Oklahoma State football: Remembering Pappy Waldorf
Mike Gundy is going to break the OSU football record for coaching victories, perhaps as early as Saturday against Iowa State. For the Wednesday Oklahoman, our man John Helsley wrote about Gundy’s achievement. You can read it here. The package included a list of the five biggest winners in OSU history, not counting Gundy.
Which got me to thinking about OSU coaches. Jimmy Johnson, Pat Jones, Bob Simmons, Les Miles. Most everyone remembers them. Old-timers remember Jim Stanley. Real old-timers remember Jim Lookabaugh.
But who remembers Pappy Waldorf? Waldorf coached the Cowboys for five years, 1929-33, and went 34-10-7, a winning percentage of .735, by far the best in OSU history.
Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf was born Oct. 3, 1902, in Clifton Springs, N.Y., the son of a Methodist bishop. Waldorf played tackle at Syracuse from 1922-24. According to his bio in the College Football Hall of Fame, Waldorf’s first coaching job was at Oklahoma City University, which had won one game in three years. Waldorf won five his first season, 1926, and eight more in 1927. Waldorf spent 1928 as an assistant coach at Kansas, then was hired by then-Oklahoma A&M.
Waldorf replaced John Maulbetsch, who had had some success. Maulbetsch was 28-37-6 in eight seasons, 1921-28; he had three winning records his first four seasons, including 6-1-2 in 1924. But OSU slipped under Maulbetsch, eventually finishing 1-7 in 1928, which included losses of 37-0 at Creighton, 26-0 at Marquette, 32-6 at West Virginia, 46-0 to OU and 31-0 at Tulsa.
So in came Waldorf, and the turnaround was immediate. Waldorf’s first team went 4-3-2, with such turnarounds as a 32-13 victory over Creighton, a 20-0 shutout of Tulsa and a 7-7 tie with the Sooners.
And Waldorf had the Cowboys in high gear. They went 7-2-1 in 1930, 8-2-1 in 1931, 9-1-2 in 1932 and 6-2-1 in 1933. Over five years, he beat OU thrice and tied the Sooners twice. Waldorf went 2-0 vs. Arkansas and 4-0-1 vs. Tulsa.
The Cowboys claim the 1932 Missouri Valley Conference title and co-championships in 1930 and 1933, though the Valley didn’t play enough games to warrant recognizing any school as winning the title.
The Waldorf era is overlooked when discussing the best times in OSU history. The Lookabaugh teams of the mid-1940s — back-to-back Sugar and Cotton bowls. The Pat Jones squads of the 1980s. Gundy’s recent vintage teams.
But Waldorf was not overlooked. Other schools took notice. Kansas State hired away Waldorf. KSU was not the destitute job back then it was in later years. Bo McMillin, Waldorf’s predecessor, had a record of 29-21-1 in eight seasons.
So Waldorf had a base to work with. And he produced. KSU went 7-2-1 in 1934. The Wildcats beat Kansas 13-0, Missouri 29-0, OU 8-7, Iowa State 20-0 and Nebraska 19-7. In 1913, Kansas State joined the original Missouri Valley, which eventually became the Big Six, the Big Seven, Big Eight and Big 12. Between 1913 and KSU’s upset of OU in the 2003 Big 12 title game, the Wildcats won one conference title. Coached by Pappy Waldorf in 1934.
In 1935, Waldorf moved on to Northwestern, which had endured three straight losing seasons. His first year at Northwestern, Waldorf produced a 4-3-1 record, with a victory over Notre Dame, and was voted national coach of the year. In 1936, Northwestern won the Big Ten. Waldorf spent 12 years in Evanston and went 49-45-7.
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