Jim Tatum
Jim Tatum.jpg
Biographical details
Born(1913-07-22)July 22, 1913
McColl, South Carolina
DiedJuly 23, 1959(1959-07-23) (aged 46)
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Playing career
1933–1935North Carolina
1934–1936North Carolina
1937Tarboro Serpents
1938–1939Snow Hill Billies
Position(s)Tackle (football)
Catcher (baseball)
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1936–1938Cornell (assistant)
1939–1941North Carolina (assistant)
1942North Carolina
1943Iowa Pre-Flight (assistant)
1956–1958North Carolina
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
Head coaching record
Overall100–35–7 (football)[n 1]
20–40–1 (baseball)
Accomplishments and honors
1 National (1953)
1[2] Big Six (1946)
1 SoCon (1951)
2 ACC (1953, 1955)
AFCA Coach of the Year (1953)
ACC Coach of the Year (1953, 1955)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1984 (profile)

James Moore "Big Jim" Tatum (July 22, 1913 – July 23, 1959) was an American football and baseball player and coach. Tatum served as the head football coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1942, 1956–1958), the University of Oklahoma (1946), and the University of Maryland, College Park (1947–1955), compiling a career college football record of 100–35–7.[n 1] His 1953 Maryland team won a national title. As a head coach, he employed the split-T formation with great success, a system he had learned as an assistant under Don Faurot at the Iowa Pre-Flight School during World War II. Tatum was also the head baseball coach at Cornell University from 1937 to 1939, tallying a mark of 20–40–1. Tatum's career was cut short by his untimely death in 1959. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1984.

Early life and college playing career

Tatum was born in McColl, South Carolina on July 22, 1913.[3] He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he played college football as a tackle under head coach Carl Snavely. Tatum was named to the All-Southern Conference team as a senior in 1935.[4]

Tatum played minor league baseball as a catcher for the Kinston Eagles.[5] The 6 feet, 3 inches and 230 pounds Tatum had the nicknames "Big Jim"[6] and "Sunny Jim".[7]

In September 1935, Tatum participated in training camp with the New York Giants of the National Football League at Blue Hill Country Club.[8]

Coaching career


See also: Cornell Big Red football and Cornell Big Red baseball

In 1936, Tatum followed his football coach at North Carolina, Carl Snavely, to Cornell University where he became Snavely's assistant football coach and also the head baseball coach for three seasons before returning to North Carolina in 1939. During this time, Tatum played minor league baseball in the class "D" Coastal Plain League with the Tarboro Serpents in 1937 and the Snow Hill Billies in 1938 and 1939.[9]

Military service

See also: Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks football

Tatum enlisted in the United States Navy after one season as the head coach at North Carolina following Raymond Wolf's departure for naval service in 1941. He was assigned to the Iowa Pre-Flight school where he was an assistant coach for Don Faurot, the Missouri Tigers head coach and the inventor of the Split-T offense. Tatum used this offensive scheme with great success throughout his later career.


Main article: 1946 Oklahoma Sooners football team

After World War II, Tatum accepted a position as the head coach at the University of Oklahoma. He compiled an 8–3 in 1946 record before accepting the head coaching position at the University of Maryland. Bud Wilkinson, a fellow assistant coach at the Iowa Pre-Flight School, was one of his assistants at Oklahoma and was promoted to head coach when Tatum left for Maryland.


Main article: Maryland Terrapins football under Jim Tatum (1947–1955)

At Maryland, Tatum compiled a 73–15–4 record for an .815 winning percentage. Maryland was undefeated in the 1951 season at 10–0, upsetting the top-ranked Tennessee Volunteers in the 1952 Sugar Bowl, 28–13. Tatum's 1953 team won a national championship. That season, Tatum was voted AFCA Coach of the Year. His Maryland teams won conference co-championships in 1951 in the Southern Conference and in 1953 and 1955 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. In addition to playing in the Sugar Bowl, Maryland also played twice each in the Gator Bowl and the Orange Bowl during Tatum's tenure.

