College Football: History, Spectacle, Controversy / Edition 1

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Overview

"In March [1892] Stanford and California had played the first college football game on the Pacific Coast in San Francisco... The pregame activities included a noisy parade down streets bedecked with school colors. Tickets sold so fast that the Stanford student manager, future president Herbert Hoover, and his California counterpart, could not keep count of the gold and silver coins. When they finally totaled up the proceeds, they found that the revenues amounted to $30,000—a fair haul for a game that had to be temporarily postponed because no one had thought to bring a ball!"—from College Football: History, Spectacle, Controversy, Chapter Three

In this comprehensive history of America's popular pastime, John Sayle Watterson shows how college football in more than one hundred years has evolved from a simple game played by college students into a lucrative, semiprofessional enterprise. With a historian's grasp of the context and a novelist's eye for the telling detail, Watterson presents a compelling portrait rich in anecdotes, colorful personalities, and troubling patterns.

He tells how the infamous Yale-Princeton "fiasco" of 1881, in which Yale forced a 0-0 tie in a championship game by retaining possession of the ball for the entire game, eventually led to the first-down rule that would begin to transform Americanized rugby into American football. He describes the kicks and punches, gouged eyes, broken collarbones, and flagrant rule violations that nearly led to the sport's demise (including such excesses as a Yale player who wore a uniform soaked in blood from a slaughterhouse). And he explains the reforms of 1910, which gave official approval to a radical new tactic traditionalists were sure would doom the game as they knew it—the forward pass.

As college football grew in the booming economy of the 1920s, Watterson explains, the flow of cash added fuel to an already explosive mix. Coaches like Knute Rockne became celebrities in their own right, with highly paid speaking engagements and product endorsements. At the same time, the emergence of the first professional teams led to inevitable scandals involving recruitment and subsidies for student-athletes. Revelations of illicit aid to athletes in the 1930s led to failed attempts at reform by the fledgling NCAA in the postwar "Sanity Code," intended to control abuses by permitting limited subsidies to college players but which actually paved the way for the "free ride" many players receive today.

Watterson also explains how the growth of TV revenue led to college football programs' unprecedented prosperity, just as the rise of professional football seemed to relegate college teams to "minor league" status. He explores issues of gender and race, from the shocked reactions of spectators to the first female cheerleaders in the 1930s to their successful exploitation by Roone Arledge three decades later. He describes the role of African-American players, from the days when Southern schools demanded all-white teams (and Northern schools meekly complied); through the black armbands and protests of the 60s; to one of the game's few successful, if limited, reforms, as black athletes dominate the playing field while often being shortchanged in the classroom.

Today, Watterson observes, colleges' insatiable hunger for revenues has led to an abuse-filled game nearly indistinguishable from the professional model of the NFL. After examining the standard solutions for reform, he offers proposals of his own, including greater involvement by faculty, trustees, and college presidents. Ultimately, however, Watterson concludes that the history of college football is one in which the rules of the game have changed, but those of human nature have not.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

This is an excellent book for serious scholars of both football and general sports history.

Booklist

Carefully researched and thoroughly documented... This is a thoughtful, intellectually challenging historical examination of college football that places today's headlines in the context of a century of controversy.

Christian Science Monitor
Sweeping and definitive history... [Watterson's] overall analysis of college football and its place in American culture is superb.

— Lane Hartill

Chronicle of Higher Education
Working with an impressive assortment of historical materials and documents, Watterson documents how, over the years, reformers have made the game less hazardous for players and more exciting for spectators.

— Allen L. Sack

Columbus Dispatch
Scholarly and fair.

— Michael Curtin

Choice

This is an excellent book for serious scholars of both football and general sports history.

Journal of Illinois History
A thick, deeply argued book, full of passion, anecdote, and a well-reasoned, if protracted, argument.

— Steven P. Gietschier

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
This book is an important contribution to sports history, and to a better understanding of the place of organized athletics in American culture.

— Timothy Wood

Georgia Historical Quarterly
College Football is the best single volume for someone who wants to understand how the game evolved and how larger political, social, and economic forces affected its development.

— John M. Carroll

Christian Science Monitor - Lane Hartill

Sweeping and definitive history... [Watterson's] overall analysis of college football and its place in American culture is superb.

Chronicle of Higher Education - Allen L. Sack

Working with an impressive assortment of historical materials and documents, Watterson documents how, over the years, reformers have made the game less hazardous for players and more exciting for spectators.

