Camp Randall 100: Harry Stuhldreher

Photo collage of images of former Wisconsin football coach Harry Stuhldreher
Photo collage of images of former Wisconsin football coach Harry Stuhldreher

The Camp Randall 100 honors a prestigious group of 100 people who shaped the first century of Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin Athletics will reveal a new honoree every day from May 24 until the Badgers’ 2017 opening game on Sept. 1 against Utah State.

“Gentlemen, I’ve bought a one-way ticket from Philadelphia. I plan to stay here for a long time.”

— Harry Stuhldreher

Photo of Harry Stuhldreher
Harry Stuhldreher

Over its first 47 years, the Wisconsin football team had 18 head coaches. Phil King, who led the Badgers to three Big Ten titles and an incredible record of 65-11-1 over eight seasons in the late 1800s and early 1900s, was the longest-tenured of those coaches.

After William Juneau left the Badgers to take the head coaching job at Texas following the 1915 season, UW had six different coaches over the next 20 seasons, none lasting more than five years.

It was against this backdrop that Harry Stuhldreher came to Madison:

Harry A. Stuhldreher isn’t worried by the ghosts of 18 predecessors as head football coach at Wisconsin whose short terms and abrupt departures have given this school the name of the “Coaches’ Graveyard,” Wisconsin State Journal Sports Editor Jerry McCormick wrote on May 1, 1936.

The little man with the big job — he is both head football coach and athletic director at the University of Wisconsin — made it plain that he did not expect to go the way of his predecessors when he told a student group which tendered him a reception Thursday night:

“Gentlemen, I’ve bought a one-way ticket from Philadelphia. I plan to stay here for a long time.”


Scanned copy of the Wisconsin State Journal from May 1, 1936 featuring headlines about Harry Stuhldreher being hired as the new Wisconsin football coach
Wisconsin State Journal – May 1, 1936


And that he did. Stuhldreher’s 13-year tenure from 1936-1948 is the second-longest in UW history, surpassed only by Barry Alvarez. While his overall record of 45-62-6 (.425) was unremarkable, his Badger teams were responsible for some memorable moments.

After a 2-6 debut season, Stuhldreher and the Badgers opened the 1937 season by winning their first four games. Heading into a road matchup with No. 3 Pitt, UW received its first top-20 national ranking in school history, entering the poll at No. 16.

The next year, Wisconsin notched its first win over a ranked opponent, beating No. 7 Northwestern, 20-13, in Evanston. That vaulted the Badgers back into the Associated Press poll.

But Stuhldreher’s greatest success came in 1942. On the strength of All-Americans Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch, Pat Harder and Dave Schreiner, the Badgers compiled an 8-1-1 record and ended the season ranked third in the Associated Press poll. Along the way, UW defeated No. 1-ranked Ohio State, 17-7, its first win over a top-ranked team. That was OSU’s lone loss as the Buckeyes were crowned national champions that season.


Image of the 1942 Wisconsin football team photo with list of players and coaches from the team's program that season
1942 Wisconsin football team photo


After that magical year, Stuhldreher led the Badgers to just one more winning season, a 5-3-1 record in 1947. The following year was the final one for Stuhldreher as UW’s head man. His last game was a historic one, however, as it marked the debut of Paul Bunyan’s Axe. Unfortunately, 15th-ranked Minnesota shut out the Badgers, 16-0, at Camp Randall Stadium.

Less than a month after that final game, Stuhldreher resigned as football coach, choosing to stay on as athletic director. In January of 1949, he tabbed little-known 38-year old Ivy Williamson, who had spent the previous two seasons as the head coach at Lafayette, as his successor. Williamson would coach the Badgers for seven seasons, compiling a 41-19-4 record and leading UW to the 1952 Big Ten title and its first Rose Bowl appearance.

Badger fans may know Stuhldreher best for patrolling the UW sidelines, but he is more famously known in college football circles for being one of the famed members of Notre Dame’s “Four Horsemen.” Though he stood only 5-7 and weighed 151 pounds, Stuhldreher was a three-year starter at quarterback for the Fighting Irish. As a senior he led them to a 10-0 record, a win over Stanford in the Rose Bowl and a national title. In 1958, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Thin Photo collage of images of former Wisconsin football coach Harry Stuhldreher

Video of Wisconsin vs. Purdue – November 4, 1944 (No Audio)

Video of Wisconsin vs. Purdue – September 9, 1947 (No Audio)