Parke H. Davis

Parke Hill Davis (July 15, 1871 – June 5, 1934)[1][2] was an American football player, coach, and historian who retroactively named national championship teams in American college football from the 1869 through the 1932 seasons. He also named co-national champions at the conclusion of the 1933 season.[3] Davis' selections are included in the NCAA's official football record books, as championship teams chosen on the basis of research.[4] Critics have faulted his work for having a heavy Eastern bias, with little regard for the South and the West Coast.[5]

Parke H. Davis
Parke davis portrait.jpg
Parke H. Davis, head football coach, Lafayette College (1895–98) Lafayette College, David Bishop Skillman Library, Department of Special Collections & College Archives
Biographical details
Born(1871-07-15)July 15, 1871
Jamestown, New York, U.S.
DiedJune 5, 1934(1934-06-05) (aged 62)
Easton, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Alma materPrinceton University
Playing career
Position(s)Tackle, end
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Head coaching record
Accomplishments and honors
1 National (1896)

Player and coachEdit

Davis was a lineman for Princeton[6] and a member of the Tigers' "tug-of-war team in 1889"[7] before going on to coach at Wisconsin (1893),[8] Amherst (1894)[9] and Lafayette (1895–98),[10][11][12] where he also served as athletic director.[13]

He displayed an admirable range of talents. In 1896 alone, Coach Davis organized Lafayette's Law Club;[14] he appeared in a leading role in a stage production of The Rivals at the Easton, Pennsylvania Opera House;[15] he read Longfellow poetry at the Freshman Initiation gala;[16] and he led Lafayette to its first national football championship, an honor he would, himself, bestow upon his team some 37 years after the fact.

The Yost affairEdit

The biggest win of the 1896 season came in Philadelphia against Pennsylvania on October 24.[17][18][19] A standout for Lafayette was a newcomer named Fielding "Hurry Up" Yost.

Yost began playing football at West Virginia University in 1894 at the age of 23.[20] A 6-foot, 200-pounder, Yost was a star tackle at WVU into the 1896 season. But after his team lost three times to Lafayette in home games played on three different fields over the course of three days,[19][21] Yost became a remarkable personification of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." He transferred in mid-season to join what would be Coach Davis' national championship team.

True to his nickname, just a week after playing against Davis in West Virginia, "Hurry Up" was playing for Davis in Lafayette's historic 6–4 win over the Quakers.[19]

The fortuitous timing of Yost's appearance on the Lafayette roster did not go unnoticed by Penn officials. They called it "the Yost affair." The Philadelphia Ledger quoted Yost as saying that he came to Lafayette only to play football. The fact that Yost appeared in a Lafayette uniform only once... in the Penn game[22]… and that he returned to West Virginia within two weeks of the contest... did not help appearances.

Yost assured all concerned that he would return to Lafayette for at least three years of study.[23] But 1897 found "Hurry Up" no longer a student or a player, but a coach at Ohio Wesleyan. In 1901, he was hired as head coach at the University of Michigan, beginning a storied 25-year, Hall of Fame career.


After concluding his own six-year career as a football coach, Davis became a "prominent attorney"[24] in Easton, Pennsylvania, where Lafayette is located. He lived there the rest of his life.

In the October 1900 meeting of the Lafayette Democratic Club, Davis was the "orator of the evening," after the group unanimously endorsed the national ticket of William Jennings Bryan.[25]

In 1901, the former coach, "favorably and widely known through his past connection with football at Lafayette," easily won election as District Attorney of Northampton County, Pennsylvania,[26] of which Easton is the county seat.

