as coach in 1922. For two years, the Tufts team thrived, but it again faltered in 1924 and 1925. 1926, however, saw the coming of one of Tufts' all time greats. Fred "Fish" Ellis became a force on the 1926 team, and in 1927 led the team to its first undefeated, untied record. Also during the 1927 season, Tufts hired its first full-time football coach, Arthur Sampson.
In 1930, Sampson left Tufts, and Lewis F. Manly became the new coach. Manly and the Tufts defense then led the team to its second undefeated season in 1934. That year, the defense allowed only one touchdown in eight games, and scored nearly as many times as the offense. Tufts next strong season was not until 1943, when, bolstered in part by Navy recruits, Tufts beat Harvard for the first time since 1916 and finished with its best record in nine years.
At the end of the 1945 season, Manly retired, and his duties were taken over by "Fish" Ellis. Through Ellis' seven years as coach, the team was less than spectacular, but they sent Ellis out with a winning record in 1953. Harry Arlanson was hired to replace Ellis, and had immediate success, leading the team to a six and two record in 1954. In 1956, Arlanson's Jumbos played at Harvard Stadium in front of 17,500 people and deafeated Harvard once again. In 1960, Tufts almost posted its third undefeated season, but lost the final game of the year to Lafayette. The next five years, however, were tough times for Tufts football. The team struggled, and in 1965 managed only one win all season. Arlanson retired immediately after the 1965 season, but continued as Director of Athletics at Tufts.
Rocky Carzo replaced Arlanson as coach. Carzo's first season was rough, but in 1968 he revitalized the passing team and had a successful year. Carzo remained coach until 1974, when he became Director of Athletics. Carzo's successor, Paul Pawlak Jr., soon became the most controversial coach in Tufts football history.
In 1976, after two reasonably successful years, Pawlak fired assistant coach James Hunt, citing differences in play calling. The move infuriated the football team, moving them to draw up a list of grievances about Pawlak's coaching and his rapport with the players. Some players even demanded Pawlak be fired, but no official action was taken.
The 1976 season, despite the controversy, turned out to be quite successful. Pawlak was named New England College Division Coach of the Year for leading Tufts to its first winning season in seven years. Two years later, however, Pawlak was fired. Players claimed that Pawlak tampered with votes for team captain and threatened to reduce financial aid for players who quit the team. During Pawlak's four years as coach, over 100 players had quit the team.
Vic Gatto, the former head coach at Bates, was hired to replace Pawlak. In 1979, after an undefeated season, Gatto was named New England Coach of the Year, and his quarterback, Chris Connors, won the Division Three Golden Helmet award. The next few years were disappointing, and after Tufts posted no wins in 1984, Gatto resigned and moved to Davidson College, a Division I-AA school in South Carolina.
Duane Ford, the defensive assistant coach under Gatto, replaced him as head coach. Ford revamped the running game, and although his first season was disappointing, the team did manage to shut out unbeaten Amherst. After Tufts was named the number one team in the Northeast during the 1986 season, Ford was named New England Small College Coach of the Year.
In 1994, after going 39-30-3 in nine years as head coach, Ford resigned to coach in New Hampshire. Bill Samko, a former assistant coach at Tufts who was coaching at the University of the South in Tennessee, returned to replace Ford as head coach. In 1998, Samko led the team to a 7-1 record and a number four ranking in New England, and was named the Coach of the Year by three separate organizations. Since 1998, the Tufts football team has had difficulties, going 4-4 in 1999 and 2-6 in 2000.
Source: TD, TW, UA046/001 #14:14, 14:15