Eddie Robinson (American football coach)
February 13, 1919|
April 3, 2007 88)
|Spouse(s)||Doris Robinson (died September 2015)|
Eddie Robinson, Jr.|
Lillian Rose Robinson
|Alma mater||University of Iowa|
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|Head coaching record|
|Tournaments||0–3 (NCAA D-I-AA playoffs)|
|Accomplishments and honors|
9 Black college national (1955, 1967, 1972, 1974–1975, 1977, 1980, 1983, 1992)
17 SWAC (1960, 1965–1968, 1971–1974, 1977–1980, 1983, 1985, 1989, 1994)
College Football Hall of Fame|
Inducted in 1997 (profile)
Eddie Gay Robinson, Sr. (February 13, 1919 – April 3, 2007) was an American football coach. He coached the second most victories in NCAA Division I history and the third most overall. From July 2012 to January 2015, Robinson held the Division I record, as 111 of Joe Paterno's wins had been vacated during that time as a result of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and subsequent NCAA sanctions. With the restoration of the wins by the NCAA in 2015, Paterno has again been recognized as the Division I record holder.
For 56 years, from 1941 to 1942 and again from 1945 to 1997, he was the head coach at Grambling State University, a historically black university (HBCU) in Grambling in Lincoln Parish in North Louisiana. Robinson is recognized by many college football experts as one of the greatest coaches in history. During a period in college football history when black players were not allowed to play for southern college programs, Robinson built Grambling State into a "small" college football powerhouse. He retired in 1997 with a record of 408 wins, 165 losses, and 15 ties. Robinson coached every single game from the field and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
Robinson was born in Jackson in East Feliciana Parish in South Louisiana, to the son of a sharecropper and a domestic worker. He graduated in 1937 from McKinley Senior High School in the capital city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He then earned his bachelor's degree from Leland College in Baker in East Baton Rouge Parish, then obtained his master's degree in 1954 from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, at which he was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
More than 200 of his players went on to play in the American Football League, CFL, and NFL. Robinson coached three American Football League players who would later be inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame: the Kansas City Chiefs' Buck Buchanan; the Oakland Raiders' Willie Brown; and the Houston Oilers' Charlie Joiner. Robinson also coached James Harris, who with the AFL's Buffalo Bills became the first black quarterback in modern Pro Football history to start at that position in a season opener. He also coached Packers defensive end and Hall of Famer Willie Davis and the Super Bowl XXII MVP, Redskins quarterback Doug Williams, who would ultimately succeed Robinson as Grambling's head coach in 1998.
During his coaching career, Robinson compiled 45 winning seasons, including winning or sharing 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference championships and nine black college football national championships.
Robinson dreamed of becoming a college football coach himself, but he faced an enormous drawback—he was black in the days of Jim Crow discrimination. The only college position he could possibly hope to obtain would be at a traditionally all-black school, and these were all well staffed. Having earned his bachelor's degree at Leland, Robinson returned to Baton Rouge and took a job at a feed mill for 25 cents an hour. Not long after that, he heard that the Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute—now Grambling State University—was searching for a new football coach. He applied for the job.
In 1941 the 22-year old Robinson assumed his duties as head football coach at Grambling State. The days of assistant coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators, and specialty coaches were long in the future, so Robinson did everything: he taught offense and defense, mowed the football field, fixed sandwiches for road trips through towns that would not serve blacks in restaurants, taped his players' sore joints, and even wrote game stories for the newspapers. He had strict standards of personal conduct and educational achievement for his players. In his first year the team went 3–5–1, but the following season—during which he recruited new players and dismissed those who did not live up to his expectations—the Tigers had a perfect 9–0 season, going unbeaten, untied, and unscored upon.
Enormous publicity attended Robinson's record-breaking win with Grambling State in 1985. Some observers feared that the coach would become the target of white hatred, much as Henry Aaron had when he broke Babe Ruth's home run record. Instead Robinson reported that he did not receive a single hate letter, even from the legion of southern fans who worshiped Bear Bryant. When asked if his record was somehow tarnished by the fact that his team played most of its games against Division I-AA caliber competition, Robinson told Sports Illustrated: "I grew up in the South. I was told where to attend elementary school, where to attend junior high school, where to attend high school. When I became a coach, I was told who I could recruit, who I could play, where I could play and when I could play. I did what I could within the system." He added that his philosophy had always been "whatever league you're in, whatever level, win there."
Eddie Robinson held several jobs other than football coach, including teaching at Grambling High School, and coaching the girls basketball team during World War II. His girls team lost the state championship by 1 point. He also coached boys basketball, baseball, directed the band, and was in charge of the cheerleaders—with a budget of $46.
Robinson recorded just one losing season between 1960 and 1990; however, after three consecutive losing seasons in the mid-1990s, pressure mounted for the now 78-year old coach to resign. Fellow college coach Joe Paterno is quoted in the Grambling State press guide as saying, "Nobody has ever done or ever will do what Eddie Robinson has done for the game... Our profession will never, ever be able to repay Eddie Robinson for what he has done for the country and the profession of football."