He became such a part of Easton and the college that he was proclaimed a "loyal son of Lafayette" after giving an "enthusiastic" speech in 1901 urging on the football team before its game with Princeton, his own alma mater.[27]

The "ex-coach and loyal supporter of athletics of Lafayette"[28] served as an umpire in football games[29] and as starter at the college's track meets.[30]

Football historian and rules committee memberEdit

Davis wrote an early history of American football in 1911, tracing the sport's origins to ancient times:[31]

...abundant evidence may be marshalled to prove that this is the oldest outdoor game in existence. In the 22nd chapter of Isaiah is found the verse, "He will turn and toss thee like a ball." This allusion, slight as it may be, is sufficient unto the antiquary to indicate that some sort of game with a ball existed as early as 750 years before the Christian era, the epoch customarily assigned to the Book of Isaiah.

An acknowledged expert on the formative years of the sport in the 19th century, Davis described the period between 1869 and 1875 as the Pioneer Period; the years 1876–93 he called the period of the American Intercollegiate Football Association; and the years 1894–1933 he dubbed the Period of Rules Committees and Conferences.[3]

He helped select the 1913 College Football All-America Team while serving as Princeton's representative on the American Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee.[32]

He served on the Rules Committee from 1909 to 1915, playing a key role in shaping the evolution of the game. Among the innovations with which he is credited are the division of the game into quarters, numbering of players, abolition of inter-locked interference and the creation of end zones.[33]

Even after leaving the Rules Committee, Davis promoted his ideas for improving the sport, which included making it illegal to advance a recovered fumble:

This feature of football is uncouth, unfair and a relic of a long bygone era... The proper disposition of this fluke play is to change the rules so that the ball shall be put down for scrimmage at the point where a fumble is recovered by the side recovering the fumble and no run allowed. If the fumble is recovered behind an opponent's goal line the ball shall be put in play at the point where it was fumbled.[34]

Davis was a friend and admirer of Walter Camp, "Father of American Football."[35] In a 1926 authorized biography of Camp, author Harford Powel, Jr. turned to Davis for historical perspective, including accounts of Camp's "heavy disappointments (which) should be mentioned, for fear it might be thought that Camp was one of those players who do not know the feeling of failure."[36]

He reviewed the sport's first half-century in "Fifty Years of Intercollegiate Football," which appeared in the 1926 edition of Spalding's Official Football Guide. Davis' description of football's earliest years paint an image of a sport very different from the game as it became known in the 20th century:[37]

The tactics of the times made the play essentially a kicking game. The backs kicked punts, drop kicks, and place kicks... Not only was the ball kicked as at present, but it was kicked, and cleverly kicked, while bouncing upon the ground.

The game was opened, as now, by a kick-off. The player of 1880 might, if he chose, drive the ball far down the field. Or, technically kicking the ball by merely touching it with his toe, he might pick it up and run with it. Players when tackled invariably endeavored to pass the ball back to another member of their side for a further advance, a method of play so highly developed that it was not infrequent to see a ball passed as many as five times during a single play.

In addition to his work on the Guide, Davis authored articles on football for the Encyclopædia Britannica and compiled a glossary of football terms.[33]

"Set all the records straight"Edit

"Perhaps a bit irritated by the flood of experts on the scene, the most noted historian football has ever known, Parke H. Davis, decided to set all the records straight in the 1933 edition of Spalding's Football Guide," reported Dan Jenkins in the September 11, 1967 edition of Sports Illustrated. "Davis went all the way back to the first inflated pig bladder to pick the national champions for every season. He used no special formula. He simply looked at the schedules and the results and chose his teams."[7]

Davis' list was titled, "Outstanding Nationwide and Sectional Teams," compiled for the seasons from 1869 onward.[38]: 233–35  In all, he selected 94 teams over 61 seasons as "Outstanding Nationwide and Sectional Teams." For 21 of these teams (at 12 schools), he was the only major selector to choose them. Their schools use 17 of Davis' singular selections to claim national titles. Davis died months after his selection of the outstanding 1933 teams for the 1934 Guide.

