Amos Alonzo Stagg

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Amos Alonzo Stagg

Birthdate: (102)
Birthplace: West Orange, Essex County, New Jersey, United States
Death: March 17, 1965 (102)
Stockton, San Joaquin County, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Amos Stagg and Eunice Stagg
Husband of Stella Stagg
Father of Amos Alonzo "Lonnie" Stagg, Jr.; Ruth Lauren and Paul Stagg

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About Amos Alonzo Stagg

Amos Alonzo Stagg (August 16, 1862 – March 17, 1965) was an American athlete and pioneering college coach in multiple sports, primarily football. He served as the head football coach at Springfield College (1890–1891), the University of Chicago (1892–1932), and the College of the Pacific (1933–1946), compiling a career college football record of 314–199–35. His Chicago Maroons teams of 1905 and 1913 have been recognized as national champions. He was also the head basketball coach for one season at the University of Chicago (1920–1921), and the head baseball coach there for 19 seasons (1893–1905, 1907–1913).

Stagg played football as an end at Yale University and was selected to the first College Football All-America Team in 1889. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach in the charter class of 1951 and was the only individual honored in both roles until the 1990s. Influential in other sports, Stagg developed basketball as a five-player sport and was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in its first group of inductees in 1959.

Playing career

Stagg was born in West Orange, New Jersey and attended Phillips Exeter Academy. Playing at Yale University, where he was a divinity student, and a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity and the secret Skull and Bones society, he was an end on the first All-America team, selected in 1889.

A pitcher on his college baseball team, he declined an opportunity to play professional baseball but nonetheless influenced the game through his invention of the batting cage. He went on to earn an MPE from the Young Men's Christian Training School, now known as Springfield College. On March 11, 1892, Stagg, still an instructor at the YMCA School, played in the first public game of basketball at the Springfield YMCA. A crowd of 200 watched as the student team beat the faculty, 5–1. Stagg scored the only basket for the losing side.

Coaching career

Stagg became the first paid football coach at Williston Seminary, a secondary school, in 1890. This was also Stagg's first time receiving pay to coach football. He would coach there one day a week while also coaching full time at Springfield College. Stagg then coached at the University of Chicago from 1892 to 1932. University president Robert Maynard Hutchins forced out the septuagenarian Stagg, whom he felt was too old to continue coaching. Stagg moved on to the College of the Pacific, where he coached from 1933 to 1946. During his career, he developed numerous basic tactics for the game (including the man in motion and the lateral pass), as well as some equipment. Stagg played himself in the movie Knute Rockne, All American released in 1940. From 1947 to 1952 he served as a co-head coach with his son at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania. In 1924, he served as a coach with the U.S. Olympic Track and Field team in Paris. Stagg's final job was as kicking coach at the University of Stockton, which he retired from at the age of 96. Known as the "Grand Old Man of College Football", Stagg died in Stockton, California, at 102 years old.


Stagg was married to the former Stella Robertson on September 10, 1894. The couple had three children: two sons, Amos Jr. and Paul, and a daughter, Ruth. Both sons played for the elder Stagg as quarterbacks at the University of Chicago and each later coached college football. In 1952, Barbara Stagg, Amos' granddaughter, started coaching the high school girls' basketball team for Slatington High School in Slatington, Pennsylvania.


Two high schools in the United States, one in Palos Hills, Illinois and the other in Stockton, California, and an elementary school in Chicago, Illinois, are named after Stagg. The NCAA Division III National Football Championship game, played in Salem, Virginia, is named the Stagg Bowl after him. The athletic stadium at Springfield College is named Stagg Field. The football field at Susquehanna University is named Amos Alonzo Stagg Field in honor of both Stagg Sr. and Jr.[citation needed] Stagg was the namesake of the University of Chicago's old Stagg Field where, on December 2, 1942, a team of Manhattan Project scientists led by Enrico Fermi created the world's first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction under the west stands of the abandoned stadium. Stagg Memorial Stadium, the University of the Pacific's football and soccer stadium, is named in his honor as well.[citation needed] Phillips Exeter also has a field named for him and a statue.[citation needed] A field in West Orange, New Jersey on Saint Cloud Avenue is also named from him.

At the College of William and Mary, the Amos Alonzo Stagg Society was organized during 1979-1980 by students and faculty opposed to a plan by the institution’s Board of Visitors to move William and Mary back into big-time college football several decades after a scandal there involving grade changes for football players. The Society was loosely organized, but successful in combating, among other plans, a major expansion of the William and Mary football stadium.

The Amos Alonzo Stagg Collection is held at the University of the Pacific Library, Holt Atherton Department of Special Collections.[citation needed] The Amos Alonzo Stagg 50-mile Endurance Hike is held annually along the C&O Canal outside Potomac, Maryland.

Innovations in football

The following is a list of innovations Stagg introduced to American football. Where known, the year of its first use is annotated in parentheses. Stagg is noted as a 'contributor' if he was one of a group of individuals responsible for a given innovation.

7–2–2 defense (1890)

center snap (1894; John Heisman claimed to have invented it in 1893)

onside kick (1894; possibly contributor)

quick kick (1896)

spiral snap (1896; contributor alongside Walter Camp and George Washington Woodruff)

placement kick (1897; Stagg believed Princeton used it earlier)

tackling dummy (1899)

Statue of Liberty play (1908)

T formation (contributor)

forward pass (contributor alongside Eddie Cochems and Walter Camp)

man in motion

unbalanced line

line shift

sleeper play

quarterback keeper

delayed buck

linebacker position

hip pads

numerical designation of plays

lateral pass

padded goalposts

varsity letters


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Amos Alonzo Stagg's Timeline

August 16, 1862
West Orange, Essex County, New Jersey, United States
April 11, 1899
Age 36
July 17, 1903
Age 40
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States
March 18, 1909
Age 46
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States
March 17, 1965
Age 102
Stockton, San Joaquin County, California, United States