Tip Top 25 in helmets, smaller
                                Top 25 Rankings 1901-1935
                                1903 National Championship

1903 College Football Top 25

John DeWitt's touchdown return of a blocked kick for Princeton against Yale in 1903

Pictured above is Princeton's Hall of Fame guard, John DeWitt, returning a kick he blocked 75 yards for a touchdown against Yale. He kicked the extra point, and later the game-winning field goal (worth 5 points at that time), scoring all the points in 11-0 Princeton's season-defining 11-6 victory at 11-1 Yale.

I covered 11-0 Princeton, 11-0-1 Michigan, 14-0-1 Minnesota, and 11-0 Nebraska in my 1903 national championship article.

#1 Princeton

11-0 Princeton defeated an incredible 7 top 25 teams this season, but the one that really mattered was their 11-6 win at defending MNC 11-1 Yale in their finale.

#2 Yale

Defending MNC 11-1 Yale looked unbeatable until #1 Princeton beat them 11-6. Yale won 25-0 over #7 Columbia (9-1), 16-0 at #8 Harvard (9-3), 17-5 at #11 Army (6-2-1), and 36-10 over #13 Holy Cross (8-2).

#3 Michigan and Minnesota

11-0-1 Michigan and 14-0-1 Minnesota tied each other 6-6 in Minneapolis, and performed pretty much the same, so we'll put them in a tie here at #3. They even fielded the same number of first-team All-Western players (6 each). Both rolled up huge scores and both won the rest of their games by more than a touchdown each. Michigan shut out every other opponent, and Minnesota shut out all but one (an exhibition game against a high school team in their opener). Michigan defeated 8-1 Case (#21) and 6-3-1 Wisconsin (#17), and in their finale they won 28-0 at 12-2-1 Chicago (#12). Minnesota defeated 8-1 Iowa State (#22), 9-2 Iowa (#24), and 6-3-1 Wisconsin (#17).

These teams will end up #3 and #4 again in 1904. And Yale will be #2 and Dartmouth #5 again in 1904.

#5 Dartmouth

1903 Dartmouth-Harvard football game

9-1 Dartmouth took their loss 17-0 at #1 Princeton. All their wins came by more than a touchdown, including 11-0 at #8 Harvard (the game pictured above), 18-0 over #13 Holy Cross, and 18-0 at #14 Amherst.

#6 Nebraska

Missouri Valley champion 11-0 Nebraska won 16-0 over #23 Haskell, 17-6 at #24 Iowa, and 31-0 over Rocky Mountain champion 8-2 Colorado, but they had one weak effort, a 6-0 win at unrated 6-3 Kansas.

#7 Columbia

1903 Columbia football team

9-1 Columbia took their loss 25-0 at #2 Yale. Their offense was weak compared to other top 10 teams, so their scoring margins weren't generally impressive, but Columbia won the rest of their games, including 18-6 over #10 Penn, 12-0 over #14 Amherst, 5-0 over #25 Swarthmore, and 17-12 at #18 Cornell in their finale. They also had a close win over an unrated opponent, getting by 6-4-1 Williams at home 5-0.

Columbia was coached by Bill Morley, a Hall of Fame halfback and quarterback at Cornell 1899-1901. He had also played at Michigan in 1895. He started coaching the year after he graduated from Cornell, and went 26-11-3 at Columbia 1902-1905, after which the school dropped their football program until 1915. Morley dropped football too, and went back to his native New Mexico, where he owned and operated a very large ranch. Columbia was top 25 caliber 3 straight years 1902-1904 under Morley.

Fullback Richard Smith was a consensus All American this season. He had played for Oregon 1896-1899. Tackle Tom Thorp was a nonconsensus AA this year and the next, but he was a poor student, and the school expelled him in October of 1905, dooming the team to a poor finish that year. They would drop football after that season anyway.

Quarterback Waldemar Metzenthin would be a nonconsensus AA in 1904, and had previously played for Franklin & Marshall 1897-1899. Center Edward Bruce made Walter Camp's 3rd team AA list this season.

