Brown, Black Coaches Association establish annual Fritz Pollard Award

Brown, Black Coaches Association establish annual Fritz Pollard Award

Feb. 18, 2004

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Fritz Pollard, one of the earliest and greatest running backs in American football, is beginning to receive the lasting recognition that eluded him during his lifetime.

Brown University and the Black Coaches Association announced today that they will co-sponsor an annual award for the male college coach of the year, to be named in Pollard's honor.

"Fritz Pollard was a pioneer, a man who excelled not only because of his magnificent athletic gifts, but also because of his wits, intelligence and ability to lead and inspire people," said Floyd A. Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches Association. "Those qualities and his persistence against very long odds captures the very essence of the BCA's annual Male Coach of the Year Award in all aspects."

The BCA will select the male Coach of the Year and will present the Fritz Pollard Award at its annual awards banquet. Brown University will arrange for the design and creation of a permanent trophy, to be inscribed each year with the recipient's name, and will fund an annual $10,000 prize for the Pollard Award winner. The University will also bring the Pollard Award winner to the Brown campus for an annual presentation to the University community. The first Pollard Award will be presented June 5, 2004, in Indianapolis.

"People who know about Fritz Pollard know him largely because of his football achievements," said David Roach, Brown's athletic director, "but he was much more than an outstanding athlete. We hope the Fritz Pollard Award and the annual campus presentations by the Pollard Award winners will give the University an opportunity to draw a more complete picture of this extraordinary man."

Frederick Douglass "Fritz" Pollard was a member of the Brown University Class of 1919. A standout halfback, he became the first African American to play in a Rose Bowl Game (1916), and he led Brown's 1916 football team - one of Brown's best ever, and the first to beat Harvard - to a successful season with back-to-back victories over Harvard and Yale (531 yards of total offense and three touchdowns on successive Saturdays). After Brown, Pollard went on to achieve a number of firsts: first quarterback to win an National Football League championship (with the Akron Pros), first African American coach in the NFL (with Akron again), and founder of one of the nation's first black-owned securities firms (F.D. Pollard and Co., in Chicago).

Pollard had finished his playing and coaching career before a 1933 "gentlemen's agreement" among team owners effectively barred black athletes from the NFL. He returned to professional competition in 1935, however, as coach and owner of the Brown Bombers, a professional team that played in Harlem for three highly successful seasons - funded by a loan from John D. Rockefeller Jr., a friend from Pollard's days at Brown. The Bombers' roster was a Who's Who of black athletes at the time, including players from basketball and baseball leagues as well as former NFL stars.

The Depression and the war ended the Brown Bombers' run in 1938, and Pollard went on to other ventures, including a talent agency, tax consulting and film and music production. His son and grandson also attended Brown, and his son won a bronze medal in the 1936 Munich Olympics. In 1981, Brown University conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree on Pollard, recognizing his achievements as athlete and leader.

More about Fritz Pollard: Daniel Coyle, "Invisible Men." Sports Illustrated, December 15, 2003 John M. Carroll, Fritz Pollard: Pioneer in Racial Advancement. (University of Illinois Press; 1992)

View additional Fritz Pollard Images on the Brown University Web Site: