Even though we were trained from birth to believe otherwise, college football does not need to happen in the fall. This is good news, because we now know there are different possibilities that the 2020 college football season will finish well until 2021. It might not even begin until then.
If a coronavirus pandemic demands that much, some of the biggest competition in the game will return to its roots. From the Iron Bowl to Michigan-Notre Dame, from Auburn-Georgia to the Big Game, their origins lie in winter and spring. Other leading schools, such as USC, Ohio State, Nebraska and Texas, also play 19th-century games in the first half of the calendar as well.
The earliest known campus game to be played at the beginning of the year took place in May 1874. College football developed along two lines of rules. Most schools prefer soccer games. Harvard, however, plays a game more similar to rugby. It took several years for Harvard to find another school that would agree to play according to the rules. In the winter of 1874, the rugby team at McGill University in Montreal offered to go down to Harvard to play one rugby match and one soccer match.
Harvard defeated McGill in football, 3-0, on Thursday, May 14. They played a goalless draw in rugby the following day.
Playing games to teach sports is the norm, most famous in small Catholic schools in northern Indiana. In November 1887, students at Notre Dame invited a team from Michigan, where they had played for almost a decade, to come west to give instructions to Ireland about how football worked, and then to play the game too. Michigan’s visit, including the 8-0 victory, went so well that soon the schools agreed to play again.
Michigan returned to South Bend at the first opportunity. Unfortunately, it won’t be for six months (April 1888), after one of the harshest winters in memory, according to “Natural Enemies,” the history of John Kryk’s competition. Michigan won both matches, 26-6 and 10-4, although as Kryk pointed out, both sides grumbled. Michigan didn’t allow a single point in the previous eight games, which began in 1884, so Michigan fans didn’t like that South Bend rookies on the boards in both matches. Notre Dame players and fans believe that Michigan scored in the second match by starting the game before Notre Dame was ready.
Yes, leading a dispute is almost as old as the game itself too.
The reason that other competition starts will resonate with anyone who is familiar with what drives modern football. The desire to defeat your neighbors long before Walter Camp registered at Yale. From the early days of campus soccer, schools scrambled for competitive advantage.
Take what we now know as the Big Game. In the fall of 1891, California, which has been playing football since 1883 – usually in the spring – challenged the new university across the San Francisco Bay in Palo Alto for a match. Stanford played the clock, pausing for three months while the team trained under the supervision of student organization president John Whittemore, who played at the University of Washington at St. Louis. The team agreed to play on March 19, 1892, when the Cardinal surprised the more experienced Bears with three first-half touchdowns (four points at the time), then held on to win 14-10.
There is also scheduling to attract crowds. Auburn and Georgia play their first match on Saturday, February 20, 1892, as part of a three-day weekend celebration around a new national holiday. Congress has made George Washington’s birthday – February 22 – a national holiday just seven years earlier.
Professor Auburn, George Petrie and Georgian professor Charles Herty, have discovered football while working on their doctorate at Johns Hopkins. When they returned to their respective campuses in 1891, they brought football. Petrie contacted Herty about the game between the two schools. They decided to play at Piedmont Park in Atlanta on Saturday, February 20, 1892, as part of Washington’s birthday celebration the following Monday.
“That’s headlines, not just sports,” in the Atlanta newspaper, former Bulldog coach and athletics director Vince Dooley said in the documentary.Saturday in the South“Georgia brought her mascot, a goat named Sir William, who was on the sidelines for the team’s first match three weeks earlier, a 50-0 victory over Mercer. Sir William, the Atlanta Journal reported, wearing a black coat decorated with” UG “in red. Georgia lost to Auburn, 10-0, and loyal followers of Sir William rebelled. “Alumni and fans are very disappointed,” said Dooley, “that they are roasting goats.”
“That was the first tailgate in Georgia,” he said.
A year after Auburn played Georgia, the school became known as the Agriculture and Mechanics College of Alabama playing the University of Alabama on Washington’s actual birthday, Wednesday, February 22. On the same day, Wyoming played its first game, defeating Cheyenne High 14-0. The competition that came to be known as the Iron Bowl, one of which was once referred to by Beano Cook as “Middle Eastern campus soccer,” lasted longer than Wyoming-Cheyenne High . That one began to diminish in 1914.
Attaching a game to a vacation has several reasons or reasons. Many other winter or spring games don’t. USC, for example, played four games in January or February from 1888 to 1893.
“Games were played in those years almost on an ad hoc basis,” USC football historian Michael Glenn said in an email. “There is no concept of season.” In those early days, Glenn said, “USC plays soccer only when there is enough interest to bring down the team.”
North Carolina, Wake Forest and Duke (then known as Trinity) played a round-robin in March 1889. This is one of the earliest examples of creating instant competition: Wake won both matches with the coach, W.C. Riddick, who has graduated from Chapel Hill.
Texas fielded their first team in the fall of 1893 and enjoyed team games from Dallas and San Antonio so much that they scheduled a rematch in February the following year. Texas won all four, won the last two by a margin greater than the first two. No wonder Longhorns fans set the bar so high.
It will not be long before college football becomes as identified with the fall as a fall of the leaf. More than a century later, we are waiting to see whether the 2020 regular season will be remembered because of the fall of snow, or, heaven is helping us, pollen. Wherever the season lands on the calendar, there is some comfort in knowing college football has been around before.
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