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Waldorf, Lynn O., 1902-1981



  • Existence: 1902 - 1981


Lynn Osbert “Pappy” Waldorf was born in Clifton Springs, New York, on October 3, 1902, the first of four sons of Ernest Lynn Waldorf, a Methodist clergyman and bishop, and Flora Irish Waldorf. His family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where Waldorf grew up. He attended Syracuse University, majoring in philosophy and minoring in sociology. Waldorf was a member of the Syracuse football team, 1922-1924, winning All-American honors at tackle. In 1925 he married Louise McKay (1902-1992), and took a job as football, basketball, and track coach as well as athletic director at Oklahoma City University.

The Oklahoma City Goldbugs had won only one football game in its three previous seasons but with Waldorf’s help their record improved to 19-9-3, and a tie for conference championship by the time he left the institution in 1927. This was where he earned a longstanding reputation for turning losing teams into successful programs.

Waldorf spent the 1928 season as the football line coach at the University of Kansas before being hired as head coach of Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State). Waldorf guided Oklahoma A&M from 1929 through 1933 and his record there was 34-10-7, with four conference championships. In 1934 Waldorf took up position as head football coach at Kansas State and directed the team to a 7-2-1 record and its first Big Six Conference title.

Northwestern University hired Waldorf in 1935 and he remained Northwestern’s head football coach for twelve seasons. In 1936, Waldorf took Northwestern to its first Big Ten championship with a record of six straight victories. Waldorf had a strong belief in the fundamentals and held the motto that a team is no stronger than its reserves. Waldorf also welcomed those just starting football in college. Waldorf’s attention to detail and carefully developed plays led his teams to victory. His record at Northwestern was 49 wins, 45 losses, and 7 ties.

After leaving Northwestern, Waldorf coached the University of California’s football team from 1947 through 1956 and led the Golden Bears to three Rose Bowl appearances. Waldorf’s 1948 team lost to Northwestern, 20-14 in the January 1, 1949 Rose Bowl game. His California record was 67-32-4 and his career record was 170-94-22.

Waldorf retired from college coaching at age 54 but accepted appointment as Director of Player Personnel for the San Francisco 49ers professional football team in 1957. He worked for the 49ers until 1972. As a football strategist, Waldorf wrote two books relating to the sport: How to Play Football (Chicago: Ziff-Davis Publishing Company, 1942) and This Game of Football (New York: McGraw-Hill Bok Company, Inc., 1952). Waldorf was inducted into the National Football Foundation’s College Hall of Fame in 1966.

Waldorf died on August 15, 1981.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf (1902-1981) Papers

Identifier: 25/9

Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf was football coach at Northwestern University (1936-1947), and other universities, and served as Director of Player Personnel for the San Francisco 49ers. His papers fill five boxes with items mostly related to his career and accomplishments as a football coach. The consist of biographical materials, clippings, and scrapbooks.

Dates: 1935 - 2000