Burnham Signed as Grid Coach, Tutored Unbeaten Purdue in '43
Meet Elmer H. Burnham, Rochester's new football coach, who guided Purdue University's grid squad to an undefeated season in 1943.
He took over his new duties on July 1, and like his predecessor, Dudley S. DeGroot, will serve as associate professor of physical education. Dud resigned on March 1 to become head coach of the Washington Redskins, last year's Eastern Division professional champions.
With one of the toughest schedules in the country, Burnham's Purdue team won all of its nine games, was the only major college team in the country to finish without the blemish of defeat or tie. It scored 214 points to its opponent's 55.
A graduate of Springfield College in 1916, Elmer Burnham began his coaching career at Central High School in South Bend, Indiana, and had only one losing season in his sixteen years there. He served in France in an Army trench mortar unit in 1918, and was discharged with the rank of sergeant. In 1935 he earned his bachelor of physical education degree at Notre Dame, and that same year forsook high school football to become freshman coach at Purdue. He took over as Varsity coach in 1942.
Purdue's 1943 victims included Camp Grant, Great Lakes, Ohio State, Illinois, Minnesota, Marquette, Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin. In mid-October, last year, the United Press named him "coach of the week." Two of his pupils won places on the UP All-American eleven— "Touchdown Tony" Butkovich, halfback, one of the country's leading scorers, and Alex Agase, guard.
In selecting a coach from the "Big Ten," President Alan Valentine made it clear that the University has no intentions of changing its athletic policy, and has no major-league football ambitions. The present policy provides for no subsidies, athletic scholarships, or other devices to attract outstanding athletes; and, except in the abnormal war year of 1943, has chosen opponents from the list of colleges in its own competitive class-Amherst, Hobart, Hamilton, Union, Rensselaer, and the like.
Last year, the V-12 program brought many first-rate players as transfers from other colleges. At the same time, many colleges dropped football. Rochester was obliged to go outside its normal competition in arranging a schedule, and played Yale, Colgate, and Carnegie Tech, among others. It won six out of seven games, defeating Yale and Colgate on their home fields, and losing to Colgate, 7 to 0, in the first of the home-and-home series with the Raiders.
None of last year's regulars, and only one or two of the 1943 substitutes, will still be at the University this fall; and, since most of the students now coming into the V-12 unit enter directly from high school, there is no likelihood that Burnham will have the high quality of material that helped to make last season so successful.
The new coach visited Rochester in May, met Rochester sports writers, looked over some of his prospective players, and conferred with University officials. He won the immediate and enthusiastic approval of those who talked with him. For his part, Burnham declared that he is happy with "the general policies and the athletic program of the University.
"I have always thought that the Rochester situation is ideal, and I am very pleased to become a part of it," he said. "Although the competition will be keen, I believe that the pressure will not be as intense in this field of rivalry as in the Big Ten."
Four home games have been booked for the University's 1944 football schedule, with four road contests; Colgate Baldwin-Wallace, Miami, and Case will bring their elevens to the River Campus, Rensselaer will be played at Troy, Union at Schenectady, Oberlin at Oberlin, and Yale at the Yale Bowl.
WHEN ELMER BURNHAM, new head coach of Rochester football, came to Rochester in May, one of his first chores was to review the 1943 football season at Rochester and to compare it with his own undefeated session at Purdue last fall. The carefully-made film records of the Varsity games, made by Roman (Speed) Speegle, were an invaluable help as Burnham endeavored to familiarize himself with Rochester's football past.
THE GREATEST CROWD ever to witness a football game at the River Campus turned out last fall to see Colgate and Rochester resume a football rivalry that began over fifty years ago. The striking photograph above was taken from the top of a tall stepladder set up near the scoreboard. It was a stirring game, bitterly fought; Colgate was held to a single touchdown, and Rochester was held to a single first down. Earlier, Rochester had accomplished the feat of beating Yale in the hallowed Bowl at New Haven, by a 14 to 12 score. The Yale victory, possibly, contributed to the loss to Colgate, for the Varsity players sustained numerous injuries in the Yale game. Later, Rochester soundly trimmed the Raiders at Hamilton, striking with long passes to overcome a Raider lead and go ahead, 14 to 6. (See below).
THANKS ARE DUE TO COLGATE for these tooth-exposing grins-and we don't mean the dentifrice by that name. These water-soaked gridders are members of the victorious 1943 football squad, photographed as they join in a locker-room jubilation after defeating Colgate on the Raider's rain-soaked gridiron. The expression of bemused ecstasy in the foreground belongs, of course, to Rochester's former head coach, Dud DeGroot.
LOU ALEXANDER'S BASKETBALL TEAM gave the customers their money's worth in the Colgate game (above) which Rochester won 46 to 45. Another thriller of the court season was the Rochester-NYU contest in Madison Square Garden. With the score tied, and 51 seconds to play, Captain Bob Mulvihill "froze" the ball for 49 seconds, then scored from 15 feet out to win for Rochester 44 to 42. Below, the team with Coach Alexander arrives in New York for the big game.
FOUR STELLAR MEMBERS of Rochester's successful track teams, above, were (left to right) Ray Zoellner, John O'Hare, Al Hayden, and Joe Nowicki. Under the direction of Coach Paul Bitgood, the Varsity participated in the major intercollegiate track meets this year for the first time. This quartet made up the two-mile relay team, which won its event in the Boston AA races. Nowickiwon the Halpin half-mile in the New York A. C. games, and O'Hare took the two-mile title in the IC-4A meet in Madison Square Garden.
The outdoor track team won all of its dual and triangular meets this spring, and performed creditably in the Penn Relays and the IC-4A meet at Philadelphia.
At the right is smiling Ben Reynolds, 18-year-old seaman in the V-12 unit, who established new pool records in every meet in which he competed for Rochester this year. He set twenty-three new marks in all. A specialist in the 220 and 440 freestyle events, he broke eleven Rochester records and set new marks in pools at Cornell, West Point, Oberlin, Colgate, Sampson, Case School, and Rensselaer.
"YOUR OLD COLLEGE GREEN" has not been blighted by war, and the quiet Genesee still reflects the River Campus buildings, bright in the morning sun. The river changes in flood and drought, seasons and storms alter the campus elms; but the years bring a deeper channel for the stream, new height and greater sturdiness for the ancient trees of Prince Street. Like the elms, the University, in the stress of war, sends its roots deeper, its branches farther. Like the river, it continues even in the stress of war, "…gathering force, along its steadfast way."
THE SERVICE FLAG in Rush Rhees Library tells the story of Rochester's mounting casualty roster, of the increasing number of Rochester men and women in uniform. The photograph above was taken in February, 1943; the one at the right, being inspected by seamen of the V-12 unit, in June, 1944. Examining last year's service flag is George Harris, '45, wounded a few months ago at the Anzio beachhead. The nineteen gold Stars now sewed upon this flag honor the following Rochester men who have died in the service of their country:
To part 1
To part 2
To part 3
To On-line Books Page
To GenWeb of Monroe Co. page.