Thomas J. Riley
Biographical details
Born(1885-01-20)January 20, 1885
Escanaba, Michigan
DiedMarch 15, 1928(1928-03-15) (aged 43)
Escanaba, Michigan
Playing career
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Maine (assistant)
Head coaching record
College Football Data Warehouse
Accomplishments and honors
2 Maine Intercollegiate Athletic Association (1912–1913)
1 Little Three Conference (1915)

Thomas James Riley (January 30, 1885 – March 15, 1928) was an American football player and coach and attorney. He played football for the University of Michigan and coached football for the University of Maine (1910–1913) and Amherst College (1914–1916).

Early yearsEdit

Riley was born in Escanaba, Michigan in 1885. His father, Nicholas J. Riley (1855–1900), was born in Ireland, and his mother, Anna (McNamara) Riley (1859–1929), was a Wisconsin native. At the time of the 1900 United States Census, Riley was living with his mother and two brothers (John and William) in Escanaba.[1]

University of MichiganEdit

He played as a guard for the University of Michigan's 1908 football team. He won a reputation as a strong player based on his performance in the 1908 Penn game.[2] He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1910, was admitted to the Michigan Bar in September 1910, and became associated with the firm of Rushton & Riley in Escanaba, Michigan.[3][4]

Coaching careerEdit

Riley was the assistant coach of the University of Maine's football team in 1910. That year, Maine tied for the Maine Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) championship. In November 1911, Maine head coach Edgar Wingard announced that he would not act as head coach of the football any longer and would instead give all of his time to the general direction of athletics.[5] On November 21, 1911, the University of Maine Athletic Association announced that Riley had been hired as the new head football coach.[6][7] The Lewiston Daily Sun reported on Riley's hiring as follows:

"Reilly [sic] is a man of experience. He played end on the University of Michigan and was the choice for that position on the All-America team. His work at Mine has been largely responsible for the success of the team."[6]
Riley served as the head coach at Maine from 1912 to 1913.[3][8] He led the Maine football team to consecutive MIAA championships.[8][9]

In March 1914, Riley was hired as the head football coach at Amherst College.[10][11] He held that job from 1914 to 1916.[12][3] In his first year at Amherst, he led the team to a 5–3 record, including a victory over rival Williams by the greatest margin in 16 years. In November 1915, Riley signed a contract to coach at Amherst for another two years.[13][14]

Family and later yearsEdit

In February 1915, Riley married Janet Chaplin, a graduate of the University of Maine, in a ceremony held at Bangor, Maine.[15] From 1915 to 1916, Riley was the Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in Delta County, Michigan. He served as the mayor of Escanaba in 1917.[4] In a draft registration card completed by Riley in September 1918, he indicated that he was emplyed as a lawyer in Escanaba and that he was living at 304 Elmore in Escanaba with his wife, Janet Chaplin Riley.[16] At the time of the 1920 United States Census, Riley was living in Escanaba with his wifeand was working as an attorney.[17] Riley died in March 1928 at Escanaba.[18][19]

Head coaching recordEdit

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Maine Black Bears (Maine Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1912–1913)
1912 Maine 7–1 1st
1913 Maine 5–2–1 1st
Maine: 12–3–1
Amherst Lord Jeffs (Little Three Conference) (1912–1913)
1914 Amherst 2–3–3
1915 Amherst 6–3 1st
1916 Amherst 1–6
Amherst: 9–12–3
Total: 21–15–4
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title


  1. Census entry for Thomas J. Riley, born January 1885. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Year: 1900; Census Place: Enscaba Ward 2, Delta, Michigan; Roll: T623_708; Page: 20A; Enumeration District: 35.
  2. "Another Good Man To Report: Riley, Guard on 1908 Eleven, Will Join Wolverines Next Week". Detroit Free Press. September 24, 1909."Word was received in Ann Arbor Wednesday that Riley, the big guard who performed so well for Michigan in the 1908 Pennsy game, expected to report for preliminary training next week.")
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "News from the Classes". The Michigan Alumnus. May 1914. p. 485."Thomas J. Riley, '10l, of the firm of Rushton & Riley, Escanaba, Mich., has signed a two year contract to coach the Amherst College football team. For the past four years he has been coaching the football team of the University of Maine.")
  4. 4.0 4.1 Bench & Bar of Michigan. Bench & Bar Pub. Co.. 1918. p. 141.
  5. "Wingard Will Not Coach". The Lewiston Daily Sun. November 17, 1911.,3550761&dq=wingard+maine+football&hl=en.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Reilly For Coach". The Lewiston Daily Sun. November 22, 1911.,3768039&dq=wingard+maine+football&hl=en.
  7. "T.J. Reilly Head Coach at Maine". The Christian Science Monitor. December 20, 1911.("The University of Maine Athletic Association has obtained the services of Thomas J. Reilly of Ann Arbor, Mich., as head coach of the University of Maine football team for the season of 1912.")
  8. 8.0 8.1 "The Athletic Showing". Amherst Graduates' Quarterly, Volume 3. 1914. p. 205."Thomas J. Riley, former end on the University of Michigan team, and the past four years coach at the University of Maine has been selected as coach for the Amherst eleven for the 1914 season. In his first year at Maine, Riley turned out a team that tied for the State Championship and in the following years won three successive Championships.")
  9. "Riley To Coach Maine Again". The Christian Science Monitor. January 15, 1914."Thomas J. Riley, the former Michigan University star, who has had great success with the football teams of the University of Maine for the past few years, has just been reelected head coach for the season of 1914, and after some consideration, has decided to return.")
  10. "Riley To Coach Amherst Eleven". The Christian Science Monitor. March 17, 1914.
  11. "Reilly Will Coach Amherst Football". The Hartford Courant. March 11, 1914.
  12. "Thomas J. Riley Records by Year". College Football Data Warehouse.
  13. "Amherst Re-engages Coach Riley". The New York Times. November 16, 1915.
  14. "Coach Tom Riley to Remain at Amherst". Evening Tribune. November 16, 1915.,1922406&dq=thomas-riley+michigan&hl=en.
  15. "Marriages". The Michigan Alumnus. March 1915. p. 316.
  16. Draft registration card for Thomas James Riley, born January 30, 1885. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Registration Location: Delta County, Michigan; Roll: 1683033; Draft Board: 0.
  17. Census entry for Thomas Riley, age 34. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Year: 1920;Census Place: Escanaba Ward 3, Delta, Michigan; Roll: T625_762; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 54; Image: 157.
  18. "Thomas J. Riley". The New York Times. March 16, 1928.
  19. "Thomas J. Riley, Michigan Football Star, Is Dead". Chicago Daily Tribune. March 16, 1928.
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