American Football Database
Bert Waters
File:Bert Waters.jpg
Date of birth: (1871-10-09)October 9, 1871
Place of birth: Boston, Massachusetts
Date of death: October 10, 1930(1930-10-10) (aged 59)
Place of death: Lewiston, Maine
Career information
Position(s): Guard, Tackle
College: Harvard University
Career highlights and awards
Honors: All-American, 1892

Bertram Gordon "Bert" Waters (October 9, 1871 – October 10, 1930)[1] was an All-American football player and coach for Harvard University. He was selected as a College Football All-American in both 1892 (as a guard) and 1894 (as a tackle).

Football player

A native of Boston, Waters attended the Boston Latin School before enrolling at Harvard. At Harvard, Waters played for the football team from 1891-1894. He played nearly every position on the football team, including tackle, guard and halfback. Waters was selected captain of the Harvard football team in 1893. He was also selected as an All-American at the guard position in 1892 and at the tackle position in 1894. In November 1893, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the 5-foot, 11-inch, 180-pound Waters was the strongest player on the Harvard team and, with the exception of Marshall Newell, the best-developed.[2] Waters played in the 1894 Harvard-Yale football game that became known as "The Bloodbath in Hampden Park." Several players were seriously injured, and Waters was accused of jabbing a finger into Frank Butterworth's eye.[3] Administrators were so shocked by the violence that the next two years' Harvard-Yale games were cancelled.

Waters also played a role in the racial integration of college football in 1893. Waters was captain of the 1893 team, but injured his knee in the middle of the season's final game against Yale. In honor of the contributions of William H. Lewis, an African-American and future College Football Hall of Famer, Waters appointed him as team captain for the game. This was the first time that an African-American served as captain of a major college football team.[4]

Waters also rowed for the crew while a student at Harvard.[5]

Football coach

After his college playing career ended, Waters attended the Boston University Law School,[6] and also worked as a coach for Harvard's football team. He was Harvard's head coach in the 1896 and 1897 seasons. In 1896, the Trenton Evening Times reported: "Bert Waters is pronounced to be the best foot ball coach Harvard has ever had. He plays no favorites and picks out the best players, regardless of social standing."[7] After a disappointing 1896 season, Waters was replaced as head coach by Billy Brooks, but he remained on the Harvard coaching staff as an assistant coach. In 1897, The New York Times wrote:

"Whether as head coach, last year, he overtrained the team or not, his help was just what was needed after the Bowdoin game to pull the team together. On Thursday, he came on the field in his football clothes, was behind every play, often getting into the scramble himself, and kept the men in splendid spirits by his cheery voice and presence. There is not another coach in the country that can make a team work like Bert Waters."[8]

After his coaching career ended in the late 1890s, Waters became a successful attorney. He continued to follow football, and when calls were made to eradicate the sport from university campuses, Waters spoke in defense of the game:

"Mr. Waters played the game as hard as it was ever played, and hasn't applied for a place in the invalids home yet. ... 'It was a great sport and I consider football the best of all athletic games. It hardens a man for emergencies, puts snap and confidence in him, which he retains in after life.'"[9]

In 1908, Waters was married in New Canaan, Connecticut, to Helen Kent Shaw.[10]


  1. [1]
  2. "The Dark Blue Expects to Win: Yale's Football Eleven in Fine Condition for the Game with Harvard". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 1893-11-19.
  3. Bernard Corbett and Paul Simpson (November/December 2004). "When Men Were Men and Football Was Brutal". Yale Alumni Magazine.
  4. Lawrence Skiddy (1948-12-07). "Skidding the Sports Field". Syracuse Herald Journal.
  5. ""Bert" Waters in 'Varsity Boat Yesterday: He Is Thought To Be The Right Man In The Right Place". Boston Journal. 1894-03-20.
  6. "Talk on Foot Ball: Bert Waters Has an Appreciative Audience of Boston University Men". Boston Evening Journal. 1897-03-17.
  7. "General Sporting News". Trenton Evening Times. 1896-10-16.
  8. "Harvard's Eleven a Puzzle: Now Confident of the Backs but Uneasy Over the Line". The New York Times. 1897-10-10.
  9. "Football Trains One for Life's Battles": Bert Waters is of Harvard's Best Known Athletes on the Gridriron and in the Shell to Disprove James' Theory". The Boston Journal. 1905-07-01.
  10. "Social Notes". New York Times. 1908-03-29.