Introduction of Fred "Fish" Ellis, presented by Brett Phillips, Class of 2018 and Football Team member
Football is a great game that came of age in America during the Roaring 20’s. It was the college game that first captured the country’s imagination -- Notre Dame had Knute Rockne and & the Four Horsemen; Pop Warner became Stanford’s coach at a salary of $5,000 per year; and Red Grange became football’s first celebrity as a running back for the University of Illinois.
Though Tufts would eventually align with Division III when the NCAA split into divisions, the Jumbo football program was among the sport’s national forerunners in the early 20th century. Tufts Football played games against Harvard, Army and other nationally prominent programs during that era.
In those glory days of the sport, the first hero of Tufts Football was Fred Ellis.
Fred, who was affectionately nicknamed “Fish” because of his Gloucester roots, enrolled at Tufts in 1925 after attending Medford High School. By the time he graduated from Tufts four years later, Fish had become the first Jumbo student-athlete to earn varsity letters in four different sports -- football, basketball, baseball and track & field.
Although Fish was a true multi-sport athlete who received “All-New England” honors in three sports, his greatest glories came on the football gridiron. Fish was recognized as an “All-American” after he quarterbacked the 1927 Tufts football team to its first undefeated season in Tufts history. Fish led the East in scoring that year with 81 points, and his 181 career points was a school record that stood for 88 years before being broken by Chance Brady in 2016.
In 1931, Fish married his college sweetheart, Dorie Loughlin. Dorie graduated from Jackson College in the morning; she and Fish were married in the afternoon; and the newlyweds attended the Tufts senior dance that same night.
A major in the Army Air Corps from March 1943 to June 1946, Fish returned to Tufts in 1946 to serve as the head coach of football, basketball and golf, and he also served as Chairman of the Department of Physical Education.
Over the years, the Ellis Family became synonymous with Tufts Athletics. Dorie Ellis was a versatile student-athlete in her own right at Jackson College. Fish’s and Dorie’s daughter, Faith, was a star athlete at Jackson in the 1950s, and Faith’s husband Jack Heneghan was one of the basketball team’s first 1,000-point scorers.
To recognize Fish for his countless contribution to Tufts Athletics, the football stadium was named the Ellis Oval in his honor.
Perhaps it was Tim Horgan, a 1949 Tufts graduate and an award-winning sportswriter at the Boston Herald, who said it best:
“Fish Ellis was truly one of Saturday’s Heroes to an age that was romantic and wise enough to believe in heroes. He gave Tufts what every college should have – a legend that its sons and daughters can talk about down through the years.ough to believe in heroes. He gave Tufts what every college should have – a legend that its sons and daughters can talk about down through the years."