In 1997 news escaped that Grambling was planning to dismiss him in mid-season. Public outcry—including condemnation from Louisiana elected officials—led Grambling to retain Robinson's services through the remainder of the season.
Robinson was the 1992 winner of the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award, which was established to honor the NCAA Division I football coach whose team excels on the field, in the classroom, and in the community. The award is named for Bobby Dodd, longtime head football coach of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. The award was established in 1976 to honor the values that Dodd exemplified.
Robinson developed Alzheimer's disease after his retirement. He died on April 3, 2007, at Lincoln General Hospital in Ruston, Louisiana, after having been admitted earlier in the day.
Robinson and his wife, Doris, who died at the age of ninety-six in September 2015, had two Children, Eddie, Jr., and Lillian Rose Robinson.
Awards and honors
Grambling named its football facility, built in 1983, Eddie Robinson Stadium. A street on GSU's campus is also named for him. In 1985 South 13th Street in Baton Rouge, Louisiana was renamed for him. The Los Angeles Football Classic Foundation's black college football national championship trophy was named for Robinson in 1988. Beginning in 1994, a separate Eddie Robinson Trophy was awarded in Atlanta to the top HBCU player of the year. The Eddie Robinson Classic (held from 1997–2002) was named for him, as was the Eddie G. Robinson Classic (begun in 2015). In 1997 the Football Writers Association of America's Eddie Robinson Award was renamed for him. The American Urban Radio Networks named its HBCU coach of the year trophy for Robinson. The Eddie G. Robinson Museum, located on GSU's campus, opened in 2010.
Head coaching record
|Grambling State Tigers (Independent) (1941–1951)|
|1943||No team—World War II|
|1944||No team—World War II|
|1945||Grambling State||10–2||W Flower|
|1947||Grambling State||10–2||L Vulcan|
|Grambling State Tigers (Midwestern Athletic Conference) (1952–1957)|
|1955||Grambling State||10–0||W Orange Blossom Classic|
|Grambling State Tigers (Southwestern Athletic Conference) (1958–1997)|
|1964||Grambling State||9–2||6–1||2nd||L Orange Blossom Classic|
|1965||Grambling State||8–3||6–1||1st||L Pecan|
|1967||Grambling State||9–1||6–1||1st||W Orange Blossom Classic|
|1968||Grambling State||9–2||6–1||1st||W Pasadena|
|1969||Grambling State||6–4||5–2||3rd||L Orange Blossom Classic|
|1972||Grambling State||11–2||5–1||T–1st||W Pelican|
|1973||Grambling State||10–3||5–1||T–1st||L Grantland Rice|
|1974||Grambling State||11–1||5–1||T–1st||W Pelican|
|1977||Grambling State||10–1||6–0||1st||W Mirage|
|1978||Grambling State||9–1–1||5–0–1||1st||L Orange Blossom Classic|
|1980||Grambling State||10–2||5–1||T–1st||L NCAA Division I-AA Semifinal||2|
|1985||Grambling State||9–3||6–1||1st||L NCAA Division I-AA First Round||8|
|1989||Grambling State||9–3||7–0||1st||L NCAA Division I-AA First Round||19|
|1992||Grambling State||10–2||6–1||2nd||W Heritage|
|1994||Grambling State||9–3||6–1||T–1st||W Heritage||7|
|National championship Conference title Conference division title|
| #Rankings from final Coaches Poll. |
°Rankings from final AP Poll.
- List of college football coaches with 200 wins
- List of presidents of the American Football Coaches Association
- EDDIE ROBINSON: 1919-2007 - Robinson's Record. The Advocate. April 5, 2007
- "Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation – Past Winners". Bobby Dodd Foundation. Retrieved 2012-12-17.
- Foster, Mary (August 2, 2004). "Ex-Grambling Coach Endures Alzheimer's". Associated Press. Archived from the original on August 3, 2004. Retrieved November 26, 2015.
- Foster, Mary (April 4, 2007). "Legendary Grambling coach Robinson dies". Associated Press. Archived from the original on April 4, 2007. Retrieved November 26, 2015.
- "Eddie G. Robinson". encyclopedia.com. 2007. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
- "Accomplishments". robinsonmuseum.com. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
- "Central State Marauders, 'Tank' Younger Feted In L.A.". Jet (p. 49). May 22, 1989.
- "Eddie Robinson Trophy to be awarded". Deseret News (sec. D, p. 2). September 21, 1994.
- "Introducing the Inaugural Eddie G. Robinson Classic". egrobinsonclassic.com. June 23, 2015. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
- "Fobbs Named the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year". gsutigers.com. January 22, 2015. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
- Samuel G. Freedman (February 12, 2010). "Louisiana Museum Confronts Segregation". nytimes.com. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
- Remembrances of Robinson from The Advocate (Louisiana)
- Eddie Robinson at the College Football Hall of Fame
- Eddie Robinson at the College Football Data Warehouse
- Eddie Robinson at Find a Grave