Completing the journey

by Travis Normand
September 2, 2017
Updated: September 4, 2017

Today (September 2, 2017) I start the final leg of a journey I started almost 20 years ago. This grand slam, or superfecta, which can no longer be accomplished due to the loss of the Orange Bowl stadium and the non-use of the Cotton Bowl stadium, will be completed tomorrow when I attend the UCLA vs. Texas A&M football game in the original Rose Bowl stadium.

As many of you know, college football has four major bowl games which are traditionally the Sugar, Cotton, Orange, and Rose. Not only are these bowl games, but at one point in time they were all played in stadiums built for that purpose (or in stadiums that were named after the bowl game itself). In other words, the Cotton Bowl game was played in the Cotton Bowl stadium (as was the Orange and Rose Bowl).

The one exception to this rule is the Sugar Bowl game, as that was originally played in Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Sugar Bowl game has never had its own stadium (or otherwise stated, there has never been a stadium that was merely built for the purpose of hosting the Sugar Bowl game; and while Tulane Stadium was referred to as the Sugar Bowl, it was never officially named that).

However, when the sun rises over the San Gabriel Mountains on Monday morning, I will finally be able to say that I have seen A&M play in all three original historic bowl venues, as well as in the Sugar Bowl game.

Now, before you get too much further into what I have written, please take note (if you have not done so already), the distinction between the bowl game and the bowl stadium, as they are entirely two separate things. A perfect example is the Cotton Bowl. As you will read, I have seen the Aggies play in the Cotton Bowl game in the original Cotton Bowl stadium. However, for the purposes of this article, what is most important is having seen them play in the original historic stadium. I make this distinction because, for example, I may someday get a chance to see A&M play in an Orange Bowl game, however it will not be played in the original historic stadium as that is gone forever.

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1908 Missouri State Normal School

by Travis Normand
Originally Published: June 8, 2017
Updated: August 24, 2017

The original photo that I found and began researching.

A couple of years ago I found an old black and white photograph of what appeared to be a college, or maybe high school, football team. While finding an old football photo is nothing special, this photo had my maternal great-grandfather in it (James P. Fitch). I instantly recognized him but I had no idea what team or school the photo was of.

The only identifying information that was ascertainable from the photo itself was the word “Normals ’08,” that someone had written across the bottom of the photo. There was also the coach, who was standing behind his players, wearing a white sweater with a logo that I couldn’t quite make out. The logo appeared to include a “T”, a triangle, and an “S”, although I wasn’t entirely sure. It wasn’t a lot of information to go off of, but with that, I began my search for the source of this photo.

I knew a lot about my great-grandfather but for some reason I didn’t know where he had attended college. I started searching for Normal schools in states where he had lived as a young man. As you can imagine, this didn’t narrow my search very much as there were a lot of Normal schools in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

I also tried searching for the logo, but that didn’t yield any results either. This wasn’t too disappointing as I knew that even if I found the logo, it might not be for the same school that my great-grandfather had attended. After all, it is not like schools during this time period had Nike contracts for their athletic apparel, and the coach’s sweater could have been from another school (or anywhere else for that matter). In other words, there was a very real possibility that the logo had nothing to do with this particular school or team.

I continued searching and put in an inquiry with a college football historical research group that I am a member of, but that turned up very little information. Everywhere I looked, I found another dead-end, and I was having a difficult time figuring out what school this photo was of. After a lot of searching, the only information I had was that my great-grandfather was in the photo, it was a “Normal” school, and the year was 1908. I started to think that I would never figure out what school my great-grandfather had attended. My biggest fear was that the school was a small college, located in the middle of nowhere, that had long since demised without a trace, and thus there was little chance that I would ever learn of its existence.

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Georgia Tech’s 222

Scoreboard from the 1916 Georgia Tech vs. Cumberland football game, Wikipedia.com

by Travis Normand
July 26, 2017

I have written about Georgia Tech’s historic 222-0 drubbing of Cumberland before (here and here), but for some reason I was thinking about it again today. I was wondering how the outcome of that game stacked up against other games and whether or not the outcome was truly an anomaly.

