traveled to 8-0 Harvard to finish the 1909 season and decide the
mythical national championship (pictured above). Harvard doubled Yale's
offensive yards, but Yale killed them in the kicking game and won 8-0
on a pair of field goals and a blocked punt for a safety. As in 1907, Yale is a unanimous
national champion amongst NCAA-recognized selectors, but they were perfect this time out, going 10-0, winning every
game by more than a touchdown, and icing the cake by shutting out every opponent.
The only other teams with perfect records in 1909 were big fish in
small ponds that would have made their homes in the bottom of a top 25: 7-0 Washington, 7-0 Arkansas, and 6-0 Colorado.
Lafayette came close to a perfect record, but they were tied by 7-1-2
Penn, the only team to score on them. 9-1 Kentucky lost to 6-1 North
Carolina State, who lost to 6-1 Virginia Tech, who lost at 6-2-1
Princeton in a close 8-6 game. The deep South's best team, 6-1 Sewanee,
also saw a perfect season spoiled by a trip to Princeton, but the score
was not so close (20-0). It
was a big year for the West (which is what they called the Great Lakes
region in those days), as Michigan finally broke through for a 12-6 win
at 7-1-2 Penn, and Notre Dame won 6-0 at 6-2-1 Pittsburgh. The "West"
went 4-0-1 against the East overall, by far their best effort.
Unfortunately, the West was not able to put forward a national
had a strong season, with wins
over 6-1-2 Case, 7-3 Ohio State, Penn, and above all, 6-1 Minnesota.
That was their finale, and the first time they had played Minnesota
since leaving their water jug on the field in 1903. With this 15-6 win,
Michigan reclaimed the "Little Brown Jug," and the teams have been
playing for it as a trophy since.
Minnesota had played a weak schedule, but looked very powerful until
Michigan beat them.
But Michigan did not go unbeaten. They
lost 11-3 at home to Notre Dame, leaving the Wolverines with a 6-1
record, and their coach with an undying hatred for Notre Dame. The
teams would not play again until a 2-game series during World War 2,
and after that not until the 1970s, by which time Michigan had finally gotten
over it. As for Notre Dame in 1909, they were tied by 2-2-1 Marquette
in their finale, leaving them at 7-0-1. Thus was Yale left as the only
candidate for the mythical national championship (MNC), and thus was
their championship less mythical than most.
All rankings in the following article, except as noted, come from my 1909 top 25, which is based on a hypothetical post-bowl AP poll (within logical reason of course).
wrote summaries of previous Yale seasons for my 1902, 1904, 1905, 1906, and 1907
articles. With legitimate claims to 6 MNCs 1900-1909 (the school
claims a 7th for 1901 that is not legitimate), and a 100-4-5 record
against schedules that included the top teams from the toughest region
(annual games with Army, Princeton, and Harvard), Yale is easily the
top football school of the 20th century's first decade. And as far as
goes, this 1909 edition was their best, a fitting climax to a great
run. But Walter Camp was taking less and less of an active
role as Yale's advisory coach, and perhaps it is no coincidence that
also the end of Yale's dynasty. They next contend for an MNC in the
official head coach for this season was Hall of Famer Howard Jones, who had played for Yale
teams that went 28-0-2 1905-1907, so after 1909 he was still unbeaten
(38-0-2) as a player/coach at Yale. Details of his impressive Hall of Fame coaching
career can be found in my 1905 article.
Six of 1909's 11 consensus All Americans were Yale starters, and two more Yale starters were consensus AA in other seasons. Three of these players are in the Hall of Fame:
end John Kilpatrick (also in the Hockey Hall of Fame), quarterback Art
Howe, and fullback Ted Coy (pictured). Coy was the team's
triple-threat star and captain, and in fact he was considered at the
time to be the best college football player of this decade.
met with very little resistance in 1909, outscoring their opponents
209-0, and only 3 times allowing opponents inside the Yale 20 all year.
They rolled over 3-2 Army (#12) 17-0, 7-3 Brown (#10) 23-0, and 6-2-1 Princeton (#8)
17-0 (the Princeton game pictured above). The big game, once again, was their finale at
Harvard, who came into the game at 8-0. The 1909 MNC would therefore
fall to the winner.
Yale managed very little offense against Harvard, but their defense
and kicking game were so strong that they wouldn't need it. They got a
safety when center Carroll Cooney blocked a punt (this was his
specialty-- he had blocked a punt for a touchdown against Princeton).
Late in the first half, halfback Stephen Philbin returned a punt to the
Harvard 15, leading to a Ted Coy field goal. Coy added another field
goal late in the second half to put the game out of reach, and Yale won
Harvard ran 56 plays to Yale's 33, outgaining them
212 yards to 106. But they were also penalized 9 times for 105 yards, whereas
Yale was penalized but once for 5 yards. Yale further outgained Harvard
on kick returns by 52 yards, and Ted Coy averaged 41.5 yards per punt,
while Harvard averaged just 31. As the New York Times noted, Coy won the game with his punting and placekicking.
1909 #1: 10-0 Yale Contenders: None
are the awards I have been handing out for each season, except seasons
when there are no contenders. For this purpose, what I mean by a
contender is a team that I think is very close to being worthy of
sharing the national championship. A team that you could make an
argument for, even if that argument is weak. But they are
teams that I myself do not see as national champions.
A third category is also possible:
a "national co-champion" who is not #1, but who has done just enough to
considered a co-champion with the #1 team.
have been grading the NCAA Records Book's selectors for each season,
and keeping a grade point average, so we can see who is relatively good
at selecting national champions and who is not. And although I do not
consider computer ratings to be legitimate national championship
selectors, I have been including them in this section as well,
just for comparison's sake. I am
grading on a scale of 0
to 5, with 5 being the best.
Everyone selected Yale, so everyone gets a grade of 5.