American Football Database
Drake Bulldogs football
First season 1893
Head coach Chris Creighton
Home stadium Drake Stadium
Stadium capacity 14,557
(Record Home Attendance 28,311 vs. ISU, Nov. 8, 1949)
Stadium surface Field Turf
Location Des Moines, Iowa
League NCAA Division I
Conference Pioneer Football League
Past conferences Independent (1893–1906; 1952–1970; 1987–1992)
Missouri Valley (1907–1951; 1971–1985)
All-time record 578–488–28
Postseason bowl record 2–3
Conference titles 13
Heisman winners 0
Current uniform
Colors Blue and White            

The Drake Bulldogs football program represents Drake University in college football at the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision level. Drake began competing in intercollegiate football in 1893.


Scholarship Era

The 1922 Drake Bulldogs football team is considered by many to be considered the greatest in Drake history and is, to date, the only undefeated Bulldog team. Drake capped the historic season with a 48–6 triumph over Mississippi State on November 25, 1922. They received votes as the number one team in the College Football Researchers Association poll and were invited to the White House for their accomplishments. The Bulldogs were coached by legend Ossie Solem.[1]

During the 1926 Homecoming activities, Babe Ruth visited and suited up for a Drake scrimmage. Head coach Ossie Solem extended the invitation stating "We finally inquired had he ever indulged in the 'dirt eating' pastime known as football. The answer was sort of a woeful 'No.' It was evident that the 'Big Bimbo' had missed something in his boyhood days, and when the invitation to work out with the Bulldogs was extended, it was accepted with glee." Ruth scored a 20 yard touchdown in the mock scrimmage.[2]

While it was not the official Rose Bowl Game, Drake was the first Iowa school to play in the Rose Bowl Stadium. The Bulldogs defeated UCLA 25–6 in front of a near capacity crown of 40,000 on November 28, 1927.[3] At the time, UCLA played major games at the Rose Bowl Stadium. The Bruins did not officially move on a permanent basis to the Rose Bowl Stadium until 1982. The game was highlighted as one of the NCAA Football Thanksgiving Special Games that year.

Following the 1931 season head coach Ossie Solem schedule a game in Honolulu, Hawaii in which the bulldogs squared off against Hawaii. Solem frustrated by the lack of postseason rewards (the Rose Bowl on January 1, 1932, was the only NCAA Bowl Game following 1931 season), called the trip a reward for his team’s fourth straight Missouri Valley Conference championship.

In a close encounter at Honolulu Stadium on December 19, 1931, Hawaii defeated Drake 19–13 in a game dubbed the Aloha Classic. The game was the first by an Iowa school in the state of Hawaii. It was also the last game for Solem as Bulldog coach. He would leave the next season taking the head football coach vacancy at Iowa.[3]

Drake was the first school of its size to install lights. On October 6, 1928, the Bulldogs defeated Simpson College 41–6 in the first night game at Drake Stadium.[3]

In 1951, Johnny Bright was named a First Team College Football All-American, and was awarded the Nils V. "Swede" Nelson Sportsmanship Award. He was invited to the Heisman Trophy festivities and finished fifth in the voting.

In 1969, Bright was named Drake University's greatest football player of all time. Bright is the only Drake football player to have his jersey number (#43) retired by the school, and in June 2006, received honorable mention from senior writer Ivan Maisel as one of the best college football players to ever wear #43.[4] In February 2006, the football field at Drake Stadium, in Des Moines, Iowa, was named in his honor.[5] In November 2006, Bright was voted one of the CFL's Top 50 players (#19) of the league's modern era by Canadian sports network TSN.[6]

The most successful Drake team in the modern era of college football was the 1981 Bulldogs team. Drake finished the season with 10 wins and nearly had an undefeated season. The Bulldogs would fall 59–6 to Tulsa ending their chance at a perfect season. With a 7–4–0 record, Tulsa would clinch the lone Missouri Valley Conference postseason berth due the head-to-head tie-breaker. Both teams finished conference play 7–1–0.

Modern Era

Following the historic 1981 season, the Bulldogs suffered five straight non-winning seasons. In 1986, the school chose not to award athletic scholarships ("grants-in-aid") to football players. It was unclear if Drake football would survive until Des Moines, Iowa native Rob Ash was introduced as coach in 1989.

Ash rejuvenated the program during his eighteen seasons at Drake and played a crucial role in the founding of the Pioneer Football League, a football-only league run out of the Missouri Valley Conference offices in Saint Louis, Missouri. In the process, he became Drake's all-time winningest coach with a record of 125–63–2; leading the Bulldogs to four conference titles and five runners-up finishes in the Sports Network Cup. As a result, Ash was named the conference coach of the year three times (1995, 1998, and 2004).[7]

After the 2006 season, Ash accepted the head football coach position at Montana State. In his final Drake season, he led the team to a runner-up finish in both the Pioneer Football League and the Sports Network Cup. Ironically, San Diego defeated Drake in both, marking the first time two Pioneer Football League teams finished first and second in the Sports Network Cup.[8]

The Bulldogs were coached by long-time NFL assistant Steve Loney in 2007. The team finished 6–5, with a highlight 27–24 victory over #7 Illinois State on August 30.[9] Loney would resign at the end of the season to accept a position as offensive line coach with the Saint Louis Rams.[10]

Chris Creighton was named head coach beginning with the 2008 season.[11] In 2009, the Bulldogs missed out on a share of the conference title when Butler connected on a field goal with one second remaining in the regular season finale. In 2011, Drake shared the conference title with San Diego, their first title under Creighton.


