Vince Lombardi? Henry ‘Red’ Sanders? Joe Kuharich? Jim Tatum? Murray Warmath? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: A controversial uncompromising statement about the importance of winning has been credited to two successful football coaches: Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers and Henry ‘Red’ Sanders of the UCLA Bruins:
Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.
Would you please determine who crafted this expression?
Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in the “Tallahassee Democrat” of Tallahassee, Florida on February 7, 1950. The saying emerged from a dialog recounted by the columnist Fred Pettijohn. The name “Frnka” looks odd but is correct. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
Tulane football Coach Henry Frnka recently asked UCLA mentor Red Sanders. “Winning isn’t everything, is it, Red?” To which Sanders replied. “No, it isn’t everything; it’s just the ONLY thing.”
There is evidence that Vince Lombardi and other coaches employed this saying in subsequent years, but based on current knowledge Sanders achieved victory; he won the motto creation competition.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1950 February 7, Tallahassee Democrat, In the Pressbox With Fred Pettijohn, Quote Page 6, Column 1, Tallahassee, Florida. (Newspapers_com) ↩