College football season is upon us and many will be sitting in the stands or watching the televised play-by-play — a great diversion from the ongoing political battles in this election year. Much has changed in college football since the early days of “mob ball” in the early 19th century. It was not until the 1860s that rules were put into effect to standardize the game, but football remained a college sport. By the turn of the century, college football had expanded from the early Ivy League teams to include schools from coast to coast. Football dynasties came into being and players’ names became as popular as Baseball’s greats.
The Frank Leslie’s Weekly article below provides a look at college football in 1920. Following the First World War, athletes that had been in uniform rejoined their college football teams and the American public needed a diversion from the stress of war, home front shortages, and or an opportunity to enjoy a little leisure time.
The 1920 college football season saw an astounding number of fans sitting in the stands, cheering their team on to victory! College football reached new heights in popularity, partly due to the rise in the number of men and women attending college and partly due to the increase in the number of non-college local fans.
This Frank Leslie’s article illuminates the growing place of football in American popular culture. Faculty, students, and scholars interested in critically considering the role sports play in American culture, will find this article and Frank Leslie’s Weekly, a treasure trove of primary source information.
October 21, 1921 – An airplane snapshot of the Yale “Bowl” taken during a minor football game.
Football’s Call to the Millions
“WHEN more than 3,000,000 persons turn out in a single day to see the game of football played in various places throughout the United States, as they did recently, no argument need be advanced that this sport has attained a popularity which places it in public favor second only to the nation’s pastime, baseball. And if the governing forces of the latter fail to purge it of the crooks who have brought it into disrepute—and I mean the contract-jumpers and contract-breakers, slippery players and tricky managers who succeed in “beating the rules,” as well as the moral defectives who threw games for a price— football will become the premier favorite of America’s sport lovers.
In fact, if the gridiron game could be played in summer, baseball would have opposition which would give it a fearful jolt, and the millions of dollars which now go toward the support of the splendid college game would pass through the ticket windows at the ball parks.
Frank Leslie’s Weekly
, published from 1855 to 1922, was an American illustrated news publication started by publisher and illustrator Frank Leslie. While only 30 copies of the first edition were printed, by 1897 its circulation had grown to an estimated 65,000 copies.