Northwestern University

1954 - 55 Wildcats
(Authentic Reproduction)



Replacing long-time coach Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf who left to coach the Bears of Cal, would be a chore and in 1947 the task was handed to former Northwestern All American Bog Voigts who was only thirty-one years of age. Despite his youth, Voigts had already coached at Yale and with the Cleveland Browns and he introduced the T-Formation he learned working under Paul Brown. The 3-6 season promised future success with a number of talented players and in '48, Voights guided the 'Cats to an 8-2 record which included a Rose Bowl victory over Waldorf's Cal team, 20-14. Led by FB Art Murakowski and center Alex Sarkisian, they were the toast of the Big Nine. Graduation of almost all of the WW II vets gutted the team and '49 was a come-down to 4-5 although the victory over Michigan broke the Wolverines long-standing winning streak. The under estimated 1950 team, led by captain Don Stonesifer and end Chuck Hagmann who was the season's MVP, beat Navy 22-0 in their second game, soared in confidence, and finished at 6-3. Dick Flowers threw for over 1000 yards and against Purdue, Stonesifer caught a Big Ten record twenty-four passes, earning All American notice. With four consecutive wins, hopes were high for a Rose Bowl berth in '51 but entering November, the Wildcats tumbled with four straight losses to finish at 5-4. Season highlights included a 20-14 last minute upset of Army that left the West Point defensive line coach Vince Lombardi in post-game tears and Michigan was upset 6-0. End Joe Collier played well in Voigt's T-Formation attack.
End Joe Collier earned All American rank for 1952 with a team that performed poorly, finishing with a 2-6-1 record. Collier later became a highly respected defensive coordinator and personnel man in the AFL and led the Bills briefly as their head coach. Dick Thomas was the man throwing those passes to Collier and others, completing 79 for 1255 yards. Army again fell victim to the Wildcats, their only loss of the 1953 season and Voigts guided Northwestern to a three game sweep of their non-conference foes. Unfortunately, those were the only victories of the year and there was grumbling over the 3-6 record and lack of defensive effort. QB Dick Thomas was again reliable and the team scored well but couldn't stop anyone.
Making the switch from leather to the Riddell plastic helmet, Voigts had the Wildcats take the field for the 1954 season in white helmets adorned with a thick one-and-a-half-inch purple center stripe, flanked by a one-half-inch gap, and one-half-inch purple flanking stripes for a very attractive and noticeable design. Former Cleveland Browns linebacker and captain Lou Saban was hired to straighten out the defense and there was some improvement with the play of center Ted Ringer but problems persisted and the squad dropped to 2-7 with their only Big Ten win against Illinois in the finale. A number of the losses were close but the team ran behind two soph quarterbacks. HB Jim Troglio ran for a 4.5 per-carry average and handled the punting. With declining results since his early Rose Bowl appearance, Voigts resigned due to alumni and booster pressure. 
With the challenge of reversing the 2-7 season of 1954, thirty-three year old assistant coach Lou Saban was elevated to the head coaching position and planned to utilize a squad of almost all sophomores and a Straight T Formation offense. Saban had been All Big Ten at both QB and FB at Indiana and an All Pro in the AAFC as a rugged linebacker and team captain for Paul Brown's squad in Cleveland. In subsequent years, Saban developed a reputation as perhaps the most traveled coach in the annals of football, and an erratic leader. He had been the head coach at Case Institute, and an assistant under Voigts at Northwestern when he was given the job after former Wildcat great Otto Graham turned it down. Saban stayed only a year before embarking on an ultimately successful tour of college and pro ball that took him through stints at Western Illinois, the Boston Patriots, Buffalo Bills, University Of Maryland, Denver Broncos, Miami (FL), and Central Florida. The 0-8 start was a result of poor line play despite the efforts of Ted Ringer.  Injuries to the running backs limited the offense, and a tie with Illinois in the finale was the high-water mark in a 0-8-1 season. Former Purdue head coach Stu Holcomb was hired as Northwestern's new AD and immediately fired Saban and his entire staff, including assistant coach George Steinbrenner. As the owner of the New York Yankees, Steinbrenner would never forget Holcomb's actions. When Holcomb became a Chicago White Sox administrator, he was consistently stymied by "The Boss" as George has been known, whenever he took a position on specific issues, with George voting against him. The hunt was on for a new coach.

If interested in any of these NWU helmets please click on the photos below.