Today's Tidbit... College Football's Only Triangular Game
Andy Kerr was a football outsider whose innovations led to strong teams at several schools, though he is best known for his success at Colgate. Kerr did not play college football but was Pitt's track coach when Pop Warner arrived, with Kerr assisting Warner. Warner signed a contract to coach Stanford in 1922, but Pitt would not release him from his existing contract, so he sent Kerr to Palo Alto to be the head coach for two years until Warner's contract ran out.
Kerr coached Washington & Jefferson from 1926 to 1928 before taking over Colgate in 1929. Kerr's innovative lateral offense produced the undefeated 1932 team that did not give up a point all year. He also trialed the 12th man field general on offense in the 1934 spring game. Intended to take play calling out of the quarterback's hands while keeping it out of the coaches, he had a backup player call the plays before stepping out of the way and not participating in the play.
As noted in stories I wrote last week and in 2020, numerous major college teams played doubleheaders in the late 1920s and 1930s. Typically, their second and third teams played a lesser opponent in the opener, while their first team played a mid-level team in the nightcap.
Not satisfied with a doubleheader, Kerr set up a triangular game, sometimes called a tripleheader, with Amherst, and St. Lawrence, who had Colgate alums as head coaches. The triangular game format had the three teams play half-games against one another, with the game order determined by coin flip.
The first game saw Colgate whip St. Lawrence 31-0, which appeared to be quite a feat since St. Lawrence had beaten Cornell 13-6 the week before. Colgate played Amherst in the second game, taking them down 12-0. Although the score was closer than the St. Lawrence game, the press reports suggest Colgate easily moved up and down the field but was unable to convert the ball movement into points. St. Lawrence's superiority was made clear by beating Amherst 12-0 in the day's third game.
Colgate lost to Iowa 12-6 the following week and later suffered close losses to Holy Cross and Tulane to finish 7-3, with two of those wins coming from the triangular games. Like the schools that played in the many doubleheader games, all three schools count these half-games as full games in their 1935 season records.
The 1935 triangular game appears to have been the only instance of teams using this format for official games. But, of course, if anyone knows of another, please leave a comment below.
A final interesting element about this game is the presence of Anthony William Paczkowski of St. Lawrence in the unique triple lineup from a newspaper box score.
Tony Paczkowski went on to a longer career at Lehigh, including 16 years as their head basketball coach. Paczkowski's son of the same name was born in 1940 and went by Billy, based on his middle name. Sometime after his birth, the Paczkowskis legally changed their surname to Packer, which means that the Paczkowski who started at left halfback for St. Lawrence that day was the father of longtime CBS basketball announcer Billy Packer. How’s that for a Tidbit!
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