Updated through 2018 season
Photos of what "might have been" Hope football teams date back to 1895. Controversy on a national level over the nature of the game kept organized football play at Hope no more than a dream until 1902. Early in the 20th century Hope played non-collegiate opponents. The first recorded game against a collegiate opponent occurred in 1907 when the Flying Dutchmen lost to Benton Harbor College 54-0.
Hope's first All-MIAA football player was Louis Japinga '34. The speedy halfback was also an effective passer and placekicker. He achieved All-MIAA three consecutive years.
Ray Smith is the winningest coach in the history of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. In 25 seasons (1970-94) he guided the Flying Dutchmen to a record nine MIAA championships while compiling a 148-69-9 record.
When Hope won the 2007 MIAA championship, coach Dean Kreps joined an elite group of MIAA coaches to win six or more MIAA football championships during their career. He is just the fifth coach in the 110-year history of America's oldest collegiate conference to accomplish the fete, winning six titles during his 16-year tenure (1995-10). The others are Ray Smith of Hope (9 titles over 25 seasons from 1970-94); Pete Schmidt of Albion (9 titles over 14 seasons from 1983-96); Frank "Muddy" Waters of Hillsdale (6 titles over 6 seasons from 1954-60); and Royal Campbell of Alma (6 titles over 6 seasons from 1921-35).
Running back Brandon Graham '98 rewrote the MIAA and Hope record books. He rushed for six touchdowns in a single game, set a school, led the MIAA in rushing yardage three consecutive years, and gained nearly 4,400 yards over his career.
The 1984 Flying Dutchmen had a perfect season, the only Hope team to go unbeaten and untied. The 1975 team was also undefeated, but had one tie game.
The Hope-Kalamazoo football series is known as the "Wooden Shoes Rivalry". The teams have been football rivals since 1910. The traveling trophy, a pair of hand-carved Dutch wooden shoes, has been part of the rivalry since 1931. For years the wooden shoes were viewed as unique among intercollegiate trophy games because when a tie occurred the head coach of each team could have one of the pair until the next year's game. That happened six times until the NCAA eliminated the tie game ending in 1996. The teams will be playing for the 91st time in 2011 with Hope holding a 51-33-6 series advantage.
After leading the Flying Dutchmen to an MIAA co-championship in 1951, all-league quarterback Ron Schipper '52 embarked on a remarkable coaching career. Following eight years in the high school ranks, he moved to Central College in Iowa where over the next 36 years he was one of the most successful small college coaches in America, compiling a 287-67-3 record. In 2004 he was presented the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award by the American Football Coaches Association. Mr. Schipper died on March 27, 2006
The teacher-coach model was embodied in Alvin W. Vanderbush. A member of the history faculty from 1946-72, he was Hope's football coach eight of those years. He guided the Flying Dutchmen to Hope's first outright conference championship in 1953 with a roster consisting of just 39 players, including a freshman quarterback. He was the first recipient of the "Hope Outstanding Professor Award" (1965). In 2004, Hope football alumni honored him with a plaque at the American Football Coaches Hall of Fame:"Coach Al Vanderbush refused to let us settle for less than our best. He taught us to play with intensity but never without respect for the rules, for our opponents and for ourselves. In his daily life, he modeled the man of Christian character, discipline, intellect and integrity, as effectively then as it continues in our hearts to this day. We honor him for what he did for us."(Football players of Hope College, 1946-54.) Mr. Vanderbush died on Feb. 20, 2005.
Perhaps the first "domed" stadium was Holland's Riverview Park where the Flying Dutchmen played their football games from 1932 through 1978. Fans on the home side of the field were protected by a covered grandstand that had been moved to the site from the Holland fairgrounds.
Bob Powers '40, who captained the 1939 team, was the first Hope athlete in any sport to be named the MIAA's most valuable.
Joe Schwander became the first Hope quarterback to rush for more than 200 yards in a game when he gained 209 yards on 25 carries in a 38-20 victory over Alma in 2005. He also set a Hope mark for touchdowns scored by a quarterback in a single season with nine in 2005.
The 2006 champion Flying Dutchmen became the first MIAA team to win seven conference games in a season since 1901. The team had an amazing season losing its first three non-conference games and then winning seven in-a-row in the MIAA.
Hope football alumni coached Michigan high school football teams to unprecedented success in 2008. Three Hope alumni were the head coach of teams that captured Michigan state high school championships -- Peter Stuursma '93 who coached East Grand Rapids High School to a third straight Division 3 state championship; Pat Collins '97 who guided Montague High School to the Division 6 state championship in his fifth season as head coach; and Greg Vaughan '99 who led Traverse City St. Francis High School to the Division 7 state championship in his first season as head coach.
A school-record touchdown dash with an intercepted pass put the exclamation point on a comeback 2011 season as the Flying Dutchmen defeated Olivet 27-7. Sophomore Santino DiCesare picked off an Olivet pass at the back of the Hope end zone and returned it all 108 yards for a touchdown. It goes into the record book as a 100-yard interception return and tied the school mark first set by Randy Ames in 1996 against Adrian.
Achieving all-conference football honors in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Asociation (MIAA) has without a doubt become a tradition for one Hope family. In 2012 Joe Droppers became the fifth member of his family to achieve the honor when he was named to the All-MIAA first team. He joined his grandfather Don "Doc" Van Hoeven (1955), his father Kurt (1978), his brother Jacob (2006-07), and his brother Josh (2009-11) as first team all-league players. And all of them have been offensive linemen!
The Peter Stuursma-coached Flying Dutchmen posted the biggest single-season turnaround in team history with a 7-3 overall record during his first season. Hope rushed for a school-record 2,738 yards and passed the old mark of 2,433 by the 1971 team. The Flying Dutch had two 1,000-yard rushers for the first time with Brandan Campbell and Mike Miklusicak.
On November 11, 2017, the Flying Dutchmen rushed for a school-record 564 yards in a season-ending, 70-6 win at Concordia, Wisconsin. It was the second-highest scoring game in team history. Hope finished with a school-record 2,810 rushing yards en route to its first eight-win season since 2000.
Quarterback Mason Opple completed a rare touchdowns trifecta during a 29-24 win at Albion on October 6, 2018. He figured in all four of Hope's touchdowns: two on touchdown passes of 30 and 66 yards, ran in a score from 1 yard out, and caught a 17-yard touchdown pass.