George Woodruff’s Record

An article by Bob Barton in the November 2011 issue of the CFHS newsletter, among other things, discusses the elevation of Penn’s football program under George Woodruff’s leadership. Given the treatment that Woodruff received from Sally Jenkins, it seems necessary to present a more balanced view of his career. George Washington Woodruff (1864-1934) attended Yale University in the late 1880s, graduating in 1889. While at Yale, he played on the football team, rowed crew and ran track.

In 1892, he enrolled in law school at the University of Pennsylvania and took on the duties of coaching football and rowing crews. (One assumes that he initially took on these jobs to support himself while in law school.) Yale supporters did not take Woodruff’s shift of allegiance well as Woodruff had been a guard for the Eli. They also didn’t like the change in competiveness. The eleven games played between Yale and Penn between 1879 and 1892 all ended in victories for the Eli, often in a rout. Scores in Yale’s favor of 60-0 and 48-0 were quickly reduced by Woodruff to 28-0 and 14-6 in 1893. Claiming that Woodruff had recruited ineligible players although the rules weren’t in place before the 1893 season started, Yale broke with Penn and didn’t play them for 32 years. That didn’t seem to bother George much as his 1894 team went undefeated with victories over Princeton and Harvard and was retrospectively named National Champions. He repeated the feat in 1895 without Princeton, who remained off the schedule until 1935. Not only did George Woodruff bring the quality of Penn’s football to the highest level, he maintained it at that level, going 124-15-2 for the ten years he coached the Quakers. After dropping out of coaching following the 1901 season, he returned to the arena twice: first in 1903 to lead the Illini to an 8-6 season and again in 1905 to go 7-2 with the Carlisle Indians. His charges beat Army, Penn State and Virginia but lost to Harvard and Penn.

Woodruff’s .885366 winning percentage was far above the minimum required for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

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