Jamestown Evening Journal

Woodrow Wilson, Football Coach

by Parke H. Davis, Formerly of Jamestown - Football's Famous Historian and Recorder


Woodrow Wilson, as secretary of the Board of Coaches, at Princeton in 1878, aided in turning out the first Princeton team to win a "Big Three" Championship. After graduation he became a lawyer but turned to educational pursuits. Thus, in 1889 he was Professor of History at Wesleyan. Through all the years since his graduation the love for football had lingered and his knowledge of its technique had kept pace with the changes in the game. He became, therefore, in 1889, Wesleyan's wisest football counselor, devising plays for Captain Slayback, demonstrating all the tactics of team and individual play daily to the players upon a blackboard and in many other ways contributing to a great Wesleyan team in that year, for in 1888 Wesleyan scored on Yale and defeated the University of Pennsylvania. A search of the records also finds him as the pioneer proponent while at Wesleyan of the first code of eligibility rules.

In 1890 Professor Wilson transferred to Princeton. In 1912 he was a candidate for President and visited New Haven. Curiously his train arrived in New Haven on the anniversary of the day on which Wesleyan scored on Yale in 1889. In the long interval from 1889, to 1912 Wesleyan had not scored again on the Blue, but as Wilson's train pulled into the New Haven station, by some happy synchronism of fate, Wesleyan celebrated the arrival of their old football coach by again scoring on Yale. Wesleyan also contributed to football history an anecdote of Woodrow Wilson as a cheer leader. Wesleyan and Lehigh, two extraordinary teams for 1889, were battling on famous, old Hampden Park in Springfield. Lehigh was leading and forging forward to victory. Suddenly down from the Wesleyan bleachers came a man clad in a rain coat and rubber boots. Taking his place in front of the Wesleyan contingent he eloquently called upon them to cheer their team and he himself proceeded to lead the cheering. Wesleyan instantly rallied and tied the score, thereby saving Wesleyan from defeat. That cheer leader was Wesleyan's Professor of History and football leader, Woodrow Wilson.

(Tomorrow Night, Wilson as Coach at Princeton)

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