Today is a great day to celebrate the birthday anniversary of Biff Lea – the sixth coach in Michigan Football history. Langdon “Biffy” or “Biff” Lea was born on May 11, 1874 in Germantown, Pennsylvania. He was an All-American halfback at Princeton in 1893, 1894, and 1895. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Lea was the “unofficial” coach of the 1899 Princeton Football team.
(Note – Biff Lea is not pictured with the 1900 Michigan Football team. He may have already returned to Princeton before this picture was taken. Who Knows? Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Michigan Football had a problem in early 1900 because Gustave Ferbert decided to leave coaching and go hunting for gold in Alaska. So, Michigan Athletic Director Charles Bair decided to look “east” to find his next football coach. In the early years of football, former “eastern” players were in great demand as western schools sought to start and improve their own football programs. Baird was able to lure Biff Lea away from Princeton to coach the Michigan Wolverines in 1900.
Langdon Lea only coached one season in Ann Arbor, but it was a pretty good one. Michigan played a ten-game season and finished with a final record of 7 wins, 2 losses and 1 tie. However, their record of 3 wins and 2 losses in conference was disappointing. Their fifth-place finish was the worst in Michigan’s five years of conference play.
In case you didn’t know it. Biff Lea was the first former All-American football player to become the Head Coach of a Michigan Football team. Technically, he had no formal head coaching experience, but he did just fine in Ann Arbor. More importantly, he gave Mr. Baird another year to find another man when it was time. Yes, the guy named Yost worked out pretty well, didn’t he?
So, today is a good day to remember Biff Lea for his contributions to Michigan football. Although he only coached for one season, he won seven games and left some good talent for a guy named Yost to work with. Biff Lea returned to Princeton to be their first “official” coach in 1901. Eventually, Langdon Lea was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1964 for his outstanding playing career at Princeton. Thanks to Langdon Lea for one very good year in Michigan Football History. May he always rest in peace. Go Blue!
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