Frank Thomas
Frank Thomas (American football).jpg
Biographical details
Born(1898-11-15)November 15, 1898
Muncie, Indiana
DiedMay 10, 1954(1954-05-10) (aged 55)
Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Playing career
1917–1918Western State (MI)
1920–1922Notre Dame
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1923–1924Georgia (assistant)
1929–1930Georgia (backfield)
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
Head coaching record
Accomplishments and honors
2 National (1934, 1941)[1]
3 SIAA (1926–1928)
4 SEC (1933–1934, 1937, 1945)
SEC Coach of the Year (1945)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1951 (profile)

Frank William Thomas (November 15, 1898 – May 10, 1954) was an American football player and coach. He served as the head football coach at the University of Chattanooga from 1925 to 1928 and at the University of Alabama from 1931 to 1946, compiling a career college football record of 141–33–9. During his tenure at Alabama, Thomas amassed a record of 115–24–7 and won four Southeastern Conference titles while his teams allowed an average of just 6.3 points per game.[2] Thomas's 1934 Alabama team completed a 10–0 season with a victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl and was named national champion by a number of selectors.

Thomas's total wins and winning percentage at Alabama rank third all-time among Crimson Tide football coaches, behind only Nick Saban and Paul "Bear" Bryant, whom Thomas coached in the mid-1930s. Thomas never coached a losing season, and twice his teams had undefeated, 10-win campaigns. Thomas was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.

Early life

Thomas was born in Muncie, Indiana. His parents, James and Elizabeth Williams Thomas, were recent immigrants from Cardiff, Wales.[3] He was a star athlete in high school.

College athletics

After spending two years at Western State (MI), Thomas transferred to Notre Dame and played quarterback for coach Knute Rockne from 1920 to 1922. According to Rockne, Thomas was the smartest player he ever coached.[4] Thomas's roommate and best friend at Notre Dame was George "The Gipper" Gipp.


After graduating from Notre Dame, Thomas became an assistant coach at the University of Georgia for two years before earning his first head coaching job in 1925 at the University of Chattanooga, where his teams' record was 26–9–2 in four seasons. In 1931, he accepted the head coaching job at the University of Alabama, where he established himself as one of the top coaches in the nation. His bowl record at Alabama was 4–2, with wins at the Rose Bowl (1935, 1946), Cotton Bowl Classic (1942), and Orange Bowl (1943). He became the coach and mentor to future Hall of Fame coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. Other notable players included Don Hutson, Vaughn Mancha, Harry Gilmer, Johnny Cain, and Riley Smith.

A frequent smoker, Thomas commonly smoked cigars on the sidelines during games. Thomas fell ill with heart and lung disease. Too weak to both coach and take care of his mentally ill daughter, his declining health finally forced his resignation from coaching in 1946.[5] He remained Alabama's athletic director.

Death and legacy

In 1951, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Thomas died in 1954 at the age of 55 at Druid City Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. An illustrated book published later that year told his story. The football practice fields at the University of Alabama are named for Thomas and his successor, Harold Drew.

In 2006, a bronze statue of Thomas was erected outside of the University of Alabama's Bryant–Denny Stadium alongside the statues of Wallace Wade, Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings and now Nick Saban, the other head coaches who have led Alabama to national championships.

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs AP#
Chattanooga Moccasins (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1925–1928)
1925 Chattanooga 4–4 2–3 12th
1926 Chattanooga 6–2–2 4–0–2 T–1st
1927 Chattanooga 8–1 5–0 T–1st
1928 Chattanooga 8–2 8–1 1st
Chattanooga: 26–9–2 19–4–2
Alabama Crimson Tide (Southern Conference) (1931–1932)
1931 Alabama 9–1 7–1 3rd
1932 Alabama 8–2 5–2 T–5th
Alabama Crimson Tide (Southeastern Conference) (1933–1946)
1933 Alabama 7–1–1 5–0–1 1st
1934 Alabama 10–0 7–0 T–1st W Rose
1935 Alabama 6–2–1 4–2 5th
1936 Alabama 8–0–1 5–0–1 2nd 4
1937 Alabama 9–1 6–0 1st L Rose 4
1938 Alabama 7–1–1 4–1–1 T–2nd 13
1939 Alabama 5–3–1 2–3–1 8th
1940 Alabama 7–2 4–2 4th
1941 Alabama 9–2 5–2 3rd W Cotton 20
1942 Alabama 8–3 4–2 5th W Orange 10
1943 No teamWorld War II
1944 Alabama 5–2–2 3–1–2 T–3rd L Sugar
1945 Alabama 10–0 6–0 1st W Rose 1
1946 Alabama 7–4 4–3 6th
Alabama: 115–24–7 71–19–6
Total: 141–33–9
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth


  1. ^ "Alabama Crimson Tide Football History". University of Alabama. Archived from the original on August 21, 2014. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
  2. ^ Groom, 2000, p.81.
  3. ^ Lewis Bowling, "Frank Thomas" Encyclopedia of Alabama (last updated May 2013).
  4. ^ Tribune, MIKE TANKERSLEY The Arab. "Remembering the great Frank Thomas: Local woman has family ties with Bama legend". The Arab Tribune. Retrieved 2019-02-08.
  5. ^ Groom, 2000, p.80.