Year Conference Overall Record Conference Record
1928 Missouri Valley 7–1–0 3–0–0
1929 Missouri Valley 5–3–1 3–0–1
1930† Missouri Valley 5–4–0 3–0–0
1931 Missouri Valley 5–6–0 3–0–0
1933† Missouri Valley 6–3–1 4–1–0
1972† Missouri Valley 7–5–0 4–1–0
1981† Missouri Valley 10–1–0 5–1–0
1995 Pioneer Football League 8–1–1 5–0–0
1998 Pioneer Football League 7–3 4–0
2000† Pioneer Football League 7–4 3–1
2004 Pioneer Football League 10–2 4–0
2011† Pioneer Football League 9–2 7–1
2012† Pioneer Football League 8–3 7–1
Total conference championships 13
† Denotes co-champions

Notable Games

1930 Soldier Field night game

Drake played the first night game at Soldier Field, losing a close contest to the Oregon 14–7 on October 3, 1930. It was an event that was the first intersectional night games played in Chicago, Illinois. The Drake vs. Oregon game was followed by Loyola vs. Georgetown.[12]

1938 double-header

On September 23, 1938, Drake became the first college football team to win two games in the same day. The Bulldogs would defeat Central 45–0 in the afternoon game, followed by a 47–0 win over Monmouth in the evening game. Drake was the only team to be credited with two games in the same day until October 17, 2009, when Delaware State became the first team to lose two games in a day. The Hornets lost to North Carolina A&T by forfeit and to Michigan 63–6. Delaware State forfeited the game versus North Carolina A&T in order to accept a $500,000 payout to play Michigan.[13]

Johnny Bright incident

The Johnny Bright Incident was a violent on-field assault against African-American player Johnny Bright by White American player Wilbanks Smith during an American college football game held on October 20, 1951 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The game was significant in itself as it marked the first time that an African American athlete with a national profile and of critical importance to the success of his Drake University team had played against Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) on their home field. Bright's injury also highlighted the racial tensions of the times and assumed notoriety when it was captured in what was later to become both a widely disseminated and eventually Pulitzer Prize winning photo sequence. The event later came to be known as the "Johnny Bright Incident".

Global Kilimanjaro Bowl

On September 1, 2010, Drake announced it would forgo its normal postseason tie-ins in order to participate in the Global Kilimanjaro Bowl, the first American Football game in Africa. The Bulldogs solidified their spot in the game, securing a winning season with their sixth win on October 30, 2010 (a 38–17 defeat of San Diego).[14]

Drake continued their success during the 2011 season after the victory in the Kilimanjaro Bowl. The Bulldogs shared the Pioneer Football League title. Coach Creighton and his team were honored with the NCAS Giant Steps Award for their charity work in Africa. They were also featured in a documentary by CBS Sports for their work in Africa.

All-time records

Post-Season Results

Season Date Bowl Opponent Result Site
1945 January 1 Raisin Bowl Fresno State W 13-12 Fresno, California
1948 January 1 Salad Bowl Arizona W 14-13 Phoenix, Arizona
1957 January 1 Sun Bowl Louisville L 20-34 El Paso, Texas
1969 December 13 Pecan Bowl Arkansas State L 21-29 Arlington, Texas
1972 December 10 Pioneer Bowl Tennessee State L 7-29 Wichita Falls, Texas


  • See List of Drake Bulldogs football seasons

Individual honors

  • See List of Drake Bulldogs football awards

Retired numbers

Retired numbers
Number Player Year
#43 Johnny Bright 2006

National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Famers

Hall of Famers
Number Player Year
#43 Johnny Bright 1984

Bulldogs in pros


  1. "Drake Bulldogs Football". 2008-01-01. Retrieved 2008-01-01.
  2. Brock, Ted (1990-21-09). "The Day Babe Ruth Played Some Football". Retrieved 1990-21-09.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "The Drake Experience". 2009-02-15. Retrieved 2009-02-15. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "The Drake Expirence" defined multiple times with different content
  4. "Johnny Bright's Football Jersey Number Recognized". 2006-06-30. Archived from the original on 2006-07-11. Retrieved 2006-07-08.
  5. "KCCI-TV8 Des Moines, Iowa – Drake Names Football Field After Johnny Bright: OSU Apologizes For Player's Actions". 2006-02-23. Retrieved 2006-08-12.
  6. "TSN Top 50 CFL Players". 2006-11-28. Retrieved 2007-04-28.
  7. "Rob Ash Blog – About Coach Ash". 2008. Retrieved 2008.
  8. "Two former athletes allegedly murder a drug dealer. An ex-football player is charged with heading a cocaine ring. Montana State is coping with a crime wave". CNN. August 7, 2007. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  10. "Steve Loney Coach's Bio". Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  11. "Drake hires Wabash coach Creighton as football coach". Retrieved 2007-12-20.
  12. "The Milwaukee Journal – Drake vs. Oregon Tonight". 1930-03-10.,4933056. Retrieved 1998-03-08.
  13. "No Good Comes From This Game". 2009-05-26. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  14. "Drake To Play First American Football Game In Africa". 2010-09-01. Retrieved 2010-09-01.

External links