September 10, 1902|
January 15, 1986 (aged 83)|
Green Bay Packers
Providence Steam Roller
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
North Carolina Pre-Flight
|Head coaching record|
College Football Hall of Fame|
Inducted in 1966 (profile)
James Harold "Jim" Crowley (September 10, 1902 – January 15, 1986) was an American football player and coach. He gained fame as one-fourth of the University of Notre Dame's legendary "Four Horsemen" backfield where he played halfback from 1922 to 1924. After a brief career as a professional football player, Crowley turned to coaching. He served as the head football coach at Michigan State College from 1929 to 1933, at Fordham University from 1933 to 1941 and at the North Carolina Pre-Flight School in 1942, compiling a career college football record of 86–23–11. Crowley also coached the Chicago Rockets of the All-America Football Conference in 1947. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1966.
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. In 1925, the Waterbury Blues signed Crowley, to join ex-Horseman Stuhldreher in the backfield against a team from Adams, Massachusetts. Crowley's regular job at the time was assistant coach at the University of Georgia. The Blues put on a good show by driving to a 34–0 triumph, with Crowley scoring three touchdowns and Stuhldreher booting two field goals and three extra points. Crowley picked up his check after the game and left the team. Crowley stayed in football as an assistant coach at Georgia and was named head coach at Michigan State University, then known as Michigan State College, in 1929. In four seasons, Crowley's Michigan State Spartans went 22–8–3.
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 in the 1941 Cotton Bowl Classic and defeated the 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.
World War II and the AAFC
During World War II, Crowley served with the United States Navy in the South Pacific. In 1942, he served as the head coach for the North Carolina Pre-Flight School team and led the Cloudbusters to an overall record of 8–2–1. 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.
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 as a player, 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
- Hogrogian, John (1982). "The Hartford Blues Part I" (PDF). Coffin Corner (Professional Football Researchers Association) 4 (8): 1–5.
- DeLassus, David. "Fordham game-by-game results (1935-1939)". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved February 11, 2011.
- Jones, Wilbur D. (2009). "Football! Navy! War!": How Military "Lend-Lease" Players Saved the College Game and Helped Win World War II. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. pp. 124–126. ISBN 978-0-7864-4219-5. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
- "Jim "Sleepy Jim" Crowley". College Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2010-05-18.
- Jim Crowley at the College Football Hall of Fame
- Jim Crowley at the College Football Data Warehouse
- Jim Crowley at Pro-Football-Reference.com