By any measure, Tim Murphy has led Harvard's storied football program to its most prosperous era since the early 20th century. He looks to continue that trend in 2020, as he enters his 27th season as The Thomas Stephenson Family Head Coach for Harvard Football.
One of the game’s finest teachers and motivators over the last quarter-century, Murphy is Harvard’s all-time winningest coach, and since the formation of the Ivy League in 1956, only one Ivy coach, Carmen Cozza (179), has more overall wins than his 178. His Harvard teams have captured nine Ivy League championships (1997, 2001, ’04, ’07, ’08, ’11, ‘13, ‘14, ‘15) and have combined to own the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision’s second-best record over the last 19 seasons (145-44, .767).
Murphy is the first Harvard coach since the iconic Percy Haughton to lead the Crimson to three unbeaten, untied seasons in his tenure (2001, ‘04, ‘14). Having previously coached five seasons at Cincinnati and two at Maine, Murphy owns career records of 210-126-1 overall, 178-81 with the Crimson and 18-8 in The Game, the annual rivalry tilt between Harvard and Yale.
A seven-time selection as New England Coach of the Year (1988, ’97, 2001, ’04, ’11, ‘14, ‘16), Murphy was the American Football Monthly Division I-AA National Coach of the Year in 2004, and was also honored as a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award for the top FCS coach nationally in 2001, ’04 and ’11. He was the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston Head Coach of the Year in 2001 and ’11, and has also been recognized as the American Football Coaches Association District I Coach of the Year (2001) and the Scotty Whitelaw ECAC Division I-AA Coach of the Year (1997). Murphy was also named the inaugural recipient of the Ivy League Coach of the Year Award in 2014.
Under Murphy, Harvard has claimed Ivy titles in six of the last 13 and eight of the last 19 years. In those 19 seasons, starting with 2001, the Crimson has posted the fifth-highest winning percentage in all of NCAA Division I, trailing only Ohio State, Boise State, Oklahoma and LSU. During the 16-year stretch from 2001-16, Harvard earned at least seven wins each season, an Ivy League record. No other Ivy team has strung together seven such seasons in a row.
Murphy, who is just the fourth head coach to man the Harvard sideline since 1950, is Harvard's first endowed coach. In October 1994, Thomas F. Stephenson ’64 M.B.A. ’66 established a $2 million endowment fund that supports the head football coach in much the same way that an endowed chair supports a professor. Stephenson chose to name the fund for members of his family, who have been active participants in the Harvard community for four generations.
Tim Murphy with his family (from left) Conor, Grace, Martha, and Molly.
Since 1994, Harvard has had 128 first-team All-Ivy League selections, seven Ivy Rookies of the Year, nine Ivy Players of the Year, nine first-team All-Americans and 25 players who have been drafted or signed professional contracts, including six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk ’98, four-time Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk '13 and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05.
In addition, 21 of Murphy’s Harvard players have received national academic recognition (either CoSIDA Academic All-America or the FCS All-Academic Team). Before sending two players to the CoSIDA Academic All-American team in 2008, Harvard had a national-best six players recognized on the All-District 1 team.
The Crimson had 10 or more All-Ivy honorees every season from 2000-2016, with program highs of 11 first-team picks and 20 total mentions in 2007 and 2015.
Harvard’s all-time winningest coach with 178 victories, Murphy ranks third in Ivy League history with 124 conference wins. Murphy has led Harvard to nine Ivy titles (1997, 2001, '04, '07, '08, '11, '13, '14 and '15) and is one crown shy of tying Yale’s Carm Cozza for the most conference titles in league history.
During the 2019 season, first-year running back Aidan Borguet, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, rushed for a Harvard-Yale record 269 yards and tied The Game record with four touchdowns. Harvard picked up five All-Ivy League first-team selections and 12 All-Ivy choices overall. Placekicker Jake McIntyre earned the annual Nils V. "Swede" Nelson Award from the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston for exceptional achievement in sportsmanship, academics and athletics. Defensive lineman Brogan McPartland was tabbed to the CoSIDA Academic All-America team.