#8 Harvard

9-3 Harvard was shut out by #2 Yale and #5 Dartmouth, and they were also shut out at home in an upset loss to #14 Amherst. But they defeated #9 Carlisle, #10 Penn, and #11 Army, so their spot in the top 10 is secure.

#9 Carlisle

1903 Carlisle football team

10-2-1 Carlisle lost 11-0 at #1 Princeton and 12-11 at #8 Harvard, and they took an upset tie 6-6 at unrated 7-2-1 Virginia. They played 11 road games, and they defeated #10 Penn, #16 Northwestern (10-1-3), #20 Georgetown, and #25 Swarthmore. They also played at Utah and at the Sherman Institute, an Indian boarding school in California, so the Carlisle Indians saw a lot of the country this season.

#10 Pennsylvania

9-3 Pennsylvania took their losses to #7 Columbia, #8 Harvard, and #9 Carlisle. The rest of their games were routs, their best wins coming 16-0 over #15 Lehigh and 42-0 over #18 Cornell in their finale.

#11 Army

6-2-1 Army lost to #2 Yale, and only 5-0 to #8 Harvard, but they took an upset scoreless tie with unrated 4-2-1 Colgate at home in their opener. Their one big win came 10-6 over #12 Chicago at home. All of Army's games were at home except for their finale against Navy.

#12 Chicago

11-2-1 Chicago lost 28-0 to #3 Michigan at home and 10-6 at #11 Army, and they took an upset scoreless tie against #16 Northwestern at home. They won 15-6 at #17 Wisconsin and 17-11 over #23 Haskell at home.

#13 Holy Cross

8-2 Holy Cross took their losses at #2 Yale and at #5 Dartmouth, both in routs. They had one big win, 36-0 over #14 Amherst, but they repeatedly struggled to get by weak opponents, barely surviving against Massachusetts, Wesleyan, Tufts, and Maine. The Amherst score is the one that stands out as an anomaly, so Holy Cross may not have actually been top 25 caliber, but they did stomp Amherst, and did win all their games except against top 10 opponents, so here they are.

Hall of Fame football coach Frank Cavanaugh

Holy Cross was coached by Hall of Famer Frank Cavanaugh (pictured), who had played at end for Dartmouth 1896-1897. He coached Cincinnati to a 5-1-3 record in 1898, then went 16-10-2 here 1903-1905. He made his fame at his next 3 stops, going 42-9-3 at Dartmouth 1911-1916, 48-14-5 at Boston College 1919-1926, and 34-14-4 at Fordham 1927-1932. Overall he was 145-48-17.

The star player was halfback Tom Stankard, who made Walter Camp's 3rd team All American list. He played pro baseball for 11 years.

#14 Amherst

7-3 Amherst took their losses to #5 Dartmouth, #7 Columbia, and #13 Holy Cross, but they pulled off a huge 5-0 upset at #8 Harvard. They did nothing else of note, and were weak in their last 2 games, winning 11-6 at Massachusetts and 6-0 over Williston.

#15 Lehigh

Lehigh and Lafayette football coach Samuel Newton

9-2-1 Lehigh lost to #1 Princeton and #10 Penn, and they were tied 0-0 at #18 Cornell. They won 12-6 at #20 Georgetown, 12-5 over #25 Swarthmore, and 12-6 over their rival, 7-3 Lafayette.

Lehigh was coached by Samuel Newton (pictured), who had played at end for Penn in the early 1890s. Newton started coaching at Penn State 1896-1898, going an anemic 12-14, but then he posted a terrific 30-6 record at Lehigh's archrival, Lafayette, 1899-1901. More importantly, his Lafayette teams were 6-0 against Lehigh, as they played twice a year then. Lehigh had had enough, and hired him away. He defeated Lafayette his first 2 years here, but ended up 2-2 against them. He went 23-20-2 at Lehigh 1902-1905, not nearly as well as he did at Lafayette. After this stint at Lehigh, he coached just one more year, going 8-2 in an encore at Lafayette in 1911. And that included another win over Lehigh.

