The Forgotten Coaches
By Jim Joanos
As I write this, Florida State's football team has won seven games and lost three in Jimbo Fisher's first season as head coach. By the time you read it, the regular season will have ended and the team and fans will be looking forward to post season action. By that time you will have become quite familiar with the team's first year head coach, Jimbo Fisher. If you do much reading about the team's football history you also know something about each of the head coaches that the team has had since 1947 when the school resumed playing college football after World War II. That list includes Ed Williamson (1947), Don Veller (1948-52), Tom Nugent (1953-58), Perry Moss (1959), Bill Peterson (1960-70), Larry Jones (1971-73), Darrell Mudra (1974-74), and, of course, Bobby Bowden (1976-2009). However, chances are good that you have not read much about the school's first two football coaches, W.W. Hughes and Jack "Pee Wee" Forsythe. The reason for that is that not much has been written about them. Much of what I have learned about the two came from a 1991 article by Ric A. Kabat in The Florida Historical Quarterly.
1902 Florida State College Football Team
W. W. Hughes' in 1902 was a Latin professor at the institution in Tallahassee when it was named, Florida State College. He had played football when he was a student at Vanderbilt and at Florida State headed up the Men's Department of the Olympian Athletic Association which oversaw athletics. As such it fell into his province to organize and coach the school's first intercollegiate team. He would coach the team for two years.
The first game was played in Tallahassee on November 21, 1902, against a team from Bainbridge called the "Giants." The Florida State school yearbook, The Argo, described the game as follows:
Florida State won the game by the score of 5 to 0. Touchdowns counted five points then.
Again, according to The Argo:
Thus, Florida State won its first ever intercollegiate football game. The 1902 team played two more games, both against the Florida Agricultural College of Lake City. Florida State won in Tallahassee, 6-0, and FAC won in Lake City by the same score.
1903 Florida State College Football Team
The 1903 Florida State team, also coached by Hughes, played six games. The first two games were both against the Bainbridge team. Florida State won both, first in Tallahassee, by a 22-0 score, and then in Bainbridge, 5-0. The third game was lost to the East Florida Seminary from Gainesville at Tallahassee, 16-0. The fourth game was lost to Georgia Tech in Atlanta, 17-0. Florida State won the fifth game of the season at home against the University of Florida (by this time the Florida Agricultural College at Lake City had changed its name), 12-0. The season ended with a tie game against Stetson in DeLand, 5 to 5.
Prior to its third season, Florida State changed coaches. Hughes' academic responsibilities apparently increased so that he relinquished the football coaching duties to Jack "Pee Wee" Forsythe who had previously been a football star at Clemson. At Clemson he had played for legendary coach, John Heisman, the coach for whom the trophy is named.
1904 Florida State College Football Team
Although it would be a championship year, the 1904 season began on a sour note, with Florida State losing to Georgia Tech in Atlanta, 35 - 0. Tech was coached at the time by John Heisman, who had moved to Georgia Tech from Clemson. The Florida State team won the second game of the season at Lake City over the University of Florida, 23 to 0. The next two games were on the road against non-collegiate teams. Florida State lost at Savannah, Georgia, to the Savannah Athletic Association, 6-0, and at Jacksonville to a Consolidated team from that area, 6-0. The final game of the season in Tallahassee was won by Florida State over Stetson, 19 to 6. Stetson had previously twice beaten the East Florida Seminary in Gainesville, consequently, Florida State was awarded the Florida Times Union's College Cup as the State of Florida's Collegiate Champions for 1904. Following the 1904 season, Florida State would not play intercollegiate football again until 1947.
In early 1905, the "Buckman Bill" was enacted by the Florida legislature and reorganized Florida's collegiate system. The Florida State College at Tallahassee, which had been coeducational, was converted into an all women's institution. It was first named the "Florida Female College" and then, the "Florida State College for Women," a name that it kept until 1947 when it once again became coeducational and named, "The Florida State University." The University of Florida moved from Lake City to Gainesville as an all male institution. Jack "Pee Wee" Forsythe who had been the coach of the 1904 Florida State team moved to Gainesville and became the University of Florida's head football coach. Several of Florida State's team members also made the transition to Gainesville and became members of the UF team.