Cover image for College football : history, spectacle, controversy
College football : history, spectacle, controversy
Watterson, John Sayle.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xiv, 456 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV950 .W28 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In this 100-year history of America's popular pastime, John Sayle Watterson shows how college football evolved from a simple game played by college students into the lucrative, semi-professional enterprise it has become today. He covers the infamous Yale-Princeton fiasco of 1881, the reforms of 1910, how college football grew in the booming economy of the 1920s, and the revelations of illicit aid to athletes in the 1930s. He also explains how the growth of TV revenue led to college football programmes' unprecedented prosperity. 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.

Author Notes

John Sayle Watterson is an assistant professor at James Madison University.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In this carefully researched and thoroughly documented examination of college football, Watterson, an assistant professor at James Madison University, resurrects long-forgotten scandals and controversies that are amazingly similar to today's headlines. Current debates over "spearing"--using the head as a weapon--resemble outrage over the "flying wedge" in the game's early days. Overzealous recruiters in the twenties would entice young prep school phenoms to leave school a year early to enter a university and play football. Sound familiar? As Watterson meanders through a century of college-football history, readers will realize that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Through the years, ineffectual attempts have been made to reform the sport, but to no avail. In that spirit, Watterson offers his own solutions, but they are too radical to ever be implemented. This is a thoughful, intellectually challenging historical examination of college football that places today's headlines in the context of a century of controversy. --Wes Lukowsky

Library Journal Review

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.DMorey Berger, St. Joseph's Hosp. Lib., Tucson, AZ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This book provides an overview of the history and detailed stories about the spectacles and controversies that have surrounded and still are part of intercollegiate football, the most popular sport on most college campuses. Watterson (James Madison Univ.) begins the narrative in 1876, describing the rivalry of Harvard and Yale as football soon came to dominate campus life in a detrimental fashion, as critics stated to academics. Watterson presents facts about the formation of the NCAA and well-known athletic conferences. Most were organized to save college football instead of the alternative notion, which was to abolish the sport from athletic programs. An abundance of deaths and injuries contributed to the changing of rules, notably the legalization of the forward pass, which "opened up" the game and reduced physical contact. Using many examples, Watterson shows how the game changed from one requiring only a small investment, to the multimillion-dollar sport of today. Fifty-two pages of appendixes and notes complement the text. This is an excellent book for serious scholars of both football and general sports history. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and researchers. J. Davenport emerita, Auburn University

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Introductionp. 1
Part 1 Injuries
1. The Origins of Big-Time Football, 1876 to 1894p. 9
2. The First Football Controversy, 1893 to 1897p. 26
3. Spreading Scandal: Football in the 1890sp. 39
4. Football's Longest Season: The Fall of 1905p. 64
5. Football in Crisis, 1905 to 1906p. 80
6. The Game in Flux, 1906 to 1909p. 99
7. The Invention of Modern Football, 1910 to 1917p. 120
Part 2 Subsidies
8. Playing and Coaching for Pay in the 1920sp. 143
9. The Growth of Subsidized Football, 1920 to 1929p. 158
10. Overcoming Hard Times: Gridiron Strategies in the 1930sp. 177
11. Saints and Sinners, 1941 to 1950p. 201
12. Crisis and Reform, 1951 to 1952p. 219
13. De-emphasis or Demise: Gridiron Decisions of the 1950sp. 241
Part 3 Half-Truths and Halting Reforms
14. The Flight from Disorder: Big-Time Football in Postwar Americap. 263
15. The Professional Paradigm, 1956 to 1974p. 287
16. The Accidental Reform: African Americans at Predominantly White Schoolsp. 308
17. The Revolt of the Pigskin Elect, 1975 to 1984p. 332
18. Sudden Death at SMU: Football Scandals in the 1980sp. 353
Epilogue: "The Great God Football"p. 379
1. Casualties in College Footballp. 401
2. Subsidiesp. 403
3. Attendance at College Football Games and the Influence of Television Coveragep. 406
Notesp. 407
Bibliographical Essayp. 439
Indexp. 447