#16 Northwestern

1903 Northwestern football team

10-1-3 Northwestern lost 28-0 to #9 Carlisle at home in their finale, and the 3 ties came against #12 Chicago, #17 Wisconsin, and #19 Notre Dame (8-0-1), the last 2 at home. They did not have a significant victory, and barely won 12-11 at 8-6 Illinois.

The head coach was Walter McCornack, who had played quarterback at Dartmouth 1893-1896, and was team captain his last 2 years there. He went 15-3-1 as coach of Dartmouth 1901-1902, then an excellent 26-5-4 at Northwestern 1903-1905, giving him a very impressive 41-8-5 overall record for his short coaching career. Northwestern would be top 25 caliber again in 1904. Like Columbia, the school dropped football after 1905, if only for 2 seasons, and like Columbia's coach, McCornack dropped football after 1905 as well.

Guard Robert Phillips was the team's only first-team All-Western player. Interestingly, the star of the Carlisle team that beat Northwestern 28-0 in their finale this season, quarterback Jimmie Johnson, was convinced by coach McCornack to come to Northwestern and enter the dentistry school... and play football too, of course. Johnson did, starring for Northwestern 1904-1905.

#17 Wisconsin

1903 Wisconsin football team

6-3-1 Wisconsin took their losses 16-0 at #3 Michigan, 17-0 at #3 Minnesota, and 15-6 to #12 Chicago. They tied #16 Northwestern 6-6 on the road, and they won the rest of their games by huge scores, but all of those opponents were minor teams, so Wisconsin was 0-3-1 against majors.

#18 Cornell

1903 Cornell football team

6-3-1 Cornell lost 44-0 at #1 Princeton and 42-0 at #10 Penn in their finale, but they were much better in a 17-12 home loss to #7 Columbia, and they tied #15 Lehigh (9-2-1) at home. They did not beat a rated team, and struggled to get by 4-5 Bucknell 6-0 at home.

#19 Notre Dame

8-0-1 Notre Dame was a minor team playing mostly minor teams, but they tied at #16 Northwestern 0-0, and all their wins were shutouts and came by more than a touchdown. Their best win was 12-0 at home over 6-1-1 Michigan State, themselves a minor team at this time (they tied Albion).

#20 Georgetown

1903 Georgetown football team

7-3 Georgetown took their losses at #1 Princeton by just 5 points (only #2 Yale played Princeton as close), to #9 Carlisle by 22, and to #15 Lehigh by 6 in their finale. They did not beat a particularly good team, but all their wins came by more than a touchdown.

Georgetown was coached by Phil King, who had been a Hall of Fame quarterback for Princeton 1890-1893. He coached at Wisconsin 1896-1902, going 58-9-1 and winning 3 conference titles. He came here for this one year, then coached one encore year back at Wisconsin in 1905, going 8-2 there, for a career total of 73-14-1. All 9 of his teams were top 25 caliber.

Georgetown featured a pair of star halfbacks who had both previously played together at Boston College, James "Hub" Hart and Joe Reilly. Hart was All-Southern in 1901, and was team captain this season. He went on to an 8 year career in pro baseball. Reilly was All-Southern this year, and after graduation he succeeded King as coach of Georgetown 1904-1908. Center Percy Given was also All-Southern this year.

#21 Case

Case Institute of Technology football coach Joe Wentworth

8-1 Case took their loss 31-0 at #3 Michigan. They were a minor team playing in an Ohio league, but won all their games by more than a touchdown, the best coming 12-0 over 8-3 Ohio State, another minor team. The College Football Data Warehouse has Case at 9-2 for 1903, but they are counting games against a high school and something called "Ohio Coaches" that the school itself did not count as official games (and Case Western's record book still does not list these "games").

