Amos Alonzo Stagg Award
The Amos Alonzo Stagg Award is presented by the American Football Coaches Association to the “individual, group or institution whose services have been outstanding in the advancement of the best interests of football.” Its purpose is “to perpetuate the example and influence of Amos Alonzo Stagg.”
The Stagg Award Committee presents the nominee to the Board of Trustees, which endorses the selecti
on of the winner.
The award is named in honor of a man who was instrumental in founding the AFCA in the 1920s. He is considered one of the great innovators and motivating forces in the early development of the game of football. The plaque given to each recipient is a replica of the one given to Stagg at the 1939 AFCA convention in tribute to his 50 years of service to football.
Born in 1862 in an Irish neighborhood of West Orange, N.J., Stagg excelled in athletics and academics as a young man, which enabled him to attend Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University. Stagg’s impact on the game began early in his life as a student at Yale, where he was an All-America end. After graduating in 1888, he began his coaching career at the School of Christian Workers, now Springfield (Mass.) College. He organized the school’s first football team and served as coach and captain. The center of that first team was James A. Naismith, who later proved to be an innovator in his own right in another sport.
Stagg's most notable game as coach of the Christian Workers was coaching in what is believed to be the first indoor game in football history, played at Madison Square Garden in New York City. His Christians lost, 16-10, to Yale Consolidated. Stagg also served as head coach at Chicago (1892-1932) and College of the Pacific (1933-1946), where he retired from head coaching at the age of 84. He went on to coach with his son at Susquehanna and finished his coaching career at Stockton (Calif.) Junior College. He retired from coaching at the age of 98.
Stagg’s 41 years at Chicago is still one of the longest head coaching tenures in the history of college football.
Among the innovations credited to Stagg are the tackling dummy, the huddle, the reverse play, man in motion, knit pants, numbering plays and players, and the awarding of letters. The first year the forward pass was allowed, Stagg had 64 pass plays in his playbook.
Stagg’s contributions to sport were not limited to football. At Chicago, he coached track for 32 years, baseball for 19 years and basketball for one year.
A member of the U.S. Olympic Committee for six Olympiads, Stagg coached America’s 400 and 800 meter athletes, as well as its 1800 meter relay team, in the 1924 Olympics. He served as chairman of the NCAA track and field championships for 12 years.
A self-described stoic, Stagg once was a divinity student in college, but decided his weak voice and quiet manner were not conducive to pursuing a career in the ministry. According to one biographer, Stagg had three passions: football, plain food and clean living. His wife, Stella, was as devoted to her husband as he was to his life’s work as a coach and teacher. She spent much of her life at Stagg’s side, sitting on the bench charting plays and providing statistical data for her husband.
According to NCAA records, Stagg’s 57-year record as a college head coach is 314-199-35. He died in 1965 at the age of 103.