Today's Tidbit... A Game for the Aged
The 1939 football season featured many great games, but none equaled the College of the Pacific - San Jose State College for years of coaching experience along the sideline. Amos Alonzo Stagg led the Pacific Tigers that season. At 77 years old and in his fiftieth year as a head coach, Stagg had led Pacific to a conference championship the previous season and opened the 1939 slate with a win over South Dakota, an upset of Cal, and a tie with Loyola.
Their fourth opponent was San Jose State, coached by Dudley DeGroot, who had been a fabulous athlete in his day. DeGroot was an All-American football player at Stanford, a national champion backstroker, and a gold medalist in rugby at the 1924 Olympics. During the 1937 and 1939 seasons, San Jose led the country in scoring, so he knew a thing or two about football coaching.
Still, when Pop Warner finished his coaching career at Temple and retired to Palo Alto, DeGroot saw an opportunity and made Warner San Jose State's offensive coordinator. Since Warner had 44 years of head coaching experience, he and Stagg brought 95 years of combined experience to the game.
Fifteen thousand people packed into Pacific's Baxter Stadium to watch the matchup. Stagg roamed the sideline as his boys took a 3-0 lead, while Warner left the game day coaching to DeGroot, instead sitting on the bench smoking one cigarette after another. DeGroot and the Spartans emerged with a 13-3 victory that day and went on to a 13-0 season. Warner's last game on the sideline came against Drake in early December.
Pacific finished with a 6-6-1 record, including a loss to the San Diego Marines as the Tigers made their way to Hawaii in December, where they beat the university team and lost to the Healani Athletic Club.
Stagg coached seven more seasons at Pacific, spent six years coaching with or under his son at Susquehanna, and did a six-year farewell tour as the special teams' coach at Stockton College (now San Joaquin Delta College), retiring from coaching when he was 96 years old.
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