I set out to answer these questions and created this post to share what I found.

1916 Georgia Tech vs. Cumberland, 222-0:  According to Wikipedia.com, the 222-0 Georgia Tech (GT) victory was the most lopsided in the history of college football. However, how much more “lopsided” was this game than others? Well, again, according to Wikipedia.com:

  • Of the current Division I, Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams, only (1) Arizona, (2) Bowling Green, (2) Georgia Tech, (3) Oklahoma, and (4) Tulsa have eclipsed 150 points in a single game.
  • Ignoring games from the early 1900s (and earlier), the Houston Cougars are the only Division I, FBS team to score 100 points against another FBS team in the last 50 years (they did it against Tulsa on November 3, 1968).
  • King College (now King University) in Tennessee scored 206 points against Lenoir in 1922.
  • St. Viator College (Illinois) scored 205 points against Lane Tech in 1916 (the same year as Georgia Tech’s 222 points against Cumberland). In fact, according to an article published in Sports Illustrated, the Georgia Tech vs. Cumberland game received no national publicity. The New York Times reported a new scoring record when St. Viator’s beat Lane Tech 205-0, which happened three weeks after Georgia Tech defeated Cumberland (Georgia Tech had to wait until 1917 before it was recognized as the nation’s top-scoring team). [FN1]
  • Yale defeated Dartmouth 113–0 on October 25, 1884 (in Hanover, New Hampshire). This is the first recorded incident of a team (1) scoring over 100 points in a game, and (2) scoring over 100 points while shutting out the other team. [FN2]
  • Four days after Yale’s defeat of Dartmouth, on October 29, 1884, Princeton outscored Lafayette 140-0. [FN3]
  • Another notable finding is that more often than not, when one team scores 100 points, the other team typically doesn’t score at all. However, in 1916 SMU scored an early field goal in its game against Rice. However, Rice made a “come back” and ended up winning the game 146-3.

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College Football approaches its 150th Birthday

by Travis Normand
June 28, 2017

Yesterday the National Football Foundation released a statement that a group of college football leaders were planning a nationwide celebration to commemorate the game’s 150th anniversary.

IRVING, Texas (June 27, 2017) – College football, one of America’s most beloved and popular institutions, is getting ready to celebrate a big birthday.  And it plans to do so in style.

A group of college football leaders announced plans today to launch a nationwide celebration to commemorate the game’s 150th anniversary.

Click here to read the full statement at FootballFoundation.org.

While I think this is a fun idea, and I enjoy having a solid date that allows fans to commemorate the game of college football as being a specific age, I also recognize that many college football historians dispute the November 6, 1869 start/birth date and have pointed out that it may not be entirely accurate. (I also don’t expect football officials/executives to let historical facts get in their way of having a marketable event which produces interest and money). Regardless, whether or not this is the correct date is technically another discussion, as this commemoration is based upon the premise that college football was “born” on November 6, 1869 when Rutgers defeated the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), 6-4. Further, the commemoration will be celebrated across all divisions of college football during the 2019 season, with a focus on November 6.

For those keeping score, here are some key dates regarding college football’s “age”(assuming you accept November 6, 1869 as the official start date of college football).

  • 2017 College Football Season: College football is 148 years old & 2017 is the 149th season.
  • 2018 College Football Season: College football is 149 years old & 2018 is the 150th season.
  • 2019 College Football Season: College football is 150 years old & 2019 is the 151st season.

 

Texas A&M’s Historical 1976 Trifecta

by Travis Normand
June 13, 2017

A friend of mine (David Walker – who played QB at Texas A&M in the 1970s) is always pointing out interesting stats and facts from the years he played football at Texas A&M. The most recent stat that he brought to my attention is that the 1976 Texas Aggie football team is the only one to: (1) defeat the University of Texas in Austin, (2) win a bowl game, and (3) finish the season ranked in the top-10 (AP No. 7 and UPI No. 8).

