Eddie Robinson (American football coach)

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Eddie Robinson
Eddie Robinson.jpg
Biographical details
Born(1919-02-13)February 13, 1919
Jackson, Louisiana
DiedApril 3, 2007(2007-04-03) (aged 88)
Ruston, Louisiana
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Head coaching record
College Football Data Warehouse
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1997 (profile)
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Eddie Robinson
Eddie Robinson.jpg
Biographical details
Born(1919-02-13)February 13, 1919
Jackson, Louisiana
DiedApril 3, 2007(2007-04-03) (aged 88)
Ruston, Louisiana
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Head coaching record
College Football Data Warehouse
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1997 (profile)

Edward Gay Robinson (February 13, 1919 – April 3, 2007) was an American football coach. He is the second winningest coach in NCAA Division I history and third winningest coach overall. For 57 years from 1941 to 1997, he was the head coach at Grambling State University, a historically black university in 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 major 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, Louisiana, to the son of a sharecropper and a domestic worker. He went on to graduate from McKinley Senior High School in Baton Rouge in 1937. He went on to earn his bachelor's degree from Leland College in Baker in East Baton Rouge Parish, then went on to obtain his Master's degree from the University of Iowa in Iowa City in 1954. Robinson is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.


Eddie G. Robinson Museum on the campus of Grambling State University

Robinson spent 56 years as the head coach at historically black Grambling State University in Grambling in Lincoln Parish in northern Louisiana beginning in 1941 when he was hired by college president and head baseball coach, Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones.

Robinson is third in overall college football wins, behind John Gagliardi (Division III St. John's University) and Joe Paterno. 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.[1]

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. Then as now, 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 on.

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 worshipped 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 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 1 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.[2]

Robinson developed Alzheimer's Disease after his retirement and died on April 3, 2007, at Lincoln General Hospital in Ruston, Louisiana, after being admitted earlier in the day.[3]

Head coaching record[edit]

Grambling State Tigers (Independent) (1941–1951)
1941Grambling State1–5–1
1942Grambling State9–0
1943Grambling StateNo Team
1944Grambling StateNo Team
1945Grambling State10–2W Flower Bowl
1946Grambling State6–6
1947Grambling State10–2L Vulcan Bowl
1948Grambling State8–2
1949Grambling State7–3–2
1950Grambling State6–4–1
1951Grambling State3–5–1
Grambling State:60–29–5
Grambling State Tigers (Midwestern Conference) (1952–1957)
1952Grambling State7–3–1
1953Grambling State8–2
1954Grambling State4–3–2
1955Grambling State10–0W Orange Blossom Classic
1956Grambling State8–1
1957Grambling State4–4
Grambling State:41–13–3
Grambling State Tigers (Southwestern Athletic Conference) (1958–1997)
1958Grambling State6–31–36th
1959Grambling State4–62–5T–5th
1960Grambling State9–16–1T–1st
1961Grambling State8–25–2T–2nd
1962Grambling State6–2–23–3–23rd
1963Grambling State5–3–13–3–1T–4th
1964Grambling State9–26–12ndL Orange Blossom Classic
1965Grambling State8–36–11stL Pecan Bowl
1966Grambling State6–2–14–2–1T–1st
1967Grambling State9–16–11stW Orange Blossom Classic
1968Grambling State9–26–11stW Pasadena Bowl
1969Grambling State6–45–23rdL Orange Blossom Classic
1970Grambling State9–25–12nd
1971Grambling State9–25–11st
1972Grambling State11–25–1T–1stW Pelican Bowl
1973Grambling State10–35–1T–1stL Grantland Rice Bowl
1974Grambling State11–15–1T–1stW Pelican Bowl
1975Grambling State10–24–2T–1st
1976Grambling State8–44–2T–2nd
1977Grambling State10–16–01stW Mirage Bowl
1978Grambling State9–1–15–0–11stL Orange Blossom Classic
1979Grambling State8–35–1T–1st
1980Grambling State10–25–1T–1stL Division I-AA semifinals
1981Grambling State6–4–14–1–12nd
1982Grambling State8–35–12nd
1983Grambling State8–1–26–0–11st
1984Grambling State7–45–23rd
1985Grambling State9–36–11stL Division I-AA 1st round
1986Grambling State7–44–3T–3rd
1987Grambling State5–63–4T–5th
1988Grambling State8–35–22nd
1989Grambling State9–37–01stL Division I-AA 1st round
1990Grambling State8–33–3T–3rd
1991Grambling State5–63–4T–6th
1992Grambling State10–26–12ndW Heritage Bowl
1993Grambling State7–44–33rd
1994Grambling State9–36–1T–1stW Heritage Bowl
1995Grambling State5–64–3
1996Grambling State3–82–5T–6th
1997Grambling State3–82–6T–7th
Grambling State:307–125–8182–76–7
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title
Indicates Bowl Coalition, Bowl Alliance, Bowl Championship Series (BCS) bowl, or College Football Playoff (CFP) game.
#Rankings from final Coaches Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.

Awards and honors[edit]

The Football Writers Association of America's Eddie Robinson Award is named for him. Grambling also named its football facility Eddie Robinson Stadium.

Robinson received the 1985 Amos Alonzo Stagg Award from the United States Sports Academy in recognition of his outstanding achievement as a coach.[4]

Super Bowl XXXII, played at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, was dedicated to Robinson. He was accompanied onto the field by Williams and Joe Gibbs to perform the ceremonial coin toss.

In media[edit]

In the 1981 TV movie Grambling's White Tiger set in late 1960s, about the true story of Jim Gregory, the first white quarterback at Grambling, Robinson is played by Harry Belafonte.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]