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Dan Curtis and Babe Barton are two college football heroes at the end of their college career. Although Babe is unable to complete his last game because of a knee injury, Dan helps the team win. Dan has worked his way up in life from a poverty-stricken childhood, and is obsessed with winning. Coach Pop Stewart advises him that he must learn how to lose, because sometimes, winning can cost too much. Dan gets a coaching job at a small university where he intends to whip the team into shape so they will win a game against the more prestigious L & M University team. He hopes in this way to be considered for L & M's coaching position. His dream comes true when Jerome Gehring, who financed the L & M Stadium, offers Dan the position if he can create a winning team. With Jerome's approval, but without the knowledge of college president Baker, Dan has Babe recruit young football players across the country and pay their tuition. Babe coaches the freshman for the first year, then when they are ready for varsity competition, Dan takes over. Jerome's son Paul is an avid fan of Dan's, but his daughter Mary dislikes Dan because he has a "swelled head." Even though Dan's friend Tom Hussey, who is courting Mary, helped him get his job, Dan tries to work his way into Mary's heart. Eventually, Tom hears of Dan's unorthodox method of "buying" his college team, and tells Dan he disapproves of that and of his budding relationship with Mary, and that he expects Dan to take a fall sometime soon. At a game that decides whether Dan's team will go into the national championships, he sends in Gus, a player with an injured knee, after shooting the knee with novocaine to deaden the pain. Gus becomes injured so badly that he will never be able to play again, and is rushed away in an ambulance. At the same game, Paul hits his head and suffers a concussion. The doctor advises Dan that Paul has a concussion, and that if he plays again within one year and hits his head, the injury could be fatal. Both Mary and Babe lose faith in Dan due to his negligence in sending Gus into the game, although Mary is unaware of Paul's condition. Because they won the important game, Dan's team goes to Pasadena, California for the New Year's Day National Tournament of Roses game, in which his team will be playing against Pop Stewart's team. Dan has kept Paul, their star player, out of every game to date, although he has not told Paul himself of his condition. Babe does not trust Paul's judgement any longer, however, and advises Pop of Paul's condition. Pop agrees to have his team go easy on Paul if he is put into the game. Dan holds back on sending Paul in, and Mary who is present at the game, believes Dan is punishing her for renouncing him by holding Paul back. Tom sends Dan a note apprising him of Mary's state of mind, and admitting that he is relinquishing Mary as it is clear she is in love with Dan. Even though his team is losing, Dan decides not to risk Paul's life to win and sends him to the locker room. His team loses, but Dan has learned his lesson and regained his friends' trust. After Babe tells Mary the real reason Dan kept Paul out of the game, Mary's faith in Dan is reaffirmed and they reunite.