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James Phelan
James Phelan (American football).jpg
Phelan from 1927 Purdue yearbook
Biographical details
Born(1892-12-05)December 5, 1892
Sacramento, California
DiedNovember 14, 1974(1974-11-14) (aged 81)
Honolulu, Hawaii
Playing career
1915–1917Notre Dame
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1919Missouri (assistant)
1942–1947Saint Mary's
1948–1949Los Angeles Dons
1951New York Yanks
1952Dallas Texans (NFL)
1943–1945Saint Mary's
Head coaching record
Overall137–87–14 (college football)
13–35–2 (AAFC/NFL)
10–11 (college basketball)
Accomplishments and honors
Big Ten (1929)
PCC (1936)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1973 (profile)

James Michael Phelan (December 5, 1892 – November 14, 1974) was an American football player and coach of football and basketball. He served as the head football coach at the University of Missouri (1920–1921), Purdue University (1922–1929), the University of Washington (1930–1941), and Saint Mary's College of California (1942–1947), compiling a career college football record of 137–87–14.

Phelan also coached the Los Angeles Dons of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) from 1948 to 1949 , the N.Y Yanks and Dallas Texans of the National Football League (NFL) in 1951 and 1952, tallying a professional football coaching record of 13-35-2. In addition, he was the head basketball coach at Saint Mary's for two seasons during World War II (1943–1945), where he amassed a record 10–11. Phelan played college football as a quarterback at the University of Notre Dame from 1915 to 1917. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1973.

Playing career

After growing up in Portland, Oregon, Phelan went to Notre Dame in 1915. In his first game as a reserve quarterback and placekicker for the football team, he threw for a touchdown and ran for another in a 32–0 victory over Alma College. This earned him the starting job, and he would go on to complete a 7–1 season, the lone defeat was by one point at Nebraska.

The 1916 team was a defensive juggernaut, shutting out every team it played except for its meeting with Army, which it lost 30–10, thus finishing the season 8–1. The 1917 campaign began with a 55–0 victory over Kalamazoo, followed by a scoreless tie at Wisconsin, in which Phelan attempted to win the game by kicking a 61-yard field goal; the ball bounced off the crossbar. A 7–0 loss at Nebraska the following week was the last game of his career, as he was drafted into military service for World War I and sent to Camp Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.

Coaching career

Following the war, Phelan entered the college coaching ranks. From 1920 to 1921, he coached at Missouri, and compiled a 13–3 record. From 1922 to 1929, he coached at Purdue, and compiled a 35–22–4 record there. From 1930 to 1941, he coached at Washington in Seattle, and compiled a 65–37–9 record there.[1][2][3]

Following a six-year stint as head coach of Saint Mary's (CA) that included two bowl appearances, Phelan joined the coaching staff of three professional football franchises, including a two-year stint as the head coach of the Los Angeles Dons and one season as head coach of the NFL's Dallas Texans in 1952.[4]

Phelan was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1973.

Head coaching record

College football

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs AP#
Missouri Tigers (Missouri Valley Conference) (1920–1921)
1920 Missouri 7–1 5–1 2nd
1921 Missouri 6–2 4–2 T–2nd
Missouri: 13–3 9–3
Purdue Boilermakers (Big Ten Conference) (1922–1929)
1922 Purdue 1–5–1 0–3–1 10th
1923 Purdue 2–5–1 1–4 T–8th
1924 Purdue 5–2 2–2 5th
1925 Purdue 3–4–1 0–3–1 T–9th
1926 Purdue 5–2–1 2–1–1 4th
1927 Purdue 6–2 2–2 T–4th
1928 Purdue 5–2–1 2–2–1 6th
1929 Purdue 8–0 5–0 1st
Purdue: 35–22–5 14–17–4
Washington Huskies (Pacific Coast Conference) (1930–1941)
1930 Washington 5–4 3–4 5th
1931 Washington 5–3–1 3–3–1 5th
1932 Washington 6–2–2 3–2–2 4th
1933 Washington 5–4 3–4 7th
1934 Washington 6–1–1 5–1–1 3rd
1935 Washington 5–3 4–3 6th
1936 Washington 7–2–1 7–0–1 1st L Rose 5
1937 Washington 7–2–2 4–2–2 3rd
1938 Washington 3–5–1 3–4–1 6th
1939 Washington 4–5 4–4 4th
1940 Washington 7–2 7–1 2nd 10
1941 Washington 5–4 5–3 T–2nd
Washington: 65–37–8 51–31–8
Saint Mary's Gaels (Independent) (1942–1947)
1942 Saint Mary's 6–3–1
1943 Saint Mary's 2–5
1944 Saint Mary's 0–5
1945 Saint Mary's 7–2 L Sugar
1946 Saint Mary's 6–3 L Oil
1947 Saint Mary's 3–7
Saint Mary's: 24–25–1
Total: 137–87–14
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth


  1. ^ "Jimmy Phelan and two aides get gate at Washington U." Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). Associated Press. December 13, 1941. p. 9.
  2. ^ "Washington coaching staff is out". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. December 14, 1941. p. 1, sports.
  3. ^ "Phelan fired after dozen years at job". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. December 14, 1941. p. 18.
  4. ^ "Jimmy Phelan Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks".