Monday, September 19, 2011

When Linfield banned football



The Linfield Athletics online football record book year-by-year scores includes the fact (see quotes in parens below) that between 1906 and 1921, McMinnville College did not play football by direction of the college’s board of trustees. In 1922, at the same time the college was renamed Linfield, the trustees resumed the sport.

“(Football suspended by the Board of Trustees in the summer of 1906. No football that year or until it was resumed in 1922.)”


A story in the April 25, 2008, Linfield Review student newspaper by Jordan Jacobo, provides interesting information about the time when football was banned by the college.

During the time football was banned it was a “very different sport, Dave Hansen, then Linfield dean of students told the Review. “It was very rough and tumble, and they didn’t have the same level of protective gear. I think even President Theodore Roosevelt had some misgivings about whether it should be a proper sport.”

The article includes:

According to the 1922 edition of the Oak Leaves, student yearbook, “After 16 years, football will again be played at Linfield. Sixteen years ago, the roughness of the game and the death of one student here coming as a direct result of football, caused the administration to put a ban on the game until such time as the rules had changed sufficiently to warrant the reinstatement of the sport.”

That year, the board of trustees and McMinnville College President Leonard Riley decided to approve two intercollegiate football games to be played in the fall of 1922.

There is no other mention of the death that had brought the college’s football program to a halt.

“It would be hard to envision Linfield without football today,” Athletic Director Scott Carnahan said. “When you put an athletic team on display, it represents the institution; it’s a valuable part of our recruiting process.”

“In Bricks Without Straw,” an early history of the college written in 1938 by former professor Jonas A. Jonasson, he said football was “the most popular of all college sports.”

Jonasson describes how football was banned at Linfield: “The president of the college did not share this enthusiasm. On the contrary, he felt that the game as played in America tended to develop rowdyism and brutality, besides exposing players to the danger of permanent physical injury.”

On March 27, 1906, the board agreed to prohibit football indefinitely.

For the next 16 years, students frequently pleaded for the reversal of the decision; however, in 1915 Riley went as far as recommending to the Association of Independent Colleges of Oregon that all intercollegiate football programs be abolished.

In the spring of 1921, a group of athletic directors and student representatives petitioned the McMinnville College Board of Trustees for a reversal of the ban, according to Jonasson, asking for a broader athletic program.

In “Linfield’s Hundred Years,” written by former history professor Kenneth L. Holmes, the student activism is shown to have paid off.

Riley announced a special afternoon chapel on Jan. 10, 1922.

“(The students) felt sure what the surprise was going to be,” Holmes wrote. “They were right; football was again to be a college sport.”

But Riley’s second announcement eclipsed the enthusiasm of the 16-year football ban reversal. He told the students of Frances Ross Linfield’s decision to leave the college her properties in Spokane, Wash., estimated to be worth $250,000.

Riley said in honor of her gift, McMinnville College was to be renamed Linfield College.

Thus, Linfield and its football program were born together, re-created on the same afternoon.

The 1923 Oak Leaves reflects on the first season of football after its reinstatement: “The turn-out was large but most of the men had very little experience. But what was lacking in experience was made up with fighting grit, stick-to-it-iveness and the indomitable Linfield spirit.”
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Below is info (a
book review in the Aug. 14, 2011 New York Times) which provides a tenor of the time/1906, when Linfield suspended football

“The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football,” John J. Miller’s informative account of Roosevelt’s impact on the sport’s early years, readers are taken back to 1876 and a contest between Harvard and Yale. It was the first game Roosevelt, then an 18-year-old Harvard freshman, ever attended, and it propelled him into a lifelong love of the sport. Its physical dangers, he thought, helped build character. See info here.

The Times article includes Roosevelt taking center stage in the fall of 1905, when he convened a White House summit with football’s leading coaches and thinkers; even Elihu Root, the secretary of state, attended. Miller argues that this was the moment when Roosevelt put his stamp on the sport by imploring the men to crack down on dirty play and reform the way the game was coached. With Roosevelt’s encouragement, Miller says, a series of rules changes was set in motion — among them, increasing the number of referees and strengthening penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct — that ultimately quieted the critics enough to allow the colleges to play on...

Roosevelt is pictured with this article.


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The American Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee met at the Murray Hill Hotel in New York City beginning January 12, 1906, to create measures “for squelching brutality and all forms of unnecessary roughness.”[3] Numerous changes were made, the primary one being the legalization of the forward pass.

Source: Wikipedia 


109 years ago, some universities banned football, and its very survival at the college level nationally was in jeopardy. In the fall of 1905, there were reports of at least 18 deaths from football games at the college, high school and sandlot levels. Even President Theodore Roosevelt’s oldest son, Ted Jr., was injured that fall playing for Harvard’s freshman squad. At the time, there was none of the protective equipment used by players today, and penalties for brutality were hardly, if ever, enforced. Mr. Roosevelt convened a White House meeting on football. The college presidents in attendance agreed to changes to improve safety after he told them, “I demand that football change its rules or be abolished.” The meeting helped lead to the precursor of the N.C.A.A. the next year and essentially saved what is now the country’s most popular sport.

Source: New York Times' Daily Briefing on Nov.  28, 2014