Harvard capped the 2018 campaign by defeating Yale, 45-27, in the highest scoring episode of The Game. The Crimson earned 13 All-Ivy selections, including five on the first team, and finished 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the Ivy League.
In 2017, Harvard had six student-athletes selected to the All-Ivy League team, including three-time first team selection, Justice Shelton-Mosley. The Crimson went 5-5 overall. After tallying a 7-3 mark in the 2016 season, the Crimson registered an Ancient Eight record by winning at least seven games for 16-consecutive years.
Murphy led the Crimson to its third-straight Ivy League crown in 2015, a first in program history. With a 9-1 overall record and a 6-1 mark in league play, the Crimson ended its campaign with a crucial 38-19 victory over Yale in The Game to extend the winning streak over its rival to a program-record nine straight games. Harvard matched the school record with 20 All-Ivy honorees, including nine first-team selections, and Shelton-Mosley was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year. Scott Hosch took home the Asa S. Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year, the sixth-straight Crimson student-athlete to win the award.
Harvard completed its 17th unbeaten, untied campaign in 2014, going 10-0 overall and 7-0 in league play to earn the program's 16th Ivy crown. Harvard was the lone undefeated team in Division I for the 2014 season. The Crimson capped the perfect campaign, its third under Murphy, with a 31-24 victory over Yale in The Game, extending the win streak over its archrival to a program-record eight straight games. Harvard also hosted ESPN's College GameDay on the day of the Yale game, becoming the second Ivy League school (Penn in 2002) to host the premiere college football television show.
In 2013, Harvard went 5-0 on the road en route to a share of the Ivy League title, going 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the conference. The Crimson topped Yale, 34-7, defeating the Bulldogs for the 12th time in the last 13 games.
Murphy’s sixth Ivy title came in 2011, when Harvard clinched the outright Ancient Eight crown before the last week of the season for the first time in school history. A 45-7 win at Yale capped a perfect Ivy season and a 9-1 overall campaign. All nine victories came by double digits. The 35-21 victory at Columbia was Murphy’s 118th at Harvard, breaking Joe Restic’s program record.
Murphy and Restic have rewritten Harvard's storied football records, and the two coaches remained close until Restic's passing in December 2011. In the spring of 2008, Murphy joined Restic as Harvard coaches to be honored with the National Football Foundation Eastern Chapter's Ron Burton Distinguished American Award, given to a former football player who has carried the lessons learned on the field to his larger community.
The 2008 Ivy-champion Crimson finished the year ranked 14th in the FCS Coaches Poll. In a game that will go down in history as one of equal importance and dominance, the 2007 championship season was capped by a 37-6 victory at Yale against a previously undefeated Bulldog team that was highly ranked in both total offense and defense.
The 2001 Harvard squad posted the school’s first undefeated, untied campaign since 1913, while the 2004 team went a step further by going 10-0 to mark the first perfect season with at least 10 wins since 1901. The Crimson posted a 7-0 Ivy record in 2007, and a year later went 9-1 overall while sharing the Ivy crown with Brown. Murphy's 1997 Crimson also went 9-1, 7-0 in the Ancient Eight, and won the Ivy title, Harvard's first in 10 years.
The 2012 AFCA president and a past president of the Division I-AA Coaches Association, Murphy has presented at several high-profile events, including coaching clinics at Notre Dame and Southern California. In 2010, he was part of a select group of college head coaches to visit American servicemen and servicewomen overseas as part of the USO/Morale Entertainment Coaches Tour. Murphy went on a weeklong trip that included stops at McConnell and Scott Air Force Bases before going overseas for visits to eight countries in nine days with visits to bases and vessels.
The 2019 Harvard Football Coaching Staff
The 2004 season stands as arguably the Crimson's finest in more than 100 years. The Crimson went 10-0 on the year and had an average margin of victory of 20.5 points. Harvard scored at least 31 points in nine of the 10 games, had a double-digit winning margin in eight games, held its last six opponents to 14 points or less, dealt two shutouts and allowed just one touchdown in the last three games.