For the 1896 season, Davis selected his own team and his alma mater to share the title. Lafayette and Princeton had fought to a 0–0 stalemate early in the season.[39]

In addition to naming each year's champion, Davis added statistics from the 1873 through the 1933 seasons to his annual Guide. These included the longest scoring plays from rushing, returns, passing plays and interceptions.[40] The 1934 edition was Davis' last to include these compilations, as he died soon after its completion. Through the 1937 edition, the records were included with the notation, "Compilations of the late Parke H. Davis."[38]: 223–32 [40]

Davis also named an All-Time All-America football team in 1931.[41]

"Parke Davis Day"Edit

Davis' health may have been a concern in the spring of 1934.

Princeton announced that it was inviting the sporting world to honor its famous alum on "Parke Davis Day," which was set for the following October 13. As The Lafayette reported:

The purpose of this event will be to commemorate the long and faithful services which Mr. Davis has given to football. Mr. Davis, a graduate of Princeton, came to Lafayette in 1895. He raised the Maroon from a position of obscurity to a level with the football giants... Lafayette owes much to Parke Davis and should contribute something to this event which is being held in his honor.[42]

But within weeks of the announcement... and months before "Parke Davis Day" was to be held... the honoree was dead.

Rather than attending the planned celebration in New Jersey, "(c)ollege associates, former football stars and members of the bench and bar were among the friends," who arrived in Easton as mourners for June 8 funeral services held at Davis' home. They included Congressman Abram Andrew and legendary Wisconsin coach Phil King, both former teammates at Princeton, and fellow football historian and Princeton grad William H. Edwards.[2][43]

Davis' "Outstanding Nationwide Teams"Edit

Davis (top right) and his Lafayette football team of 1896. 37 years later, as the sport's pre-eminent historian, Davis would honor his team as co-national champions. Lafayette College, David Bishop Skillman Library, Department of Special Collections & College Archives
Davis' All-America players: George B. Walbridge (left, 3rd Team 1897 All-America back, chosen by Walter Camp). Walbridge was right half-back and captain of Lafayette's 1896 team. He went on to graduate from Cornell in 1900. In 1916, he co-founded Walbridge Aldinger, which would become one of the largest construction companies in the United States.[44] In 2008, the company changed its name to simply "Walbridge."[45] Charles R. Rinehart (right, 1896 All-America guard[46] and 2nd team 1897 All-America guard, chosen by Walter Camp).[47] Charles "Babe" or "Riny" Rinehart was a right guard on the '96 squad. At 6'3" and 210 pounds he was the biggest man on the team.[48] He would captain and also play quarterback for the '97 team.[49] Rinehart was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1964. Lafayette College, David Bishop Skillman Library, Department of Special Collections & College Archives
Lafayette on defense in its 6–4 upset victory over Pennsylvania on October 24, 1896 at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. "Football – The American Intercollegiate Game," written by Parke H. Davis in 1911 (no longer in copyright)
Source: Spalding's Official Foot Ball Guide[a]
Season Davis' selections as champions of college football[b]
1869 Princeton, Rutgers
1870 Princeton
1871 No games[38]: 233 
1872 Princeton, Yale
1873 Princeton
1874 Harvard, Princeton, Yale
1875 Harvard, Princeton, Columbia[38]: 233 
1876 Yale
1877 Princeton, Yale
1878 Princeton
1879 Princeton, Yale
1880 Princeton, Yale
1881 Princeton, Yale
1882 Yale
1883 Yale
1884 Princeton, Yale
1885 Princeton
1886 Princeton, Yale
1887 Yale
1888 Yale
1889 Princeton
1890 Harvard
1891 Yale
1892 Yale
1893 Yale
1894 Penn, Yale
1895 Penn, Yale
1896 Lafayette, Princeton
1897 Penn, Yale
1898 Princeton
1899 Princeton
1900 Yale
1901 Harvard[c]
1902 Michigan, Yale
1903 Princeton
1904 Penn
1905 Yale
1906 Yale
1907 Yale
1908 Penn
1909 Yale
1910 None[38]: 233 
1911 Princeton
1912 Harvard
1913 Chicago, Harvard
1914 Army, Illinois
1915 Cornell, Pittsburgh
1916 Army, Pittsburgh[38]: 234 
1917 World War
1918 World War[38]: 234 
1919 Harvard, Illinois, Notre Dame
1920 Notre Dame, Princeton
1921 Cornell, Iowa, Lafayette
1922 Cornell, Princeton
1923 Illinois
1924 Penn
1925 Dartmouth
1926 Lafayette
1927 Illinois
1928 Detroit, Georgia Tech
1929 Pittsburgh
1930 Alabama, Notre Dame
1931 Pittsburgh, Purdue
1932 Colgate, Michigan, USC
1933 Michigan, Princeton
  1. ^ Based on the list originally published by Parke H. Davis in Spalding's Foot Ball Guide.[50][38]
  2. ^ Davis did not use the terms "champions" or "national champions" in his selections. He titled his list, "Outstanding Nationwide and Sectional Teams."[38]: 233 
  3. ^ The NCAA Record Book states "Yale" for 1901, which is an error that has been perpetuated since the first appearance of Parke Davis' selections in the NCAA book about 1995.[50][38]: 233 

