by Travis Normand
While Texas A&M is known as the “Home of the 12th Man,” it appears as if the term “12th Man” (as a reference to a team’s fan base, student section, or alumni) has been used prior to the famous 1922 Dixie Classic.
In a 1912 issue of “The Iowa Alumnus,” E.A. McGowan (captain on the 1905 Iowa team), recalls the 1903 Iowa victory over Illinois. You will notice that he gave credit to the “twelfth man on the team (the loyal spirited Iowa rooter)” for the victory.
The Iowa Alumnus
Volume X, November, 1912, Number 2
THE TWELFTH PLAYER
By EA McGowan, Captain 1905
*Note: I believe S.U.I. stands for State University of Iowa.
Click HERE to see the entire publication.
[The following is a text version of the jpg that is posted above]
The Iowa Alumnus – Volume X, November 1912, Number 2
THE ALUMNI BUREAU OF INFORMATION STATE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA
THE TWELFTH PLAYER
By E. A. McGowan, Captain 1905
When the 1903 football season rolled around, Iowa was confronted with anything but brilliant prospects; there were many holes to fill and the material was more or less green in even the rudiments of the game.
However, the new athletic director, John G. Chalmers of Lafayette, was not the stamp of a man or football teacher to be overcome with adverse conditions; and by heroic efforts he whipped into condition a fairly good team, which continued to get better every game they played. On November 21 the much touted University of Illinois team, which had been sweeping everything before it, came to Iowa Field to eat up the Old Gold.
As the Iowa team ran out on the field on that memorable day and looked at the thousands of valiant rooters waving their streamers and yelling “hold them, Iowa'”, there came a feeling into the hearts of those men who were wearing the Old Gold jerseys, and who were to uphold the honor of their University, that “we must win.”
When the evening dusk began to gather over the field and the whistle had blown for the last down, the game was over with the score, Iowa, 12 ; Illinois. 0.
The eleven men had done their best ; but the twelfth man on the team (the loyal spirited Iowa rooter) had won the game for old S. U. I. And here’s hoping the same happens Nov. 23.
Update: I stumbled upon this post at the Vocabulary.com blog by Ben Zimmer, written/posted February 3, 2014, and titled “‘The Twelfth Man’: A Football Phrase with Disputed Roots.”