HBCU Coach Profile: Jake Gaither, Florida A&M University

On this edition of the HBCU Coach Profile, we highlight coach Jake Gaither former head football coach of the Florida A&M Rattlers.

Jake Gaither attended Knoxville College, an HBCU in Tennessee, where he would also play football. After college, he became a high school football coach for a while during which he would earn his master’s degree. In 1937, he joined the Florida A&M coaching staff as an assistant coach.

Gaither spent seven years as an assistant coach before being upgraded to head coach in 1945. He would serve as head coach for the Rattlers head coach for 24 years retiring in 1969.

In his final year at head coach in 1969, Gaither coached the Rattlers to a 34-28 win over the University of Tampa Spartans in what was the first football game between a historically black college and a white college in the South.

During Jake Gaither’s time as head coach, he won 20 SIAC championships and eight black college national championships. This includes a stretch of six straight SIAC championships to begin his tenure as FAMU head football coach from 1945-1950 and 10 straight SIAC championships from 1952-1961. He holds an overall record of 204-36-4 giving him a win percentage of .844 the third-highest of any college football coach with at least 200 career wins and the highest of any HBCU football coach.

Jake Gaither coached over 40 players that would play in the NFL including Pro Football Hall of Famer “Bullet” Bob Hayes, NFL champion Willie Gallimore, and AFL champion Hewritt Dixon.

In 1975, Gaither was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and was inducted into the SIAC Hall of Fame in 1994.

Gaither passed away in 1994 at the age of 90.


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