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Frank W. Thomas (November 15, 1898–May 10, 1954) was a head football coach at the collegiate level, primarily for the University of Alabama from 1932 to 1946. During his tenure, he compiled a 115-24-7 (.812) record and won two national championships (1934 and 1941), all while his teams allowed an average of just 6.3 points per game.[1] His winning percentage and total wins rank second all-time among Alabama coaches (behind Paul "Bear" Bryant). He never coached a losing season, and coached two 10-win seasons. In 1945, his team scored 50 or more points in four straight games at the end of the regular season.

Thomas, who was born in Muncie, Indiana, played quarterback for Knute Rockne at Notre Dame from 1920 to 1922. He was, according to Rockne, the smartest player he ever coached. His roommate and best friend at Notre Dame was the famous George "The Gipper" Gipp.

After graduating, Thomas became an assistant coach at the University of Georgia for two years before earning his first head coaching job in 1925 at the University of Chattanooga (now the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga), where he went 26-9-2. In 1931 he accepted the job at Alabama, where he established himself as one of the top coaches in the nation. His bowl record at Alabama was 4-2, with wins at the Rose Bowl (1935, 1946), Cotton Bowl Classic (1942), and Orange Bowl (1943). He became the coach and mentor for future Hall of Fame coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. Other notable players included Don Hutson, Vaughn Mancha, Harry Gilmer, Johnny Cain, and Riley Smith.

A frequent smoker who commonly smoked cigars on the sidelines during games, Thomas fell ill with heart and lung disease. Too weak to both coach and take care of his mentally ill daughter, his declining health finally forced his resignation from coaching in 1946.[2] Thomas remained Alabama's Athletic Director, and he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.

Thomas died in 1954 at the age of 55 at Druid City Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. An illustrated book published later that year told his story. The football practice fields at the University of Alabama are named for Thomas and his successor Harold D. Drew.

In 2006, a bronze statue of Thomas was erected outside of the University of Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium alongside the statues of Wallace Wade, Bryant, and Gene Stallings, other coaches who led Alabama to national championships.

Preceded by
Chet Grant
Notre Dame starting quarterbacks
1922
Succeeded by
Harry Stuhldreher
Preceded by
?
Tennessee-Chattanooga Head Football Coach
1925–1930
Succeeded by
Andrew "Scrappy" Moore
Preceded by
Wallace Wade
University of Alabama Head Football Coach
1931–1946
Succeeded by
Harold D. Drew

References

  1. ^ Groom, 2000, p.81.
  2. ^ Groom, 2000, p.80.
  • Stone, Naylor (1954) Coach Tommy of the Crimson Tide. Birmingham, Ala.: Vulcan Press.
  • Groom, Winston. The Crimson Tide - An Illustrated History. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2000. ISBN 0-8173-1051-7-.

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