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Harry G. Kipke

Title Head coach
Sport Football
Born March 26, 1899
Place of birth Lansing, Michigan
Died September 14, 1972 (aged 73)
Place of death Port Huron, Michigan
Career highlights
Overall 49–30–5
Coaching stats
College Football DataWarehouse
2 National (1932-1933)
4 Big Ten (1930-1933)
Playing career
1920–1923 Michigan
Position Halfback
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Minnesota (assistant)
Michigan State
College Football Hall of Fame, 1958 (Bio)

Harry G. Kipke (March 26, 1899 – September 14, 1972) was an American football player and coach. He was the head football coach at the University of Michigan from 1929–1937. During that span, his teams compiled a 46–26–4 record, won four conference titles, and captured two national championships in 1932 and 1933. He is one of only three coaches in school history to direct teams to four consecutive conference championships. The others were Fielding Yost and Bo Schembechler.


Playing career

Born in Lansing, Michigan, Kipke attended the University of Michigan. He is one of the few individuals in Michigan Wolverines history to have been a letterman nine times, doing so in football, basketball, and baseball. Kipke played halfback and punter for the football team under head coach Fielding Yost. He was named an All-American in 1922 and is regarded as one of the school's all time greats as a punter. His ability to punt out of bounds near the opposition's goal line helped Michigan to a 19–1–2 record from 1921 through 1923. Kipke was also the captain of the 1923 Michigan team that went 8–0 and won a national title.

Coaching career

After serving as an assistant coach at the University of Missouri for four years, Kipke was named the head football coach at Michigan State University in 1928. Michigan State had a 3–4–1 record in 1928. The following year, Kipke was hired to take over as head football coach for the Michigan Wolverines.

In his first year as head coach, the Wolverines struggled, finishing in an 8th place tie in 1929, with a 5–3–1 record. But Kipke quickly turned things around, leading the Wolverines to four straight conference championships and two national titles between 1930 and 1933. The 1932 and 1933 national championships teams did not lose any games, and featured All-Americans Harry Newman, Charles T. Bernard, Ted Petoskey, and Francis Wistert.

Kipke called his system "a punt, a pass, and a prayer" in a 1933 article for The Saturday Evening Post. He also reportedly coined the phrase, "A great defense is a great offense." [1]

In 1934, Kipke’s Wolverines fell from national champions to a 10th place finish in the conference with a 1–7 record. The one bright spot in the Wolverines 1934 season was the play of the team’s most valuable player, center and future President of the United States, Gerald Ford. Ford lacked the money to attend the university, but Kipke's assistance helped him to do so. The principal of Ford's high school wrote to Kipke and invited him to Grand Rapids to meet Ford. Kipke accepted the invitation and met with Ford and his family. Though there were then no football scholarships at Michigan, Kipke helped Ford find a job at the university hospital waiting on tables to earn his meals. Ford later called the opportunity to go to U of M "the luckiest break I ever had." [2][3] In a 1975 speech, Ford recalled losing seven out of eight games in 1934, including a 34–0 loss to Ohio State. Ford joked that "what really hurt me the most was when my teammates voted me their most valuable player. I didn't know whether to smile or sue." [4]

Between 1934 and 1937, Kipke’s team accumulated a 12–22 record. Kipke resigned after the 1937 season and was replaced by Fritz Crisler. Before resigning, Kipke recruited Tom Harmon to play at Michigan and advised the future Heisman Trophy winner to stay with Michigan despite the coaching change.

After coaching

From 1940–1947, Kipke was a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan. In 1942, he joined the United States Navy and later became president of the Coca-Cola Company of Chicago. [5] Kipke was inducted into of the College Football Hall of Fame in 1958 and the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1968.

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl
Michigan State Spartans (Independent) (1928)
1928 Michigan State 3–4–1
Michigan State: 3–4–1
Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten Conference) (1929–1937)
1929 Michigan 5–3–1 1–3–1 T–8th
1930 Michigan 8–0–1 5–0 T–1st
1931 Michigan 8–1–1 5–1 T–1st
1932 Michigan 8–0 6–0 T–1st
1933 Michigan 7–0–1 5–0–1 T–1st
1934 Michigan 1–7 0–6 10th
1935 Michigan 4–4 2–3 T–5th
1936 Michigan 1–7 0–5 T–8th
1937 Michigan 4–4 3–3 T–4th
Michigan: 46–26–4 27–21–2
Total: 49–30–5
      National Championship         Conference Title         Conference Division Title

See also


External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Ralph Young
Michigan State University Head Football Coach
Succeeded by
Jim Crowley
Preceded by
Elton Wieman
University of Michigan Head Football Coach
Succeeded by
Fritz Crisler

Simple English

Harry G. Kipke (March 26, 1899 - September 14, 1972) was the head football coach at the University of Michigan from 1929-1937. He is one of only three coaches in school history to direct teams to four consecutive conference championships.


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