Elmer Layden: Wikis


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Elmer Layden
Date of birth May 4, 1903(1903-05-04)
Place of birth Davenport, Iowa, United States
Date of death June 30, 1973 (aged 70)
Position(s) Head Coach
College Notre Dame
Team(s) as a player
Brooklyn Horsemen
Rock Island Independents
Team(s) as a coach/administrator
Columbia College (IA)
Duquesne University
Notre Dame
National Football League
College Football Hall of Fame

Elmer Francis Layden (May 4, 1903 – June 30, 1973) was Commissioner of the National Football League and head football coach at University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana, USA.



Layden was born in Davenport, Iowa, where he attended Davenport High School (now Davenport Central High School.) At Notre Dame, he played fullback alongside quarterback Harry Stuhldreher, left halfback Jim Crowley, and right halfback Don Miller; the four collectively earned the nickname of "The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame" from legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice, and are still considered one of the best backfields in college football history. Named an All-American during his senior year, Layden culminated his collegiate career in the 1925 Rose Bowl against Stanford, returning two interceptions for touchdowns in Notre Dame's 27-10 victory.

Coaching career

After his playing days, Layden was head football coach at Columbia College (Dubuque, Iowa) in 1925-26, where he compiled an 8-5-2 record. From 1927 to 1933 he was head coach at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, going 48-16-6 and winning the 1933 season's Festival of Palms Bowl (a precursor to the Orange Bowl) on New Year's Day, 1934.

Also in 1934, he became head coach and athletic director at Notre Dame, a few years after his legendary mentor Knute Rockne was killed in a plane crash. Layden led the Irish for seven years and posted an overall 47-13-3 docket. His 1935 squad posted one of the greatest wins in school history by rallying to defeat Ohio State 18-13. His 1938 team finished 8-1, losing only to USC in the season finale. This loss cost them a possible consensus national championship, but the team was named national champion by the Dickinson System.

Like Rockne before him, Layden was a goodwill ambassador for Notre Dame. He was able to schedule a home-and-home series with Michigan after meeting with Fielding Yost, healing a rift between the two schools. The two teams had not met since 1909, when, after eight straight losses to the Wolverines, the Irish posted their first win. They were scheduled to meet again in 1910, but Michigan canceled the game and refused to play the Irish again. By the time they met again in 1942-43, Layden had left Notre Dame and Frank Leahy had taken his place. Unlike the easygoing Layden, Leahy was intense, and after the Irish had thrashed Michigan by a score of 35-12 in 1943, Wolverine coach and athletic director Fritz Crisler never scheduled the Irish again.

While Layden was a solid, competent coach, he was subjected to criticism during his later years at Notre Dame. Critics felt that his teams played too conservatively and lacked scoring punch. Consequently it was felt that they lost games they should have won.


Layden left Notre Dame in February 1941 to become Commissioner of the NFL, a post that was renamed upon his taking the job - previous heads of the league were called "presidents". In five years as Commissioner, Layden saw the NFL through the World War II years, in which teams had to use many men of inferior abilities as replacements while most of the regulars were fighting in the war (as did Major League Baseball). During this period a few teams temporarily merged due to lack of manpower, most notably the Pittsburgh Steelers with the Philadelphia Eagles (who were nicknamed the Phil-Pitt Steagles). The Cleveland Rams ceased operations for the 1943 season.

Layden's tenure as NFL commissioner came to an end in January 1946. After Brooklyn owner Dan Topping withdrew his team from the league to join the new All-America Football Conference, the remaining owners agreed not to renew Layden's contract, feeling that he was too much of a gentleman and not forceful enough.[1] Layden was succeeded by Bert Bell.

Later years

After leaving the NFL, Layden embarked on a successful business career in Chicago, where he died at the age of 70. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 as a charter member.

Personal life

Layden married Edith Davis on October 25, 1926.


Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl Coaches# AP°
Columbia College () (1925–1926)
1925 Columbia College
1926 Columbia College
Duquesne University () (1927–1933)
1927 Duquesne 4-4-1
1928 Duquesne 8-1
1929 Duquesne 9-0-1
1930 Duquesne 6-3
1931 Duquesne 3-5-3
1932 Duquesne 7-2-1
1933 Duquesne 10-1 W 33-7 Festival of Palms Bowl
Notre Dame (Independent) (1934–1940)
1934 Notre Dame 6-3
1935 Notre Dame 7-1-1
1936 Notre Dame 6-2-1
1937 Notre Dame 6-2-1
1938 Notre Dame 8-1 5
1939 Notre Dame 7-2
1940 Notre Dame 7-2
Total: 103-34-11
      National Championship         Conference Title         Conference Division Title
#Coaches Poll (started in 1950).
°Rankings from final AP Poll.


  1. ^ America's Game, by Michael MacCambridge, 2005, pg. 15

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Heartley Anderson
University of Notre Dame Head Football Coach
Succeeded by
Frank Leahy
Preceded by
Carl Storck
as President
Commissioner of the National Football League
Succeeded by
Bert Bell


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