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Life on the Quads
A Centennial View of
the Student Experience at the
University of Chicago
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Booster postcard

Chicago booster postcard, by F. Earl Christy, ca. 1908.

 

 

 

Reserved seat ticket

Reserved seat ticket, 1899.

Physical Culture and Athletics

Football
0n the afternoon of October 1, 1892, fourteen students and their coach, a young faculty member named Amos Alonzo Stagg, gathered in Washington Park to organize a football team. At the time the players were concerned with learning enough about the game from Stagg to play Hyde Park High School the next week. None of the athletes could have imagined how soon the University of Chicago football team would become a national power, or how much passion the team would instill among students and future alumni.

At times President Harper was skeptical about the place of athletics in higher education, but as long as the University had a football team Harper typically aspired for it to be the best. He told Stagg, "I want you to develop teams which we can send around the country and knock out all the colleges." The Maroons began by beating Hyde Park High School 12-0 and later tying Northwestern 0-0 in their first official contest. After this encouraging start the team finished the season with just one intercollegiate victory against Illinois, and at times was so short of players that Stagg himself suited up. In a matter of a few years, however, the University of Chicago became a respected and even feared opponent. In 1898 it produced its first All-American, Clarence Herschberger (AB 1898) and the next year the team became conference co-champions.

Heated rivalries were formed in the first decade, especially with the perennially powerful Michigan Wolverines, who beat Chicago in nine of their first thirteen Thanksgiving Day contests. But none of the previous Michigan-Chicago games was more dramatic than the 1905 clash at Stagg Field. The Maroons entered the game undefeated and untied, but still needed a victory over Michigan to secure the Western Conference championship. The previous week Stagg's men had trounced Illinois 44-0 to run the total season score to 243-5 (Indiana managed to score in the fifth game). Meanwhile, Michigan had not lost a game since their 15-6 defeat to Chicago in November 1900. In those five years, the Wolverines had outscored their foes by a combined 2,746 to 40. To no one's surprise the 1905 Chicago-Michigan game was a scoreless tie until the fourth quarter when Michigan's Dan Clark was tackled in the end zone while trying to return a punt by All-American Walter Eckersall. The safety gave the University of Chicago a 2-0 victory and the conference title.


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