Had there been a Heisman Trophy in 1925, history provides little doubt the winner would have been Dartmouth’s Andrew James “Swede” Oberlander.
As the San Bernardino County Sun noted in a 1931 story on great grid teams of the past, “Swede had pigskin tossing down to a fine (art).”
Oberlander once said he timed himself on long pass plays by reciting these words: “Ten thousand Swedes jumped out of the weeds at the Battle of Copenhagen.”
He was the star of Dartmouth’s only football national champions, judged the greatest sports moment in school history.
As Eastern champions, Dartmouth was invited to play Washington, the Western champs, in the Rose Bowl.
But Dartmouth President Ernest Martin Hopkins declined, steadfast in the belief that college football should end before Thanksgiving Day.
“(I)f one held to the fundamental philosophy of college men incidentally playing football as against football players incidentally going to college, most of the evils of intercollegiate competition would be avoided,” he said in a letter to Bill Cunningham, an All-America center at Dartmouth in 1920 and prominent sports columnist for the Boston Post.
Instead, Alabama was selected to play Washington in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1926. The Crimson Tide won 20-19 in what became known as the football game that changed the South.
Alabama was named national champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation, Dartmouth was declared national champions by Frank Dickinson and Parke Davis.
What helped clinch it for the Big Green was a 62-13 victory against rival Cornell on Nov. 7, 1925. Oberlander totaled 477 yards of total offense, including 317 yards passing with six touchdowns. He also rushed for 160 yards on 19 carries, including a 50-yard touchdown.
“It was one of those astounding exhibitions of skill that a spectator may look upon once in ten years,” wrote Grantland Rice in the New York Herald Tribune. “Oberlander’s long passes were thrown with a consistent and flawless accuracy almost beyond belief.”
But Cornell head coach Gilmour “Gloomy Gil” Dobie was not impressed.
“We won 13-0,” he said, according to Football: The Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession. “Passing isn’t football.”
Head coach Jesse Hawley’s finished the season with a 33-7 victory against the University of Chicago, which had won the Big Ten championship in 1924.
True to the college president’s belief in “college men incidentally playing football as against football players incidentally going to college,” the team also was remarkable team for their accomplishments off the field.
Oberlander became a physician, served in World War II and was the winning coach when Navy beat Army 12-0 in the China Bowl on Nov. 30, 1945, at Shanghai.
Nathan Parker was class president and a Rhodes Scholar.
Myles Lane, whose 17 touchdowns as sophomore ranked second in the nation in 1925, finished as Dartmouth’s all-time leader with 307 points (48 touchdowns and 19 extra points.
Lane became a New York Supreme Court justice in a distinguished legal career that followed his playing days with the NHL’s Boston Bruins.
He was the last surviving member of the team’s 1929 Stanley Cup champions and is the only player in both the college football and college hockey halls of fame.
Above: Dartmouth’s 1925 football team that won the national championship. (Courtesy of Dartmouth College Archives)
Middle: Oberlander to Tully for a touchdown against Harvard in 1925. (Courtesy of Dartmouth College Archives)
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