Frantic Francis


Frantic Francis

How One Coach's Madness Changed Football

Brett Perkins

536 pages
12 photos


September 2009


$39.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

When Francis Schmidt, a bow tie–wearing law school graduate with a bombastic personality, got started as a volunteer high school coach, football still followed Victorian tenets of caution and simplicity and often employed fewer than fifty plays. By the time “Frantic Francis” had risen through the ranks of small colleges on the plains to one of the top coaching jobs in America—head coach at Ohio State University in the 1930s—football was a wild, wide-open game, largely because of Schmidt’s own daring style. With a mind that never stopped thinking about football, he created a playbook ten times larger than those previously used during his era and filled it with daring, complex plays that broke all the decades-old golden rules of offense.
This book tells the little-known story of the man who forever changed the way football is played—and whose coaching lineage can be traced to such current names as Bill Walsh, Al Davis, and Mike Holmgren. Frantic Francis offers an unforgettable portrait of an eccentric character whose paranoid, manic, brusque, and profane ways shocked and confused even his players, but whose speedy, deceptive, and imaginative plays remade the sport of football. Although Schmidt’s mania eventually sabotaged his career, his legacy was secure and the style he introduced continues to make football one of the most popular spectator sports in America.

Author Bio

Brett Perkins is a full-time writer living in Bonita, California.


"An interesting and fascinating book. . . . Brett Perkins' work convincingly shows that Schmidt's career at TCU and OSU in the 1920s and 30s, and his approach to football tactics, hypomanical or not, deserves more serious consideration . . . Perkins has certainly made a valuable contribution to the history of football in the twentieth century."—Julian Meldon D'Arcy, Sports Literature Association

"Perkins does a fine job of explaining how Schmidt came to influence many future offensive-minded coaches and helped change the game from a plodding, low-scoring affair to the immensely popular spectator sport it is now. Schmidt is a unique character in the history of football and his story has now finally been told."—Bryan Yurcan, ForeWord

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations  


Introduction: A Man Ahead of His Time   

1. Something Stirring on the Prairie     

2. Frantic Francis     

3. The Man from Nowhere

4. The Open-Game Movement    

5. Razzle-Dazzle 

6. The Game

7. The Immovable Object

8. Slingin' for Dollars

9. On the Edge   

10. Spreading the Message    

11. The Magic Remains  

12. The Cost of Odd    

13. The Final Act 000

14. The Schmidt Effect 

Epilogue: Schmidt from the Players' View 

Appendix: Schmidt's Coaching Record




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