Bible, Dana Xenophon (1891–1980)

By: David S. Walkup

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

Dana Bible, football coach and athletic administrator, was born to Jonathan and Cleopatra Bible in Jefferson City, Tennessee, on October 8, 1891. He graduated from Jefferson City High School in 1908 and subsequently received a B.A. from Carson-Newman College, in his home state. In 1912 he started his coaching career at Brandon Prep in Shelbyville, Tennessee. The following year he moved to Mississippi College, where Texas A&M recruited him in 1916 to coach its freshman team. In 1917 the school promoted Bible to head coach, and the team won the first of five Southwest Conference championships under Bible's leadership.

In 1922 in the Dixie Classic, the precursor of the Cotton Bowl, Bible made his most visible and lasting impression in his A&M career when he began what became known as the Twelfth Man Tradition. Bible had a roster of only eighteen players, who had to play both defense and offense against the heavily favored Praying Colonels of Centre College. He lost three players to injuries early in the game, but the Aggies took the lead. Fearing more injuries and a possibility of having to forfeit the game for lack of men, Bible called upon a reserve halfback, E. King Gill, who was in the press box running stats for the team, to suit up and be ready if needed. The Aggies beat the Colonels without Gill's help, but since then A&M students stand throughout football games to show their willingness to play if needed.

Bible left A&M in 1929 to coach the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers. During his eight seasons at Nebraska he won six conference championships and had a record of forty-nine wins, fifteen losses, and seven ties. He returned to Texas in 1936 to coach A&M's main rival, the University of Texas Longhorns. Upon his arrival at UT the coach initiated the "Bible Plan" to rebuild and sustain the football team. The plan had two parts. First, Bible and his coaching staff divided the state into fifteen recruitment districts; prominent UT alumni in each district played a major role in persuading high school players to go to Austin. Bible believed that native Texans would play harder for the school than players from out of state. Alumni were crucial to the second part of the Bible Plan, as well. The coach devised an innovative scholarship and financial-aid program to assist players in getting their education. For those players who demonstrated a need, campus jobs were provided during the long term and in the summer; alumni supplied jobs, and a portion of the players' wages were dedicated to tuition and fees for the following year.

In five seasons Bible took the Longhorns from last place to first place in the Southwest Conference. His team also won the SWC title in 1943 and 1945. Before he retired from coaching in 1946, his UT record stood at sixty-three wins, thirty-one losses, and three ties. From 1947 to 1956 Bible served as UT's athletic director. He also published a book, Championship Football: A Guide for Player, Coach and Fan, in 1947. After he left football he and his wife, Dorothy, operated Camp Mystic, a summer camp for girls.

Bible was a charter member of the National Football Hall of Fame and the 1954 recipient of the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award. In 1959 he was elected to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. During the 1960s each of the three of the schools where he had coached placed him in its hall of fame. Bible was on the National Collegiate Football Rules Committee for twenty-five years and served as a president of the American Football Coaches Association.

He married Rowena Rhodes on December 19, 1923; the couple raised two children. Rowena died in 1942, and Bible married Agnes Stacy in 1944, but the union ended in divorce in 1950. He married Dorothy Gilstrap on February 2, 1952. He was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, a Shriner, and a Baptist. Bible died on January 19, 1980, and was buried at Memorial Park in Austin.

Wilbur Evans and H. B. McElroy, The Twelfth Man: A Story of Texas A&M Football (Huntsville, Alabama: Strode, 1974). John D. Forsyth, The Aggies and the Horns (Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1981). Denne H. Freeman, Hook 'Em Horns: A Story of Texas Football (Huntsville, Alabama: Strode, 1974). James W. Pohl, "The Bible Decade and the Origin of National Athletic Prominence," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 86 (October 1982). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Sports (Football)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

David S. Walkup, “Bible, Dana Xenophon,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994

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