Head coaching recordEdit

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Wisconsin Badgers (Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the Northwest) (1893)
1893 Wisconsin 4–2 1–1 2nd
Wisconsin: 4–2 1–1
Amherst (Triangular Football League) (1894)
1894 Amherst 7–5–1 0–2 3rd
Amherst: 7–5–1 0–2
Lafayette (Independent) (1895–1897)
1895 Lafayette 6–2
1896 Lafayette 11–0–1
1897 Lafayette 9–2–1
Lafayette: 26–4–2
Total: 37–11–3
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth


  1. ^ Bibliographic information on: Davis, Parke H., Football – The American Intercollegiate Game, 1911
  2. ^ a b "PARKE H. DAVIS BURIED.; Many Prominent Men at Funeral of Football Authority", special to The New York Times, June 9, 1934
  3. ^ a b "Notre Dame Football website". Archived from the original on December 23, 2015. Retrieved June 26, 2009.
  4. ^ Official 2007 NCAA Division I Football Records Book, page 73, 2007 Archived 2009-07-31 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Vautravers, James. "Parke Davis". Retrieved March 11, 2022.
  6. ^ WolverinesPedia
  7. ^ a b Jenkins, Dan, "This Year The Fight Will Be In The Open", Sports Illustrated, September 11, 1967
  8. ^ "A Brief History of the Wisconsin Badgers Football Team", Front Row USA Archived May 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine The Badgers were 4–2–0 under Davis in 1893.
  9. ^ College Football Data Warehouse Archived November 7, 2015, at the Wayback Machine Davis' record at Amherst was 7–5–1 in 1894.
  10. ^ College Football Data Warehouse Archived November 7, 2015, at the Wayback Machine Davis' record at Lafayette was 7–2–0 in 1895, 11–0–1 in 1896, and 9–2–1 in 1897.
  11. ^ "A Correction", The Lafayette, page 145, February 10, 1899 Archived February 16, 2012, at Archive-It This February 1899 article discusses the appointment of a committee to "extend a vote of thanks to Mr. Parke H. Davis for his services as coach of the football team during the past season," which would have been 1898.
  12. ^ College Football Data Warehouse Archived September 24, 2015, at the Wayback Machine Lafayette was 3–8 in 1898.
  13. ^ "Around Campus.", The Lafayette, page 135, February 14, 1896 Archived February 16, 2012, at Archive-It
  14. ^ "Law Club.", The Lafayette, page 6, September 25, 1896
  15. ^ "Around the Campus.", The Lafayette, page 231, June 5, 1896
  16. ^ "Freshman Initiated.", The Lafayette, page 48, October 30, 1896
  17. ^ "Lafayette College Foot-Ball.", The Lafayette, page 97, January 15, 1897 (misprinted as 1896) Archived February 16, 2012, at Archive-It
  18. ^ Davis, Parke H., Football – The American Intercollegiate Game, pages 451–452, 1911 Note: the book incorrectly gives the date of the game as October 23, 1896; the game was played on Saturday, October 24, 1896.
  19. ^ a b c "Lafayette Yearly Results, College Football Data Warehouse". Archived from the original on November 14, 2009. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
  20. ^ Maramba, Kris Wise, "Fielding Yost, another son of Marion County, excelled with Wolverines", Charleston Daily Mail, December 18, 2007 Archived December 20, 2007, at