The Case Institute of Technology, later merged with Western Reserve and now known as Case Western Reserve, was an Ohio powerhouse, akin to a good MAC team today, in the early 20th century. The coach was Joe Wentworth (pictured), who had played for Dartmouth in the 1890s with Frank Cavanaugh, Hall of Fame coach of this year's Holy Cross team (covered above), and also with Walter McCornack, the extremely successful coach of this year's Northwestern team (also covered above). Wentworth was himself extremely successful as a coach, going 33-12-3 at Case 1902-1906 and winning 4 straight Ohio Athletic Conference titles 1902-1905.

#22 Iowa State

8-1 Iowa State took their loss 46-0 at #3 Minnesota. The rest of their opponents were all minor teams, but they beat them all by more than a touchdown.

#23 Haskell

7-2 Haskell lost 16-0 at #6 Nebraska and 17-11 at #12 Chicago. Their best wins came 6-0 at 5-1-2 Texas and 12-6 at 6-3 Kansas, but they were weak in an 11-6 win over the 0-4 Kansas City Medics. All of their games were played on the road, though Kansas shared their hometown, so it wasn't much of a trip.

#24 Iowa

1903 Iowa football team

9-2 Iowa was embarrassed 72-0 at #3 Minnesota, and they took their other loss 17-6 to #6 Nebraska at home. They did not beat a good team, and got by Cornell-Iowa just 6-0 in their opener.

Iowa football coach John ChalmersIowa was coached by John Chalmers (pictured at left), who had played for Lafayette teams that went 12-1 in 1899 and 9-2 in 1900 under head coach Samuel Newton (coach of this year's Lehigh team, covered above). Chalmers started his coaching career by leading Dubuque High School to the Iowa state football title in 1901. He next coached Franklin & Marshall (Pennsylvania) to a 7-2 record in 1902, then went 24-8 here at Iowa 1903-1905. After that, he became the first-ever football coach at Loras, then known as Columbia College (Iowa), and he went 28-16-4 there 1907-1914. Finally, he became the first-ever coach at the University of Dubuque (Iowa), going 49-21-4 there and winning 4 conference titles. Their football field is named for him. Overall he was 108-47-8 as a college coach.

The 9 wins Iowa attained this year remained a school record for 82 years. Their "big" win this season, 12-0 over 8-6 Illinois, mattered because it was the first Western Conference (Big 10) team Iowa had beaten since 1900, and Illinois had routed Iowa 80-0 in 1902. Unfortunately, this was the only win over a conference foe Chalmers managed in his 3 years at Iowa.

Tackle Fred Schwin was all-conference. Fullback Fred Buckley scored both touchdowns in the win over Illinois.

#25 Swarthmore

6-4 Swarthmore lost 34-0 at #1 Princeton, 10-5 to #15 Lehigh, 5-0 at #7 Columbia, and 12-5 at #9 Carlisle, strong efforts that indicate they were likely better than #25, but they did not beat anyone good, and posted a weak result, 6-0 at St. John's-Maryland (who was stomped 48-6 by unrated Virginia).

Others Receiving Votes

This time there aren't really any teams worth going over here. There were 25 strong teams in 1903, and that was it. 8-0-3 Stanford and 7-0-1 Washburn, as examples, were not good enough to bother covering here. I suppose 5-4-1 Brown would likely be #26.

1903 Top 25

1) Princeton 11-0
2) Yale 11-1
3) Michigan 11-0-1
    Minnesota 14-0-1
5) Dartmouth 9-1
6) Nebraska 11-0
7) Columbia 9-1
8) Harvard 9-3
9) Carlisle 11-2-1
10) Pennsylvania 9-3

11) Army 6-2-1
12) Chicago 12-2-1
13) Holy Cross 8-2
Amherst 7-3
15) Lehigh 9-2-1
16) Northwestern 10-1-3
17) Wisconsin 6-3-1
18) Cornell 6-3-1
19) Notre Dame 8-0-1
20) Georgetown 7-3
21) Case 8-1
22) Iowa State 8-1
23) Haskell 7-2
24) Iowa 9-2
25) Swarthmore 6-4

Others Receiving Votes:
No one

Top 25 Rankings 1901-1935
1903 National Championship