North Carolina

See also: North Carolina Tar Heels football

In 1942 and from 1956 to 1958, Tatum served as the head football coach at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina. There he compiled a 19–17–3 record; two 1956 wins were later forfeited for use of an ineligible player.[n 1] Tatum had originally returned to North Carolina to coach the freshmen football team in 1939 after spending time as an assistant at Cornell University. His first stint is notable for his recruitment of Felix "Doc" Blanchard, a son of one of his cousins, who played on the freshman team before enlisting and later starring as "Mr. Inside" for Army.[10] He left his first tenure as head coach after the 1942 season to enlist in the Navy during World War II. His second tenure at North Carolina was cut short due to his untimely death.

Tatum died on July 23, 1959 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina at the age of 46. He had contracted an infection on July 13, and entered the hospital on July 18. On the day of his death, he fell into a coma in the afternoon and never regained consciousness. He was declared dead at 11:40 p.m.[11] His ailment was later determined to be a rickettsial disease "similar to typhus and Rocky Mountain spotted fever".[12] He was buried in Old Chapel Hill Cemetery.


Himself a pupil of split T innovator Don Faurot, Tatum's coaching tree included the following assistants who later held head coaching positions of their own:

A number of Tatum's players also went on to become head coaches:

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
North Carolina Tar Heels (Southern Conference) (1942)
1942 North Carolina 5–2–2 3–1–1 T–4th
Oklahoma Sooners (Big Six Conference) (1946)
1946 Oklahoma 8–3 4–1 T–1st W Gator 14
Oklahoma: 8–3 4–1
Maryland Terrapins (Southern Conference) (1947–1952)
1947 Maryland 7–2–2 3–2–1 T–6th T Gator
1948 Maryland 6–4 4–2 6th
1949 Maryland 9–1 4–0 2nd W Gator 14
1950 Maryland 7–2–1 4–1–1 5th
1951 Maryland 10–0 5–0 T–1st W Sugar 4 3
1952 Maryland 7–2 0–0[n 2] [n 2] 13 13
Maryland Terrapins (Atlantic Coast Conference) (1953–1955)
1953 Maryland[13] 10–1 3–0 T–1st L Orange 1 1
1954 Maryland 7–2–1 4–0–1 2nd 11 8
1955 Maryland 10–1 4–0 T–1st L Orange 3 3
Maryland: 73–15–4 4–1
North Carolina Tar Heels (Atlantic Coast Conference) (1956–1958)
1956 North Carolina 2–7–1[n 1] 2–3–1[n 1] 5th
1957 North Carolina 6–4 4–3 T–3rd
1958 North Carolina 6–4 4–3 4th
North Carolina: 19–17–3[n 1] 13–10–2[n 1]
Total: 100–35–7[n 1]
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h North Carolina later forfeited two wins during the 1956 season, victories over conference opponents Maryland and Virginia, because of an ineligible player.[1] The NCAA and North Carolina still credit Tatum with those wins.
  2. ^ a b The Southern Conference sanctioned Maryland during the 1952 season for accepting a bowl bid the previous season. The Terrapins were disallowed from playing any conference opponents.


  1. ^ Hickman, Herman (September 23, 1957). "Atlantic Coast Conference". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 22, 2010.
  2. ^ "Maryland Football Record Book" (PDF). University of Maryland. p. 8. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  3. ^ "Jim "Big Jim" Tatum". College Football Hall of Fame. Football Foundation. Retrieved August 21, 2010.
  4. ^ Jim Tatum Rated 'Coach of the Year', Eugene Register-Guard, October 9, 1942.
  5. ^ Kinston Has a Rich Tradition in Baseball, Kinston Eagles, retrieved May 30, 2011.
  6. ^ Jim Fletcher, The Die-Hard Fan's Guide to Sooner Football, p. 87.
  7. ^ Newsweek, Volume 54, p. 47, Newsweek, Inc., 1959.
  8. ^ Tatum Joins Football Giants, The New York Times, p. 31, September 12, 1935.
  9. ^ "James Tatum Minor League Statistics & History". Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved October 22, 2010.
  10. ^ Schlabach, Mark (April 21, 2009). "Blanchard half of famous backfield". ESPN. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  11. ^ Jim Tatum Dies at 46 from Virus; N. Carolina Coach Succumbs after 10 Day Illness, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 24, 1959.
  12. ^ Jim Tatum's Disease Likened To Typhus, The Baltimore Sun, March 31, 1960.
  13. ^ "Maryland Football Record Book" (PDF). University of Maryland. p. 8. Retrieved May 5, 2020.