  21. ^ "Lafayette vs. University of West Virginia", The Lafayette, page 36, October 23, 1896 Archived February 16, 2012, at Archive-It
  22. ^ "Lafayette College Foot-Ball.", The Lafayette, page 100, January 15, 1897 (misprinted as 1896) Archived February 16, 2012, at Archive-It
  23. ^ "Editorial Department" and "Yost a Bona-fide Student", The Lafayette, pages 66–68, November 20, 1896 Archived February 16, 2012, at Archive-It
  24. ^ "Parke H. Davis Gives Data and Comments on Season", The Lafayette Weekly, page 1, January 8, 1913
  25. ^ "Democratic Club.", The Lafayette, page 43, October 19, 1900
  26. ^ "Notes", The Lafayette, page 79, November 22, 1901
  27. ^ "College Smoker", The Lafayette, page 54, November 1, 1901
  28. ^ "Lehigh Smoker.", The Lafayette, page 85, December 1, 1905
  29. ^ "Football.", The Lafayette, page 18, October 4, 1901
  30. ^ "Track Meet.", The Lafayette, page 210, May 11, 1900
  31. ^ Davis, Parke H., Football – The American Intercollegiate Game, page 3, 1911
  32. ^ "Bob McWhorter Is Picked on All-American Eleven". Atlanta Constitution. December 9, 1913.
  33. ^ a b Associated Press, "Parke Davis Dies After Fine Career", Ogden Standard-Examiner, June 6, 1934
  34. ^ Intercollegiate Football Researchers Association, "The College Football Historian", Volume 2, Number 1
  35. ^ Archived April 5, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ Powel, Jr., Harford J., Walter Camp – The Father of American Football, page 24, 1926
  37. ^ Powel, Jr., Harford J., Walter Camp – The Father of American Football, page 51, 1926
  38. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Okeson, Walter R., ed. (1935). Spalding's Official Foot Ball Guide 1935. New York: American Sports Publishing Co.
  39. ^ "Lafayette College Foot-Ball.", The Lafayette, page 96, January 15, 1897 (misprinted as 1896) Archived February 16, 2012, at Archive-It
  40. ^ a b Noel, Tex, "History of Annual Association's College Football Records Books", 1st-N-Goal for Past Times Sports, May–June 2007
  41. ^ Shield & Diamond, page 4, Winter 2006
  42. ^ "Parke Davis.", The Lafayette, page three, May 15, 1934
  43. ^ Edwards wrote Football Days – Memories of the Game and of the Men Behind the Ball, with an introduction by Walter Camp, in 1916. The book liberally quoted Davis.
  44. ^ Burton, Clarence Monroe; Stocking, William; Miller, Gordon K.; The City of Detroit, Michigan – 1701–1922, page 496, 1922
  45. ^ Walbridge: "Our History"
  46. ^ Charles Rinehart, College Football Hall of Fame. Accessed July 3, 2009
  47. ^ 2007 Lafayette Football Guide, page 121, 2007
  48. ^ "Lafayette College Foot-Ball.", The Lafayette, page 99, January 15, 1897 (misprinted as 1896) Archived February 16, 2012, at Archive-It
  49. ^ "The Football Season Opened Here.", The Lafayette, page 22, October 8, 1897[permanent dead link]
  50. ^ a b Okeson, Walter R., ed. (1934). Spalding's Official Foot Ball Guide 1934. New York: American Sports Publishing Co. p. 206.

External linksEdit