Three other Aggie teams have come close to accomplishing this particular trifecta, but fell short due to no fault of their own. Those three teams were the 1939 (National Champions), the 1985 SWC Champions, and the 1987 SWC Champions. Each of these three teams (1) defeated the University of Texas at Kyle Field, (2) won their bowl game, and (3) finished the season ranked in the top-10. The only difference being that these three teams played the Longhorns at Kyle Field as opposed to playing them in Austin.

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Texas A&M is 4-0 versus John Heisman

Portrait of John Heisman in his mid-fifties at Rice University (1925)

by Travis Normand
June 5, 2017

An interesting footnote in the history of Texas A&M football is that Texas A&M is 4-0 against legendary coach John Heisman. Heisman coached at several different schools throughout his career including stops at Auburn, Clemson, and Georgia Tech. However, Heisman’s last football coaching job was in Houston, Texas at what is known today as Rice University.

Heisman became Rice’s first full-time football coach and coached at Rice for four seasons (1924, 1925, 1926, and 1927). His four-year record at Rice was 14-18-3 overall and 4-11-1 against the Southwest Conference (SWC).

While Heisman did not have a lot of success at Rice, the only team that he faced at least four times and was unable to defeat during his tenure at Rice was Texas A&M. However, to be fair, A&M’s football squads were pretty good during this four-year span and won the SWC Championship in 1925 and 1927 (Heisman’s second and fourth seasons at Rice). A&M was also led by coach Dana X. Bible.

Here is a quick review of the four match-ups between A&M and Rice during Heisman’s four years at Rice:

  • 1924: Aggies defeated Rice 13-6 on November 14th* in College Station, Texas;
  • 1925: Aggies defeated Rice 17-0 on November 14th in Houston, Texas;
  • 1926: Aggies defeated Rice 20-0 on November 12th in College Station, Texas; and
  • 1927: Aggies defeated Rice 14-0 on November 11th in Houston, Texas.

A&M prevented Rice from scoring in three of the four games that featured Heisman as Rice’s head coach. In 1924, the one game where Heisman’s team was able to score any points against Texas A&M was one in which Rice entered the contest 2-0 in SWC play (only to finish 2-2).

During his four seasons at Rice, Heisman’s Owls were not able to beat a single SWC Champion (1924-Baylor, 1925-Texas A&M, 1926-SMU, and 1927-Texas A&M). Besides Texas A&M, the only other teams that Rice played at least once during each of these four seasons (or at least four times) were Sam Houston State, Southwestern, Texas University, and Baylor. Of these four other teams, none of them were able to sweep John Heisman and his Rice Owls four consecutive times.

Heisman left Rice after the 1927 season and later became the director of the Downtown Athletic Club in New York, which named its annual college football award after him.

Note: 

* The date listed in the 2006 Rice Owl’s Football Media Guide for the 1924 game versus Texas A&M is Saturday, November 15th (see page 167); however, the official Texas A&M football website (12thMan.com) and the 1925 Long Horn yearbook (Texas A&M) lists the date of the game as having been played on November 14th (see page 214).

 

 

Chicago vs. Michigan Rivalry

by Travis Normand
May 15, 2017

I recently stumbled upon an amazing Wikipedia page that is dedicated to the history of the football rivalry between the University of Chicago (Maroons) and the University of Michigan (Wolverines). If you enjoy the history of college football, I would highly recommend this abbreviated historical overview. You can visit the page by clicking HERE.

In the early 1900s, the rivalry between Chicago and Michigan was fierce and included legendary coaches Amos Alonzo Stagg and Fielding H. Yost. The rivalry was so important that Michigan’s 1898 victory over Chicago served as the spark for Michigan’s fight song (this victory inspired Michigan student Louis Elbel to write “The Victors“).

However, the 1905 game, and the tragic events that followed, remind me of the quote by UCLA’s head football coach, Henry Russell Sanders, who said “[I]t’s not a matter of life and death, it’s more important than that!”

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