Harry Rockafeller

Harry Rockafeller
Sport(s) Football, basketball, track and field
Biographical details
Born (1894-08-26)August 26, 1894[1]
Asbury Park, New Jersey
Died April 5, 1978(1978-04-05) (aged 83)
New Jersey
Playing career
1912–1915 Rutgers
1913–1916 Rutgers
Position(s) End (football)
Guard (basketball)
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1927–1930 Rutgers
1942–1945 Rutgers
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
1952–1956 Rutgers (acting AD)
1956–1961 Rutgers
Head coaching record
Overall 33–26–1
Accomplishments and honors
3 Middle Three (1929, 1943, 1945)

Harry Joseph "Rocky" Rockafeller, Jr. (August 26, 1894 – April 5, 1978) was an American football player, coach, and athletics administrator at Rutgers University. He was the head football coach for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights football team for eight years from 1927 to 1930 and from 1942 to 1945. He was also the athletic director until 1961.

Early years

Rockafeller was born in Asbury Park, New Jersey in 1894.[2] His father, Harry J. Rockafeller, Sr., was a hotel keeper and, later, a theater manager.[3][4] He attended Asbury Park High School.[5]

Rockafeller attended Rutgers University where he played at the end position for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights football team for four years from 1912 to 1915.[6] According to Rutgers University records, Rockafeller was selected as an All-American in 1915.[7] He was a teammate of Paul Robeson on the football team. He also played at the guard position for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights men's basketball team and competed for the track team.[5] He graduated from Rutgers in 1916 and is a member of the Cap & Skull Senior Honor Society.[5]

Rockafeller served in the military during World War I. As of June 1917 he was a first lieutenant in the infantry assigned as a student at the Fort Myer Camp in Virginia.[2] At the time of the 1920 U.S. Census, Rockafeller was living with his parents in Asbury Park.[4]

Rutgers coach and athletic director

Rockafeller was hired as Rutgers' graduate manager of athletics in 1925.[5] In February 1927 the Rutgers Council of Athletics announced that Rockafeller would serve as the head football coach of the 1927 football team.[6] He remained as the head football coach from 1927 to 1930. During those seasons, the Rutgers football team compiled a record of 19–16. In December 1930, Rockafeller asked the Council of Athletics to release him from consideration as the head coach for the 1931 team. Rockafeller chose to return to his position as Rutgers' graduate manager of athletics.[5]

The Rutgers Class of 1940 dedicated the 1940 edition of The Scarlet Letter (the Rutgers yearbook) to Rockafeller and wrote:

"To Harry J. Rockafeller, upholder of Scarlet traditions, we dedicate the 1940 Scarlet Letter. Graduate of the University in the Class of 1916, sometimes graduate manager of athletics and head coach of the varsity football team, he is now assistant director and associate professor of physical education. As coach of the 150-pound football team, he brought two successive championships to Rutgers in League competition; in 1939 he was given the University Award 'for faithful and unselfish service.' It is not because of these accomplishments that we pay him tribute, however. It is because of our respect and admiration and affection for 'Rocky' himself. He is our ideal of what a Rutgers man should be: friendly, honest, generous, of kindly heart, and a straight shooter."[8]

In April 1942, Rockafeller resumed responsibility as the head football coach at Rutgers after head coach Harvey Harman was inducted into the United States Navy as a lieutenant commander.[9] In November 1945, Rockafeller announced that he would step down as the head coach at the end of the 1945 season.[10]

Rockafeller became acting athletic director at Rutgers in 1952 and athletic director in 1956. He stepped down as the athletic director in June 1961.[11]

Family and later years

Rockafeller was married in June 1935 to Mary Olney. At the time of the 1940 United States Census, Rockafeller was living in Piscataway, New Jersey with his wife, Mary, and their two-year-old son, Thomas O. Rockafeller. His occupation was listed in the census record as the assistant director of athletics at a college.[12] He died in April 1978 at age 83.[13]

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Rutgers Queensmen (Independent) (1927–1928)
1927 Rutgers 4–4
1928 Rutgers 6–3
Rutgers Queensmen (Middle Three Conference) (1929–1930)
1929 Rutgers 5–4 1–1 T–1st
1930 Rutgers 4–5 1–1 2nd
Rutgers Queensmen (Middle Three Conference) (1942–1945)
1942 Rutgers 3–4–1 0–2 3rd
1943 Rutgers 3–2 3–1 T–1st
1944 Rutgers 3–2 2–2 2nd
1945 Rutgers 5–2 2–0 1st
Rutgers: 33–26–1 9–7
Total: 33–26–1
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title


  1. Draft Registration Card dated April 27, 1942 for Harry Joseph Rockafeller, born August 26, 1894, employed by Rutgers University, resident of Piscataway Township, Middlesex, New Jersey. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; State Headquarters: New Jersey
  2. 1 2 Draft registration card dated June 5, 1917 for Harry J. Rockafeller, born Aug. 26, 1894 in Asbury Park, New Jersey, formerly a student at Rutgers College. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Registration State: New Jersey; Registration County: Monmouth; Roll: 1712356; Draft Board: 4.
  3. Census entry for Harry J. Rockafeller and family. Harry J. Rockafeller, Jr., listed as his son, born Aug. 1894. Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Year: 1900; Census Place: Asbury Park, Monmouth, New Jersey; Roll: 985; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 0106; FHL microfilm: 1240985.
  4. 1 2 Census entry for Harry J. Rockafeller and family. Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Year: 1920; Census Place: Asbury Park Ward 2, Monmouth, New Jersey; Roll: T625_1058; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 89; Image: 232.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 "Rockafeller Seeks Release At Rutgers: Football Coach Asks Council Not to Reconsider Him for Reappointment". The New York Times. December 6, 1930.
  6. 1 2 "Rockafeller Coach of Rutgers Eleven: Graduate Athletic Manager Appointed as Wallace's Successor for 1927". The New York Times. February 10, 1927. p. 19.
  7. "Rutgers Football All-Americans". Rutgers University.
  8. The Scarlet Letter, 1940, published by the Scarlet Letter Council, Rutgers University, 1940, at approximately page 5.
  9. "Rockafeller Gets Post: Named Head Football Coach at Rutgers in Harman's Absence". The New York Times. April 26, 1942.
  10. "N.Y.U. Conquered by Rutgers, 13-7: Scarlet Gives Rockafeller, Ending Coaching Career, Victory for Present". The New York Times. November 18, 1945.
  11. "Twitchell Named To Rutgers Post: Aide to Succeed Rockafeller as Director of Athletics on July 1". The New York Times. January 20, 1961.
  12. Census entry for Harry J. Rockafeller and family. Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Year: 1940; Census Place: Piscataway, Middlesex, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2362; Page: 15A; Enumeration District: 12-133.
  13. Social security death index for Harry Rockafeller, born August 26, 1894, died April 1978. Ancestry.com. Social Security Death Index [database on-line]. Number: 064-18-3308; Issue State: New York; Issue Date: Before 1951.

External links

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