In the hallowed halls of Husker fandom you will hear mention many great coaches. Many of which you all probably know off the top of your head. Tom Osborne, Bob Devaney, Dave Van Horn, and John Cook to name just a few.
However, there is one coach that many not come to mind when discussing Husker athletics and to be honest, it should. To know more about this coach we will have to go back in time over one hundred years to find out about he success of Ewald O. Stiehm. Also known as “Jumbo” during his career. While his time at Nebraska was short lived, he had immediate success that has yet to be rivaled to this day.
Ewald was born in Ripon, Wisconsin in 1886. He was a strapping young lad as with most Wisconsin youth. He grew up and attended the University of Wisconsin where he participated for three years with Badger football. Not only did he play football for Wisconsin, but he was good at it. He played center for the Badgers from 1903 to 1906. As a Badger, Edwin become the first player from Wisconsin to make first team All Big Nine Conference in 1906.
Shortly after college he went back home and coached Ripon College’s football team for one season in 1910 going 4-3 before heading south. “Jumbo” as they called him, did not start having success as a coach until he was hired by the University of Nebraska in 1911. There he coached both football and basketball for the Cornhuskers. It is hard to imagine anyone coaching two teams in today’s age. He not only coached both teams, but found success with each one right away and did not let up.
In football, he lead he Cornhuskers for five seasons starting in 1911 and ending in 1915. During those years he compiled a record of 35-2-3. Yes, my friends, he only had two losses in five years. The first being in 1911 with a 3-21 loss to the mighty Golden Gophers of Minnesota. The second one was in 1912 to once again Minnesota. The Gophers blanked Nebraska 13-0 in Minneapolis.
In each year he coached Nebraska football, his teams either ended up first or tied for first in the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association. An interesting feat considering he never lost a game to a conference foe and had only one tie against them. That being a 6-6 tie with Iowa State his first year. Those teams were nicknamed the “Stiehm Rollers” for the ability to roll over any team they came across. Also during those years Nebraska had a 34 game winning streak. Still to this day the longest in Husker football history.
Jumbo’s time at Nebraska gave him a 0.913 winning percentage. Still the highest total for any coach at Nebraska who coached more than two games. Just for comparison sake, let’s put that against Tom Osborne and Bob Devaney. Each have records of 0.836 and 0.829 respectively. Yes, he coached a fraction of the games those two legends did but it is still impressive none the less. Basically coming in and having success from the get go.
Football, is only half the story with Ewald. As I mentioned before, he was also Nebraska’s first full time basketball coach starting in 1911. A fine one at that too. In fact he is was one of the most successful coaches to lead the Huskers on the hardwood. His four years coaching the Big Red gave him a record of 55-14. The first three of those teams ended up in first place in the MVAA and his last year they finished second.
One record that still stands to this day from his teams is a 14 game winning streak that spanned the 1911-12/1912-13 seasons. It sits tied with the 1990-91 squad at number one in the Nebraska basketball record books.
Ewald went on to coach Indiana after Nebraska. He wanted to stay in Lincoln but the administration let him go none the less. They were not willing to increase his salary to $4,250 as he had wanted. That number seems reasonable as he was not only a two sport coach but a successful two sport coach to boot.
So Jumbo moved on to Bloomington, Indiana and took over the Hoosier teams. Mr. Stiehm did not have nearly the success he had in Lincoln and had a 20-18-1 record in six years with the Hoosiers in football and one season in basketball going 13-8 and finishing up 4th in the Big Nine Conference.
Ewald had a very impressive, yet short career. His teams were known to be fast, tough, and play to the very end in both football and basketball. He passed away at the age of 37 from stomach cancer. A highly successful man for one that only lived for a brief time.
So, hopefully you will keep Jumbo’s name in the back of your mind when discussing Nebraska athletics. He coaches a long time ago but was one of the most successful coaches in Nebraska football and basketball history.