Columbus Dispatch - Michael Curtin

Scholarly and fair.

Journal of Illinois History - Steven P. Gietschier

A thick, deeply argued book, full of passion, anecdote, and a well-reasoned, if protracted, argument.

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography - Timothy Wood

This book is an important contribution to sports history, and to a better understanding of the place of organized athletics in American culture.

Georgia Historical Quarterly - John M. Carroll

College Football is the best single volume for someone who wants to understand how the game evolved and how larger political, social, and economic forces affected its development.

Library Journal
Since its rude beginnings in 1875, college football has become a vivid icon linking students, alumni, and the general public. Watterson (Thomas Burke, Restless Revolutionary ) painstakingly details the development from an overly rough, rugby-like battle to the highly organized, semi-professional game of today. (A disastrous 0-0 Yale-Princeton championship game in 1881 resulted in the first-down rule.) In the sport's early years, Harvard president Charles Eliot wanted it banned, but it was defended by Princeton's Woodrow Wilson. From the 1920s on, well-paid celebrity coaches like Knute Rockne made football big business. The years after World War II brought real integration, professional football's impact, TV, and more scandals. This frank account is a good fit for most academic and large public libraries.--Morey Berger, St. Joseph's Hosp. Lib., Tucson, AZ Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Booknews
Exploring a century of the pastime, Watterson (James Madison U.) describes how college football evolved from a simple game played by college students into the lucrative, semiprofessional enterprise it has become. The gradual differentiation of Americanized rugby into a new game, the influx of money and fame, the rise of professional football, and the emergence of television are among his landmarks. Another surprise is that Paul Robeson was a football star at Rutgers before his career in entertainment. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
Watterson (History/James Madison Univ.) provides a broad overview of the rise, demise, and rise again of college football over the past century. A history of college football, of course, is a history of the game itself, and the author takes us from its origins in English Rugby to the massive, televisionfed industry that it is today—offering a narrative account of its development and statistics on everything from casualties on the field to attendance at games. Although Watterson mentions key personalities here and there, his main focus is on the large trends that have shaped the sport (in chapters such as "Football's Longest Season: The Fall of 1905" and "The Professional Paradigm, 1956 to 1974"). His coverage of the facts—the scandals, the commissions, committees, and conferences—is not likely to be surpassed, either in depth of detail or sharpness of analysis. And it is when the sport is in the most disarray that the author makes it seem the most interesting—with his coverage of such scandals as "illicit aid" (which provided underthetable pay to players in the 1930s) and league segregation (which led to protests by AfricanAmerican players in the 1960s).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801871146
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2002
  • Edition description: 20
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 1,292,603
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.29 (d)

Meet the Author

John Sayle Watterson is the author of Thomas Burke: Restless Revolutionary and The Games Presidents Play: Sports and the Presidency.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents


Preface
Introduction
Part One: Injuries
Chapter 1: The Origins of Big-Time Football, 1876 to 1894
Chapter 2: The First Football Controversy, 1893 to 1897
Chapter 3: Spreading Scandal: Football in the 1890s
Chapter 4: Football's Longest Season: The Fall of 1905
Chapter 5: Football in Crisis, 1905 to 1906
Chapter 7: The Invention of Modern Football, 1910 to 1917
Part Two: Subsidies
Chapter 8: Playing and Coaching for Pay in the 1920s
Chapter 9: The Growth of Subsidized Football, 1920 to 1929
Chapter 10: Overcoming Hard Times: Gridiron Strategies in the 1930s
Chapter 11: Saints and Sinners, 1941 to 1950
Chapter 12: Crisis and Reform, 1951 to 1952
Chapter 13: De-emphasis or Demise: Gridiron Decisions of the 1950s
Part Three: Half-Truths & Halting Reforms
Chapter 14: The Flight from Disorder: Big-Time Football in Postwar America
Chapter 15: The Professional Paradigm, 1956 to 1974
Chapter 16: The Accidental Reform: African Americans at Predominantly White Schools
Chapter 17: The Revolt of the Pigskin Elect, 1975 to 1984
Chapter 18: Sudden Death at SMU: Football Scandals in the 1980s
Epilogue: "The Great God Football"
Appendix 1: Casualties in College Football
Appendix 2: Subsidies
Appendix 3: Attendance at College Football Games and the Influence of Television Coverage
Notes
Bibliographical Essay
Index
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