Harvard finished the year as the only undefeated school in the FCS and one of just five unbeatens in all of college football. The Crimson finished the season ranked No. 13 in the final Sports Network Division I-AA national poll and the ESPN/USA Today poll, marking Harvard's highest finish in the national rankings since the formation of the Division I-AA polls. Harvard's final Sagarin Rating stood 37th among the 239 Division I football schools.
The 2004 Crimson had 15 players, then the most in school history, named All-Ivy League. Among those were Fitzpatrick, who earned selection to play in the East-West Shrine Game and the Hula Bowl, and Clifton Dawson ’07, who went on to become the Ivy League’s all-time leading rusher in 2006.
Murphy's 2001 Harvard squad finished 9-0 overall and 7-0 in the Ivies and was ranked No. 19 in the final Sports Network poll. Harvard committed just nine turnovers, averaged 445.0 yards in offense and scored at least four touchdowns in every game.
Previously, Murphy led Harvard to the 1997 Ivy championship, when his squad finished 9-1 overall and 7-0 in league play. It marked the first time in school history that the Crimson had posted a perfect Ivy record.
Murphy was named head football coach at Harvard on Dec. 6, 1993. He came from the University of Cincinnati, where that fall he had directed the Division I-A Bearcats to their finest record in 17 years. At Cincinnati, Murphy led the Bearcats to an 8-3 record in 1993, their first winning campaign since 1982, and the school's best overall mark since 1976 (9-2). Cincinnati was the fourth-most improved team in Division I-A (an increase of five wins over 1992).
This success came after Murphy inherited a program that had a condemned stadium, no practice facilities and the loss of 19 scholarships after being placed on probation for infractions incurred by the previous coaching staff. He attained all of his short-term goals, including NCAA compliance, an improved graduation rate, reconstructing the strength and conditioning program and development of a successful major college team. When Murphy took over at Cincinnati in 1989, he was only 32 years old and was the youngest Division I head coach in the nation (along with Dave Rader at Tulsa).
While improvement was consistent throughout his tenure, it all came together in 1993. In that summer, Cincinnati was recognized by the College Football Association for being one of only 20 Division I schools to graduate a minimum of 70 percent of its most recent recruiting class. On the field, the Bearcats had their third-highest point total in school history (302), and set school marks for most offensive plays, most first downs, and fewest turnovers. In addition, Cincinnati won that year's Independent Football Alliance championship.
Murphy started his head coaching career at Maine in 1987, when he became the youngest head coach in the country (at age 30) upon succeeding current Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens. His first team finished with an 8-4 record (the Black Bears' best record in 23 years), shared the Yankee Conference title and advanced to the NCAA Division I-AA tournament for the first time in school history.
Murphy also has extensive experience as an assistant coach. He was the offensive coordinator at Maine in 1985 and ’86, when the Black Bears both rushed and passed for more than 2,000 yards in the same season for the first time in school history. He was the offensive line coach at Boston University for three seasons, from 1982 through ’84, and helped the Terriers to Yankee Conference titles and NCAA Division I-AA playoff berths each year. Murphy was also the defensive line coach at Lafayette in 1981, when the Leopards posted their best record in school history (9-2), just one season after the squad went 1-10.
Murphy began his coaching career as a part-time assistant at Brown in 1979, and was promoted to assistant varsity offensive line coach the following season. A native of Kingston, Mass., he graduated from Silver Lake High School in 1974. He then attended Springfield College, where he became a four-year starter and was a small college All-New England linebacker as a senior.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1978, and earned a master’s degree in education from Springfield the following year. Murphy did additional postgraduate work at Boston University and was accepted to the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Business at Northwestern and the Colgate Darden School of Business at Virginia.
Murphy was chosen to sit on the board of trustees of the American Football Coaches Association in January 2005, and was named to Springfield's All-Decade Team in 2006. In October 2007, the night following Harvard's 27-10 victory over Princeton, Murphy was inducted into the Springfield College Athletic Hall of Fame. During 2013, Murphy served as President of the American Football Coaches Association, and in 2015, he joined Harvard's Faculty Committee on Athletic Sports.
Murphy resides in Allston with his wife, Martha Kennedy Murphy. The couple has three children: Molly Kennedy '14, Conor Timothy '16, and Grace Katharine '18.