Mizzourah! Football at MU: The Early Years spacerspacerHeader graphic

Note: All images are thumbnails images to larger photographs. Click on an image to see the individual picture in greater detail.

House Bill Seeking to Outlaw Foot Ball, 1897
House Bill Seeking to Outlaw Foot Ball, 1897
(University Archives, UW:1/1/2, Box5, FF2)

Cheer from 1909
Cheer from 1909
(University Archives, C:22/8/11)

Cheer from 1909
Another Cheer from 1909
(University Archives, C:22/8/11)

Mizzourah!

Little did Missourians realize in 1823 that the actions of a schoolboy in England would shape MU athletic history. In that year, an English soccer player picked up the ball, instead of kicking it, and ran with it. This new approach led to the creation of the sport of rugby, which with many changes in rules and plays became American football. Rugby football spread across the globe, but the lack of precise rules and the complexity of the sport discouraged many players. American football continued to be played more-or-less by rugby rules until 1905 when outrage caused by injuries and deaths related to collegiate football brought about an extensive revision of the American version of the game. Thus, American football as we know it was born.

MU's First Football Team - 1890
MU's First Football Team, 1890
(University Archives, C:1/25/6, OSF1 and Ol' Mizzou: A Century of Tiger Football)

MU's Football Team - 1893
MU's Football Team, 1893
(University Archives, C:22/8/1)

"Foot ball" fever stuck the MU campus in the Spring of 1890. Encouraged by an MU Professor, Dr. A. L. McRea, the sophomore class of the "Academic School" (now the College of Arts and Science) formed the University's first football team. This team immediately challenged a team of Engineers and the MU football dynasty began. This first MU football game, played in the slush and mud of April was a far cry from the modern game played today.

Judge John Hinton, President of the Board of Curators from 1889-1891, stated "I favor anything that will improve the students mentally, morally or physically." The Board of Visitors, appointed by Missouri's Governor in 1890, agreed: "A very healthful and hopeful tendency of the age is toward development of the whole man, physical as well as mental. . .", but concluded ". . .Where its varied and beautiful forms of exercise are not offered, the yearnings of nature will be apt to seek gratification in base ball, foot ball, or in other games not in every respect wholly commendable." A stronger critic the Reverend S. F. Taylor, President of Stephens College, later stated "I think that any man who will play football is a fool, and any college President or Professor who encourages such a brutal and degraded sport is encouraging brutality and a spirit of crime. All men are naturally strong . . . [playing football causes] development of a lot of extra muscle that will only be a burden to him in later life . . . I tell you there is not an athlete or gymnast in the United States today who will live to the age of sixty."

MU's Football Team - 1909
MU's Football Team, 1909
(1910 Savitar pg. 124)

Townsfolk Waiting to Hear the Score, 1913
Townsfolk Waiting to Hear the Score, 1913
(University Archives, C:0/3/7)

Press Box, 1913
Press Box, 1913
(University Archives, C:0/3/7)

Yell Leaders, 1913
Yell Leaders, 1913
(University Archives, C:0/3/7)

Next: Page II of Mizzourah! Football at MU

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Published by: University Archives muarchives.missouri.edu/
Originally Prepared: April 1999
Revised: 20 March 2003
URL: http://muarchives.missouri.edu/football1.html

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