The most successful coach in Vanderbilt University football history, Daniel E. McGugin was born on July 29, 1879, in Tingley, Iowa, the son of Benjamin Franklin and Melissa A. Crutchfield McGugin. McGugin graduated from Drake University in Des Moines in 1901 after playing varsity football for two years. He graduated from the law school at the University of Michigan in 1904 and was admitted to the Michigan bar.
While at Michigan, McGugin played guard for two years under coach Fielding Harris “Hurry Up” Yost, one of early football’s greatest innovators. The 1901 team was one of Michigan’s most successful, and McGugin played with his team at the first Rose Bowl in 1902. Although he had just entered law practice, McGugin accepted the position of head coach at Vanderbilt University for the 1904 season. That year his team went undefeated, a feat the Commodores repeated in 1921. For five years McGugin coached Vanderbilt football in the fall and returned to his Michigan law office for the rest of the year. In 1909 he moved to Nashville and established a corporate law office.
From 1904 to 1923 McGugin’s Vanderbilt teams won ten conference championships in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association and the Southern Conference. His career record was 197-55-19 for regular season play. Maintaining his private law practice, he taught and coached at Vanderbilt until his retirement in 1934, when he became the school’s athletic director. In 1920 McGugin was elected for one term in the Tennessee Senate on the Democratic ticket. He also served as a trustee for Fisk University and was president of the American Football Coaches Association in 1933. In 1951 McGugin was inducted into the National College Football Hall of Fame for his exceptional career as a coach.
McGugin married Virginia Louise Fite in 1905, and Yost served as best man. The colleagues had even closer ties after Yost later married Fite’s sister. McGugin died on January 19, 1936, and is buried in Nashville’s Mount Olivet Cemetery.