Lawrence T. "Buck" Shaw (March 28, 1899 – March 19, 1977) was an American football player and coach. He served as the head coach for Santa Clara University, the University of California, Berkeley, the San Francisco 49ers, the United States Air Force Academy, and the Philadelphia Eagles. He attended the University of Notre Dame, where he became a star player on Knute Rockne's first unbeaten team. He started his coaching career with one year as head coach at North Carolina State and four years as a line coach at the University of Nevada.
As a coach at Santa Clara, he compiled an impressive 47–10–4 record. In 1937 and 1938, his teams posted back-to-back Sugar Bowl wins over LSU. After war-time service, he served in 1945 as the head football coach at the University of California, where he compiled a 4–5–1 record. Shaw was the San Francisco 49ers' first head coach in the old All-America Football Conference and continued in that position from 1950 through 1954, when they entered the National Football League. After two seasons (1956–1957) as the first Air Force Academy Varsity head coach he returned to the NFL.
Shaw was born 10 miles east of Des Moines, Iowa in Mitchellville on March 28, 1899 to Tim and Margaret Shaw, who were cattle ranchers. He was one of five children along with brothers Bill, Jim, and John and a sister, Mary. When Shaw was 10, the family moved to Stuart, Iowa, where high school football had been abolished because of a fatality. He played only four games as a prep after the sport was brought back in 1917, his senior year.
College playing career
Shaw enrolled at Creighton University in the fall of 1918 and went out for football and played one game before the rest of the schedule wiped out by a flu epidemic. He transferred to the University of Notre Dame in 1919. Shaw apparently loved track and field competition. In fact it was track, not football that attracted him to Notre Dame. He enrolled at South Bend and went out for the track team. However, Shaw fell into the hands of Knute Rockne and became one of the greatest tackles and placekickers in Notre Dame history.
Shaw was a starter for Rockne from 1919 to 1921, first at left tackle and then in 1920 and 1921 as right tackle opening holes for George Gipp. He finished his playing career being selected an All-American by Football World Magazine. Shaw also set a record by converting 38 of 39 extra points during his varsity career, a mark that stood until 1976, more than 50 years after he graduated. Shaw is a member of the all-time "Fighting Irish" football team.
In the spring of Shaw's senior year at Notre Dame, Rockne came to Shaw with a couple of letters from schools seeking coaches, one from Auburn University, and another from the University of Nevada.
Although he started his coaching career at North Carolina State in 1924, he apparently did not want to go further south to Auburn. He heard from a friend at Notre Dame who was from Nevada that American football was new out there. They'd been playing rugby before. Shaw in a 1970 interview said, "It sounded like an interesting challenge, so I took the Nevada job as line coach."
In 1925, Shaw moved to the state of Nevada, where he stayed for four years. He then took a job with an oil firm and wanted to stay out of the coaching field, but was talked into becoming an assistant coach at Santa Clara University by his old teammate Maurice J. "Clipper" Smith. He served as line coach under Smith from 1929 to 1935. He was in his first year at Santa Clara when the stock market crashed in 1929. "I had a heck of a time getting on my feet", explained Shaw. "Santa Clara could only afford to hire us on a seasonal basis in those years, and I was working for Standard Oil when I became head coach in 1936 after Clipper resigned to go to Villanova".
Shaw's first two Bronco teams in 1936 and 1937 went a combined 18–1 including back-to-back wins over local favorite LSU in the 1937 and 1938 Sugar Bowls. Possibly the first major coach to "phone-it-in" when because of an illness, he did not travel with the team but coached them to victory over the telephone. Santa Clara dropped football after the 1942 war-time season, and Shaw stayed on campus for two years to assist the Army's physical education program on campus.
Shaw, while waiting for the professional All-America Football Conference to get off the ground, managed to mold California into a representative team and defeated a Frankie Albert-led St. Mary's Pre-Flight team, 6–0. It was a losing season overall for the Bears, but they had a good bunch of players, Shaw and his staff remarked after the 1945 season.
The second Air Force Academy varsity head football coach, Shaw guided the Falcons to a 6–2–1 mark in 1956, and a 3–6–1 record in 1957.
Shaw was the San Francisco 49ers’ first head coach, working with such pro luminaries as Frankie Albert, Y. A. Tittle and Hugh McElhenny. In 1944 and 1945, before World War II ended, the Morabito brothers, Victor and Tony, began organizing the San Francisco 49ers for entry into a new professional league, the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). Shaw and his assistant, Al Ruffo, were hired by the 49ers, but then were permitted to accept a one-year contract at California when the AAFC league kickoff was delayed until 1946. In 1946, Shaw took over the 49ers, and with the left-handed Frankie Albert leading and directing the attack, the team placed second to the Cleveland Browns four times (1946–1949) in the Western Division of the AAFC. In 1950 the 49ers along with the Browns and the Baltimore Colts merged with the rival NFL.
In 1958 Shaw took over a last-place Philadelphia Eagles team and started rebuilding. He immediately dealt Buck Lansford, Jimmy Harris, and a first-round draft choice to the Los Angeles Rams for 32-year-old, nine-year veteran quarterback Norm Van Brocklin. Shaw and Van Brocklin led the Eagles to the National Football League Championship in 1960 with a 17–13 victory over Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers, the only time the Lombardi-era Packers lost a postseason game. The contest ended on a game-saving tackle of Green Bay's Jim Taylor made by Eagle's center/linebacker "sixty-minute-man" Chuck Bednarik who because of early season injuries at linebacker revived, at Shaw's request, the long-discarded concept of two-way football. After winning the 1960 championship, the 61-year-old Coach Shaw retired, saying "I wanted to get out while I was ahead." In the quiet Green Bay dressing room, Lombardi said he was "happy for Buck". "Seeing he's going to retire, that's a nice note for him to go out on." Shaw was the oldest head coach to win an NFL championship until Dick Vermeil's victory with the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Later life and legacy
After retiring from football, Coach Shaw went back to California to work for a paper products company, and spent the later years of his life in Menlo Park. He and his wife had two married daughters who also lived in California.
In 1962, led by Sal Sanfilippo (SCU ’30, J.D. SCU '32), former players, friends, and fans of Shaw banded together to form the Bronco Bench Foundation to raise money for and build a football stadium on the Santa Clara University campus in his honor. On September 22, 1962, the first football game, a contest between Santa Clara and UC Davis, was played in Buck Shaw Stadium.
On March 20, 1977, Shaw died at the age of 77 at Stanford University's Branch Convalescent Hospital.
Head coaching record
|NC State Wolfpack (Southern Conference) (1924)|
|Nevada Wolf Pack (Far Western Conference) (1925–1928)|
|Santa Clara Broncos (Independent) (1936–1942)|
|1936||Santa Clara||8–1||W Sugar||6|
|1937||Santa Clara||9–0||W Sugar||9|
|California Golden Bears (Pacific Coast Conference) (1945)|
|Air Force Falcons (NCAA University Division independent) (1956–1957)|