When we discuss the greatest Husker football coaches of all time, generally we are discussing the careers of two people. The legendary Tom Osborne and Bob Devaney. Obviously both of these men are at the top of this list because of their long sustained success over the course of many years. However, there is a third name we could slide into the conversation. A name many Husker football fans have robably never heard of. Ewald “Jumbo” Stiehm.
Remember kid, there is legends and there is heroes.
Heroes get remembered, but legends never die
This quote above from the Great Bambino, Babe Ruth is a novel statement, but sometimes even legends fall through the cracks of history. E.O. Stiehm is one of these legends who like an old artifact, has been covered up by the sands of time. Grab your shovel and let us unearth the lost history of this early twentieth century football coach.
Hailing from Wisconsin, Stiehm was a very exceptional two sport athlete. Stiehm would go on to play center for both the Wisconsin Badger football and basketball teams. Not to worry though, he found “the good life” shortly after his playing days were over. But before arriving to the greatest state south of the arctic ocean, Jumbo would serve one year as the head coach of Ripon College, a small liberal arts school in Wisconsin. In 1911, Stiehm was offered the head coaching position at the University of Nebraska for not only the football team, but the basketball team as well. His salary was 2,000 dollars.
Coach Stiehm’s approach was a bit unconventional for the time. His offensive philosophy was to use speed and deception over power. He opted for smaller faster players rather than larger, stronger brutes. His plays required precision and timing. It was said that his teams would run the same play over and over until they perfected every aspect of it.
Although the Nebraska football program was in a good place before Stiehm’s arrival, he quickly took the Huskers to the next level. Stiehm would be replacing a successful coach in W.C. “King” Cole, who led the Huskers to a 28-8 record from 1908-1910.
In his five years at the helm, Stiehm recorded the best winning percentage in Nebraska Football history (.913), compiling a 35-2-3 record. His teams won the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association (later known as the Big Eight) championship each year he coached the Huskers. The Stiehmrollers, as they would often be referred to also beat national powerhouses at the time the likes of Notre Dame and Minnesota. Under Stiehm the Cornhuskers were also invited to a Rose Bowl appearance. However, the university declined because of the cost of travel.
Not only was Stiehm an excellent football mind, but he led the basketball team to five successful seasons as well. Compiling a record of 55-14 and tallying three MVIAA conference titles. Stiehm left the program in 1915 over criticism about the differences in coaches and administrators salaries.
Although E.O. Stiehm’s tenure was much shorter than other, more notable coaches in Nebraska history, it is hard to argue against his success. He holds the highest winning percentage of any coach who has coached two or more games at Nebraska. Eras and playing styles aside, if we take production strictly at face value, one could argue E.O. Stiehm could be in the discussion when referencing the greatest Husker football coaches of all time.