Ralph Jones

Ralph Jones
Ralph Jones
Sport(s) Football, basketball
Biographical details
Born September 22, 1880(1880-09-22)
Place of birth Marion County, Indiana
Died July 26, 1951(1951-07-26) (aged 70)
Place of death Boulder, Colorado
Coaching career (HC unless noted)


Chicago Bears
Lake Forest

Crawfordsville HS (IN)
Lake Forest HS (IL)
Lake Forest
Lake Forest
Head coaching record
Overall 54–37–10 (college football)
232–106 (college basketball)
24–10–7 (NFL)
College Football Data Warehouse
Accomplishments and honors
Indiana State Champions (1911)
Big Ten (1911, 1912, 1915, 1917)
Helms National Championship (1915)
NFL (1932)

Ralph Robert Jones (September 22, 1880 – July 26, 1951) was an American football and basketball coach in the United States. He served as the head coach for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League from 1930 to 1932.


Early years


Jones was an integral part of the development of high school basketball. A forefather of Indiana high school basketball and a successful college coach at Purdue and Illinois, Jones was named the recipient of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame's inaugural Centennial Award on November 27, 2010. It is believed that Jones was the first high school basketball coach in the state of Indiana. While still a high school student, he organized the team at Indianapolis Shortridge High School in 1899 - the first high school team in Indiana. Jones led the Indianapolis YMCA to statewide prominence, and then led the Crawfordsville YMCA, both of which claimed state YMCA championships under his guidance. Due to his success with YMCA based leagues, Butler University contracted Jones to coach basketball for the 1903-04 season. This was the first "official" head coaching job in the long and successful career Jones would continue for the next 30 years.

Jones continued his coaching at Crawfordsville this time at the local high school and additionally took on the head coaching duties of Wabash College. During this period of time, Jones' teams were extremely successful. His teams at both institutions featured Hall of Fame inductees Ward "Piggy" Lambert, Pete Vaughn and David Glascock, with the 1906-07 Crawfordsville squad finishing 12-0 (prior to the first high school state tournament) and his 1907-08 Wabash team going 24-0. While at Wabash, his team was selected from only 300 students yet in five years lost only four games, twice to Notre Dame and once to Purdue. During this successful run, Jones’ teams defeated much larger institutions such as, Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota and Notre Dame. Known as the “Little Giants”, they would put together a record of 75 wins and 6 defeats. Amazingly, during the same five years of coaching Wabash College, Jones was also coaching Crawfordsville High School which lost only one game during that time.

Jones moved on to Purdue in 1910, beginning a three-year tenure that resulted in a 32-9 record and the first two Big Nine championships in program history (1911 and 1912). He also mentored the first All-American in Purdue basketball history, as Dave Charters garnered consensus honors in both 1910 and 1911 under Jones' watch.


After his three seasons in West Lafayette, Jones headed to Illinois, where he piloted the Illini to the 1915 Helms National Championship. During his tenure at Illinois, Jones took a mediocre team and within two years established a dominant system that led to a perfect 12-0 record in 1915 as well as the national championship. Jones' basketball teams at Illinois won 85 game and lost 34. He also won two Big Ten or Big Nine titles. Ralph also was the athletic director for two years as well as being the assistant football coach to Bob Zuppke from 1913 through 1920.

After Ralph left Illinois he went to Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois. He was there for 10 years coaching both basketball and football. His football team won 76 games and lost only six games in his 10 years. His basketball teams had a 10-year record of 94 and 9.

Chicago Bears

After George Halas retired as a player-coach in 1930, he hired Jones to take over his team in place of himself as head coach. Even though Jones led the team to a 24-10-7 record, due to the economic depression which was affecting every business across the United States, the financial health of the franchise began to suffer. With many people out of work, fewer and fewer individuals could pay for the cost of a ticket to attend a Bears game. Consequently, even though the team won the league championship in 1932, by the end of the season the franchise had lost approximately $18,000. Dutch Sternaman unloaded his half of the team ownership onto Halas, and Halas was forced not only to resume coaching the team in order to save the cost of a head coach's salary, but to pay many of the team's expenditures out of his own pocket. During his tenure, Jones lined the quarterback directly under center, the first time this had been done. Next, he spaced out the offensive line and devised blocking schemes that would open holes in the defense. He refined the T-formation by introducing wide receivers, tight ends, and a halfback in motion. Jones also introduced Bronko Nagurski as a member of the Chicago Bears.[1]

During his time at Lake Forest Academy, Jones tinkered with simple options on the basic T-formation. Many coaches were searching for answers to an easy-to-teach formation that was also not easy to defend. Jones approached George Halas with various diagrammed options. Not until Clark Shaughnessy, head coach at the University of Chicago, approached Halas with very complex formations in 1935 did the T become effective. Many coaches contributed to the success of the T-formation that swept college and pro football in 1940. Shaughnessy's Stanford University team went 10–0 and defeated the University of Nebraska in the Rose Bowl with his elaborate T-formation. Weeks later, Halas's Bears defeated the Washington Redskins 73-0 with the same system. Jones left the Bears to become athletic director at Lake Forest College in that Illinois town.

All told, Jones tallied 404 wins in his coaching career for a winning percentage of better than 83 percent. He also mentored nine college All-Americans.

Noted as a coach and mentor, the legendary Lambert dedicated his 1932 book, "Practical Basketball," to "Ralph Jones, my coach." Also an innovator on the gridiron, Jones later coached the Chicago Bears to the 1932 NFL championship.

Head coaching record


School Season Record Conference Record Place Postseason
Butler 1903-04 2-2
Butler 1903-04 2-2 - -
School Season Record Conference Record Place Postseason
Crawfordsville HS 1904-05 1-0 State Champions
Crawfordsville HS 1905-06 4-0
Crawfordsville HS 1906-07 6-1
Crawfordsville HS 1907-08 8-0
Crawfordsville HS 1908-09 8-0
Crawfordsville HS 1904-09 27-1 - -
School Season Record Conference Record Place Postseason
Wabash College 1904-05 8-0
Wabash College 1905-06 17-1
Wabash College 1906-07 17-2
Wabash College 1907-08 24-0
Wabash College 1908-09 9-3
Wabash College 1904-09 75-6 - -
School Season Record Conference Record Place Postseason
Purdue 1909-10 8-5 5-5 5th
Purdue 1910-11 12-4 8-4 T1st
Purdue 1911-12 12-0 10-0 1st Big Ten Champions
Purdue 1909-12 32-9 23-9 -
School Season Record Conference Record Place Postseason
Illinois 1912-13 10-6 7-6 5th
Illinois 1913-14 9-4 7-3 3rd
Illinois 1914-15 16-0 12-0 T1st National Champions
Illinois 1915-16 13-3 9-3 T2nd
Illinois 1916-17 13-3 10-2 T1st Big Ten Champions
Illinois 1917-18 9-6 6-6 T4th
Illinois 1918-19 6-8 5-7 5th
Illinois 1919-20 9-4 8-4 3rd
Illinois 1912-20 85-34 64-31 -
School Season Record Conference Record Place Postseason
Lake Forest Academy HS 1920-30 94-9
Lake Forest Academy 1920-30 94-9 - -


Season Team League Team Regular season Post Season Results
Finish W L T
1930 1930 NFL Chicago Bears 3rd 9 4 1
1931 1931 NFL Chicago Bears 3rd 8 5 0
1932 1932 NFL Chicago Bears 1st 7 1 6 Named NFL Champions


  1. ^ NFL History, NFL, retrieved April 3, 2006

External links

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