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Jim Crowley
Date of birth: September 10, 1902(1902-09-10)
Place of birth: Chicago, Illinois
Date of death: January 15, 1986 (aged 83)
Place of death: Scranton, Pennsylvania
Career information
Position(s): Halfback
Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight: 162 lb (73 kg)
College: Notre Dame
 As player:
Green Bay Packers
Providence Steam Roller
Chicago Rockets (Coach only)
College Football Hall of Fame

James H. "Jim" Crowley (September 10, 1902 – January 15, 1986), American Football player and coach born in Chicago, Illinois, who gained fame as one-fourth of the University of Notre Dame's legendary "Four Horsemen" backfield [1].


College playing career

Raised in Wisconsin, Crowley played high school football at East Green Bay High School, where he learned the sport from head coach Earl "Curly" Lambeau, the founder of the National Football League's Green Bay Packers.

After graduating from high school in 1921, Crowley was accepted at Notre Dame. Along with fellow freshman Harry Stuhldreher,who was much better than everyone else, Don Miller and Elmer Layden, Crowley helped form one of college football's most powerful offenses. Hall of Fame head coach Knute Rockne devised the four-back formation, putting Crowley at left halfback, Miller at right halfback, Layden at fullback and Stuhldreher at quarterback. Notre Dame won 37 of its 41 games during the amazing four-year run of the "Four Horsemen", losing just three times and tieing once.

Nicknamed "Sleepy Jim" by Rockne because of his low-key demeanor and droopy eyelids, Crowley's finest season with the Fighting Irish came in 1924, when he led the team in scoring and joined Layden and Stuhldreher on the All-American team. [2] Notre Dame finished the year a perfect 10-0 and was named by sportswriters college football's national champion.

It wasn't until late in that championship season that the foursome of Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden was first called the "Four Horsemen". While watching Notre Dame defeat Army on October 18, 1924, popular sportswriter Grantland Rice recalled the Biblical devastation of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" in the opening sentence of his newspaper column for the New York Herald Tribune:

"Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again." [3]

Professional playing and college coaching careers

Following his graduation from Notre Dame in 1925, Crowley played in just three professional football games with the National Football League's Green Bay Packers and Providence Steamrollers. [4]. Crowley stayed in football as an assistant coach at the University of Georgia and was named head coach at Michigan State University (then known as Michigan State College) in 1929. In four seasons Crowley's teams went 22-8-3. [5]

Football power Fordham University lured Crowley away from Michigan State in 1933. Crowley enjoyed tremendous success at Fordham by building one of the top defensive teams in the country. In 1936 and 1937 the Rams' stout defensive line, coached by future Notre Dame head coach Frank Leahy, was dubbed the "Seven Blocks of Granite". The defense was led by two-time All-American lineman Alex Wojciechowicz, who later starred professionally for the Detroit Lions and was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Another "Block of Granite", Vince Lombardi, would gain fame as a championship coach for the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers.

Crowley's last two teams at Fordham each went to bowl games. The Rams lost 13-12 to Texas A&M University in the 1941 Cotton Bowl Classic and defeated the University of Missouri 2-0 in the 1942 Sugar Bowl. Crowley left Fordham after the Sugar Bowl, having compiled a record of 56-13-7 as the Rams' head coach. [6]

World War II and the AAFC

During World War II Crowley served with the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific. In late 1944 he agreed to become the first commissioner of a new professional football league, the All-America Football Conference. The league kicked off in 1946 and quickly became a formidable rival to the National Football League.

Following the 1946 season, Crowley stepped down as commissioner to become part-owner and coach of the AAFC's worst team, the Chicago Rockets. Crowley's success as a college coach didn't translate to the pros. The Rockets went just 1-13 in 1947 and Crowley quit his dual role with the team before the 1948 season.

Later life

Crowley left football behind following his disastrous stint with Chicago, moving to Pennsylvania to become an insurance salesman. In 1953 he moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania, to take over as station manager and sports director of independent television station WTVU. Two years later, Crowley was named chairman of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, a position he held until 1963.

Named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1966 [7], Crowley cashed in on his football fame in the 1960s and 1970s as a much sought-after speaker at banquets and dinners.

The last living member of the "Four Horsemen", Crowley died in Scranton on January 15, 1986.

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl Coaches# AP°
Michigan State Spartans (Independent) (1929–1932)
1929 Michigan State 5-3
1930 Michigan State 5-1-2
1931 Michigan State 5-3-1
1932 Michigan State 7-1
Michigan State: 22-8-3
Fordham Rams (Independent) (1933–1941)
1933 Fordham 6-2
1934 Fordham 5-3
1935 Fordham 6-1-2
1936 Fordham 5-1-2 15
1937 Fordham 7-0-1 3
1938 Fordham 6-1-2 15
1939 Fordham 6-2 17
1940 Fordham 7-2 L 12-13 Cotton Bowl Classic 12
1941 Fordham 8-1 W 2-0 Sugar Bowl 6
Fordham: 56-13-7
Total: 78-21-10
      National Championship         Conference Title         Conference Division Title
Indicates BCS bowl game. #Rankings from final Coaches Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Harry Kipke
Michigan State University football head coach
Succeeded by
Charlie Bachman
Preceded by
Frank Cavanaugh
Fordham University football head coach
Succeeded by
Earl Walsh


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