Robert Zuppke

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Robert Zuppke
Zuppke at Illinois, c. 1920
Biographical details
Born(1879-07-02)July 2, 1879
Berlin, Germany
DiedDecember 22, 1957(1957-12-22) (aged 78)
Champaign, Illinois
Playing career
c. 1900 Milwaukee Normal
1903–1905 Wisconsin
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1906–1909Hackley Manual Training (MI)
1910–1912 Oak Park and River Forest HS (IL)
1913–1941 Illinois
Head coaching record
Overall131–81–12 (college)
Accomplishments and honors
4 National (1914, 1919, 1923, 1927)
7 Western / Big Ten (1914–1915, 1918–1919, 1923, 1927–1928)
Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (1948)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1951 (profile)

Robert Carl Zuppke (July 2, 1879 – December 22, 1957) was an American football coach. He served as the head coach at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign from 1913 until 1941, compiling a career college football record of 131–81–12. Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951, Zuppke coached his teams to national titles in 1914, 1919, 1923, and 1927. Zuppke's teams also won seven Big Ten Conference championships. While at the University of Illinois, Zuppke was a member of the Alpha-Gamma Chapter of Kappa Sigma. Among the players Zuppke coached at Illinois was Red Grange, the era's most celebrated college football player. The field at the University of Illinois's Memorial Stadium is named Zuppke Field in his honor. Zuppke is credited for many football inventions and traditions, including the huddle and the flea flicker. In 1914, he reintroduced the I formation. [1]


Prior to coaching at the University of Illinois, Zuppke coached at Muskegon High School in Muskegon, Michigan and Oak Park and River Forest High School in Oak Park, Illinois, where he tutored future Pro Football Hall of Famer George Trafton, and Olympic decathlete Harry Goelitz. [2] Zuppke led the team to state championships in 1911 and 1912. He had several coaching influences. He used some plays developed by Pop Warner. [3]

Zuppke also was a writer and a fine art painter. From 1930 to 1948, Zuppke wrote the syndicated newspaper strip Ned Brant, drawn by Walt Depew. [4] During the 1930s, Zuppke also wrote syndicated sports-related columns. [5] As a painter, Zuppke was known for his rugged Western landscapes.


Zuppke was given to philosophical remarks, known as "Zuppkeisms." The seven best-known are as follows:

  1. Never let hope elude you; that is life's biggest failure
  2. The greatest athlete is one who can carry a nimble brain to the place of action
  3. Moral courage is the result of respect from fellow men
  4. A good back should keep his feet at all times and never lose his head
  5. Men do their best if they know they are being observed
  6. Alumni are loyal if a coach wins all his games
  7. Advice to freshmen: don't drink the liniment [6]


Zuppke was also a painter who worked mainly on creating evocative, naturalistic landscapes depicting the American Southwest. Zuppke saw no conflict between his interest in painting and football strategy as he believed, "Art and football are very much alike". [7] His work was displayed in several shows, including a one-man show at the Palmer House in Chicago in 1937. Zuppke was a member of the No-Jury Society of Artists in Chicago and an acquaintance of Ernest Hemingway. Images of Zuppke alongside some of his paintings can be found in the University of Illinois Archives. [8]

Head coaching record


Illinois Fighting Illini (Western Conference / Big Ten Conference)(1913–1941)
1913 Illinois 4–2–12–2–15th
1914 Illinois 7–06–01st
1915 Illinois 5–0–23–0–2T–1st
1916 Illinois 3–3–12–2–1T–4th
1917 Illinois 5–2–12–2–1T–5th
1918 Illinois 5–24–0T–1st
1919 Illinois 6–16–11st
1920 Illinois 5–24–24th
1921 Illinois 3–41–4T–8th
1922 Illinois 2–52–46th
1923 Illinois 8–05–0T–1st
1924 Illinois 6–1–13–1–1T–2nd
1925 Illinois 5–32–2T–4th
1926 Illinois 6–22–2T–6th
1927 Illinois 7–0–15–01st
1928 Illinois 7–14–11st
1929 Illinois 6–1–13–1–12nd
1930 Illinois 3–51–48th
1931 Illinois 2–60–610th
1932 Illinois 5–42–47th
1933 Illinois 5–33–2T–5th
1934 Illinois 7–14–13rd
1935 Illinois 3–51–4T–9th
1936 Illinois 4–3–12–2–16th
1937 Illinois 3–3–22–38th
1938 Illinois 3–52–37th
1939 Illinois 3–4–13–36th
1940 Illinois 1–70–59th
1941 Illinois 2–60–59th
      National championship        Conference title        Conference division title or championship game berth

See also


  2. Brichford , p. 15
  3. Brichford , p. 27
  4. DePew bio, Lambiek's Comiclopedia. Accessed December 10, 2011.
  5. Brichford, Maynard. Bob Zuppke: the life and football legacy of the Illinois coach (McFarland, 2009).
  6. "Bob "The Little Dutchman" Zuppke". College Football Hall of Fame . Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  7. "Sport: Football Artist". Time Magazine. October 18, 1937.
  8. "Robert Zuppke and His Artwork". University of Illinois Archives. Retrieved December 10, 2011.