A recollection of the birth of Colorado football

Found this on Wikipedia:

At the beginning of the first semester in the fall of ’90 the boys rooming at the dormitory on the campus of the U. of C. being afflicted with a super-abundance of penned up energy, or perhaps having recently drifted from under the parental wing and delighting in their newly found freedom, decided among other wild schemes, to form an athletic association. Messrs Carney, Whittaker, Layton and others, who at that time constituted a majority of the male population of the University, called a meeting of the campus boys in the old medical building. Nixon was elected president and Holden secretary of the association.

It was voted that the officers constitute a committee to provide uniform suits in which to play what was called “association football”. Suits of flannel were ultimately procured and paid for assessments on the members of the association and generous contributions from members of the faculty.

The University at that time had about the best base-ball team in the state composed of such star players as Ingram, Blake, Carnahan, Rust, Neighoff and others. But it was a reflection upon us that although it was styled the University base-ball team, it was composed mainly of outsiders, who had no connection with the U. of C.

It was the object of the newly organized association to ultimately absorb the base-ball team, even if it was mercilessly whipped in that, as it was afterwards scourged in football.

Whatever may have been said of their playing, the boys were made of that stuff called “American Grit,” and had no conception of what the word failure meant. To them defeat was simply a severe lesson which was to teach them how to win in the future.

Taking up the game of association football the boys practiced quite regularly and under the instruction of Hosford, who was an Englishman of extraordinary proficiency in the game, they soon became adepts in the art of running at full speed and keeping the ball almost fairly between the feet. I called this an art, as I consider excellence in any athletic sport an art. The graceful swing of a trained foot-runner is as fair a sight as the rhythmic waltzer, or as creditable a performance as that of an opera singer. After becoming proficient in this game we learned that all other football teams of the state played what was called the Rugby game, and as we could not attain state or national renown playing among ourselves, it became a question whether we would make a change or not. Only two in the association had ever seen a Rugby game and it was reported as fiendish beyond comprehension. The rush of a Rugby team was likened to the stampede of a herd of Texas cattle: nevertheless the boys decided to throw themselves in front and die a la Leon idas, and succeeding events showed that they had not over estimated the opposition.

The association had two factions—no live organization is ever harmonious—and the lesser faction always opposed the propositions of the majority. In this instance they had secured the individual promises of the eleven of the twenty four members to oppose a change of the game, and as it required the assent of two-thirds to accomplish this the remaining members decided to adopt the tactics of wearing out their opponents in the meeting. The session lasted one entire afternoon until darkness came upon them, during which, bursts of orator, pro and con, and imminent danger of pugilistic strife pervaded the atmosphere. The vote stood 16–8 in favor of a change and the University football team was launched on a broader basis. This vote was followed by our throwing the association open for membership to the whole student body, (and a limited number of outsiders, if we should need them), but time showed that the vim and snap of the college man was not possessed by those outside.

Holden was sent as our representative to a meeting of the state league and bound us for the forthcoming games with only two weeks of preparation, learning the game almost entirely from the rule book, nine of the eleven having never seen a Rugby game clad in the flannel suits without padding, the average weight of the team being about 140 pounds, we went to Denver and lined up against the D.A.C. team, composed of graduate college players. It was also their first game, they having just organized, and they way they ran out ends was astonishing, but in this game our team developed a characteristic which it has even since maintained, which was this, that although our line was much lighter then that of our opponents, they would be carried steadily back whenever they attempted a line play against us.

One week later, with four of our best men too maimed and bruised to play, the Golden giants came down on us. Our boys went down like a row of pins and the Goldenites went over the top. Score 103 to 0. In the return game with Golden, Darley made our first touchdown: score 44–4, and Golden prophesied our future success. We lost one game with Colorado Springs and the Springs and the D.A.C. team which forfeited, giving us third place in the percentage list. We paraded that percentage list before our eyes with unbounded satisfaction. It mattered not how we came by it, we had it.

President Hale, who from the first took a kindly interest in the team, also did other members of the faculty, advanced the money with which to buy padded suits, but we did not obtain them in time to use that season. The following year the team commenced training as soon as the semester opened, and has since taken its true position as one of the most formidable teams in the west. Of the original team, James, Carney, Layton, Putnam and others, became among the best players in the state.

The Athletic Association should now invigorate its base-ball and place it at par with its football team; and it certainly has the material with which to do it. The U of C should henceforth lead the state and possibly the west in athletic sports.

The style of football playing has altered considerably; by the old rules, all men in front of the runner with the ball, were offside, consequently we could not send backs through and break the line ahead of the ball as is done at present. The notorious V was then in vogue, which gave a heavy team too much advantage. The mass plays being now barred, skill on the football field is more in demand than mere weight and strength.

To the physically weak, football appears like a relic of barbarism at par with the Spanish bull fight, but, considering the course of training that the player must take, he becomes hardened and inured to danger, in serious causalities become few. The player develops physical strength and mental composure in the face of fierce and determined opposition, which enables him to better battle with the competition and business worries succeeding school life, of which the average student knows nothing and with which he usually buffets helplessly for years. A successful football team will advertise a University and attract as many male students as its educational facilities. This is avowedly admitted by Yale and Princeton authorities, hence the game should be encouraged by college faculties. It is not to the discredit of the American youth that he is thus attracted. It is indicative that he possesses hardihood and vigor and will not sink into lassitude and degeneracy which characterize the population of a degenerate nation.

It is often said, how little we know: so with a modest sense of humility, college graduate I after years look back, not to the mountain of learning that he or she surmounted, but the incidents in college life that bind them to so many friends, intellectual ennobling friends. Thoughts of those exercises in sports, fraught with just a little danger, will continue to the end as a refreshing fountain inspiring new life.


-John C. Nixon, one of the founders of CU football, December 16, 1898


They had this thing figured out in 1898, not sure why Benson, DiStefano, and parts of the faculty don't seem to understand it.

All comments, FanPosts, and FanShots are the views of the reader-authors who create them.

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join The Ralphie Report

You must be a member of The Ralphie Report to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at The Ralphie Report. You should read them.

Join The Ralphie Report

You must be a member of The Ralphie Report to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at The Ralphie Report. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.