"Football is not just a matter of life and death; it’s much more important than that” has been credited to Henry Russell “Red” Sanders (1905-1958), the UCLA football coach who supposedly said it about rival USC in 1949. Citations that credit Sanders are cited in print from at least 1966. The quotation is a humorous way to show the importance of college football rivalry games.
Scottish football (soccer) manager Bill Shankly (1913-1981) also used the saying, and it’s in the title of the Stephen F. Kelly biography Bill Shankly: It’s Much More Important Than That (2011). However, Shankly’s recorded uses of the saying are much later than 1966.
Wikipedia: Henry Russell Sanders
Henry Russell “Red” Sanders (May 7, 1905 – August 14, 1958) was an American college football player and coach. He served as the head coach at Vanderbilt University (1940–1942, 1946–1948) and the University of California at Los Angeles (1949–1957), compiling a career college football record of 102–41–3. Sanders’ 1954 UCLA team was named national champions by the Coaches’ Poll and the Football Writers Association of America. Sanders was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1996.
Known for being witty and hard driving, Sanders used the single-wing formation at Vanderbilt and UCLA. He is widely credited with coining the saying, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing”. When asked about the UCLA–USC rivalry, Sanders said “it’s not a matter of life and death, it’s more important than that!”
Beating ‘SC is not a matter of life or death, It’s more important than that
While at UCLA, another famous quote was attributed to Sanders regarding the UCLA-USC rivalry, “Beating ‘SC is not a matter of life or death, it’s more important than that.”
Wikiquote: Bill Shankly
William Shankly (1913-09-02 — 1981-09-29) was an Scottish football (soccer) manager.
An interview on a Granada Television chat-show, hosted by Shelley Rohde on Wednesday 20th of May 1981, produced arguably Shankly’s most famous (and most often misquoted) quote – “Someone said to me ‘To you football is a matter of life or death!’ and I said ‘Listen, it’s more important than that’.” But on the official Liverpoolfc.tv website, it states that the official quote is “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” It is likely that Shankly paraphrased a quote attributed in the 1950s to Henry Russell Sanders, an American football college coach, although his was referring to a rival – “Beating ‘SC is not a matter...”
5 November 1966, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Troubled Seattle” by John Hall, pt. II, pg. A3:
Last word from Seattle: Tommy Prothro, down 4-5 in his personal coaching rivalry with Owens. recalled an old Red Sanders line in getting the Bruins up for the Huskies. “It’s not a matter of life or death,” Red once observed calmly. ‘It’s more important.”
19 November 1966, Chicago (IL) Tribune, “In the Wake of the news” by David Condon, pg. B1”
When Red Sanders was coaching football at the University of California at Los Angeles, and preparing for a Rose bowl showdown with Southern California, he pontificated: “Remember, this game is not a matter of life or death. It’s more important than that.”
18 November 1967, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Red Sanders Has the Word for It” by John Hall, pt. II, pg. A3:
“It’s not a matter of life or death,” drawled the coach who put the Bruins on the map. “It’s a little more important than that.”
Google News Archive
1 December 1967, Tuscaloosa (AL) News, “Tide Defense Difference” by Henry Mehre, pg. 6, col. 7:
OLE MISS-MISS STATE: Some coach said this contest is not a life or death matter. It’s more important than that.
The Reader’s Digest
FORMER UCLA football coach Red Sanders, commenting on the long-standing rivalry between UCLA and USC: “It’s not really a matter of life and death. It’s much more important than that.”
-- Bud Wilkinson on “NCAA Football, ABC
September 19, 1977
They Said It
Edited by Robert H. Boyle
Lee Rose, basketball coach at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte: “I would like to deny the statement that I think basketball is a matter of life and death. I feel it’s much more important than that.”
The Oxford Dictionary of American Quotations
By Hugh Rawson; Margaret Miner
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
When you’re playing for the national championship, it’s not a matter of life and death. It’s more important than that.
—Duffy Daugherty, attributed
College football’s all-time greatest dynasty
By Steven Travers
Taylor Trade Publishing
In 1949, Red Sanders had said, “The USC-UCLA game is not a matter of life or death. It’s more important than that.” Some would call this statement overhype. Others, sacrilegious.
Bill Shankly: It’s Much More Important Than That: The Biography
Stephen F. Kelly
Ebury Publishing, May 31, 2011 - Sports & Recreation
‘Football is not just a matter of life and death: it’s much more important than that’ - Bill Shankly
Bill Shankly was without doubt among the greatest football managers of the post-war era and his story is still an inspiring read for anyone interested in the sport. To football fans everywhere, Bill Shankly was far more than just a manager: he was a folk hero whose legend still dominates the game.
USC Football vs. UCLA: More Than Just Another Game
Written on November 26, 2011 by Justine Hendricks
Former UCLA coach Red Sanders once said: “The USC-UCLA game is not a matter of life and death; it’s more important than that.”
It is in that spirit that USC and UCLA will take the field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum tonight.
New York City • Sports/Games • (0) Comments • Thursday, December 01, 2011 • Permalink