1879 Navy Midshipmen football team

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1879 Navy Midshipmen football
Naval Academy 1879 Football Team.png
Conference Independent
1879 record 0–0–1
Head coach None
Captain Bill Maxwell
Home stadium Unknown
1882 »
1879 college football records
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
Princeton         4 0 1
Yale         3 0 2
Harvard         2 1 2
Pennsylvania         2 2 0
Stevens Tech         1 2 5
Rutgers         1 2 3
Columbia         0 3 2
Navy         0 0 1
Rankings from AP Poll

The 1879 Navy Midshipmen football team represented the United States Naval Academy in the 1879 college football season. The team was the first intercollegiate football squad to represent the United States Naval Academy. The team had no coach, as it was entirely student-operated; however, it was captained by squad member Bill Maxwell. The team played just a single game, which was a scoreless tie with the Baltimore Athletic Club. The team was entirely student operated, and was not supported by the Naval Academy's faculty. The school would not have another football squad until 1882.


According to biographer C. Douglas Kroll, the first evidence of a form of football at the United States Naval Academy came in 1857, but the school's cadets lost interest in the game shortly afterward.[1] However, it is widely believed by football researchers that the playing of intercollegiate football began in November 1869, when a player at Rutgers University challenged another player at the nearby College of New Jersey (now Princeton). The contest more closely resembled soccer, with teams scoring by kicking the ball into the opponent's net, and lacked a uniform rules structure.[2][3] The game developed slowly; the first rules were drafted in October 1873, and only consisted of twelve guidelines.[4] Even though the number of teams participating in the sport increased, the game was still effectively controlled by the College of New Jersey, who claimed eight national championships in ten years. Only Yale presented any form of challenge, claiming four national championships in the same time period.[5]


Date Opponent Site Result Attendance
December 11, 1879 Baltimore Athletic Club* Unknown • Annapolis, MD T 0–0   [A 1]
*Non-conference game.

Season summary[edit]

Navy 0, Baltimore Athletic Club 0[edit]

A greyscale image of a man in a uniform leaning against a fence
Walter Camp, known as the "Father of American Football", credited Maxwell with inventing the football uniform

The Naval Academy squad played its first ever football game against a team from the Baltimore Athletic Club. The Navy team was entirely student-operated, with no official support from Naval Academy officials. The team was entirely funded by its members and their fellow students. The team consisted of twelve players, led by the squad captain, Bill Maxwell.[6] The game was most likely played at the Naval Academy, on an unused drill or parade field, due to a lack of funding, and was a combination of American football, rugby, and soccer.[6][7] The match was played on December 11, and ended in a scoreless 0–0 tie.[8]

Some time after the game, Walter Camp, known as the "Father of American Football", credited Maxwell as the inventor of the first football uniform. After he was informed that the Baltimore team he was playing outweighed his by an average of ten pounds, Maxwell looked for a way to make the teams more evenly matched. Using his knowledge of sailing, he decided to design a sleeveless canvas jacket which would make his players "difficult to grasp when they began to sweat".[9][10] He presented the design to the academy's tailor, who created the double-lined jackets which "were laced down the front and drawn tightly to fit snugly around a player's body".[9][10] The weighted suits were worn by the team, which was confused by the "strangle, heavy, newfangled getups".[10]


The 1879 Naval Academy team was made up of fifteen players at four different positions, all of whom played against the Baltimore A.C.:[11]

  • Charles Cabaniss - forward
  • McDonough Craven - forward
  • Miles Gorgas - forward
  • Bob Higgins - halfback
  • Edward Leiper - forward
  • Jim Mahoney - forward
  • William "Bill" Maxwell - captain; forward
  • T.A. Parks - forward
  • Tim O'Leary - wholeback
  • Max Orlapp - wholeback
  • Moody Robinson - halfback
  • Hugh Rodman - forward
  • Joe Rohrbacker - forward
  • Winfield Sample - forward
  • Bill Wolfsburg - three-quarterback

Postseason and aftermath[edit]

The first postseason college football game would not be played until 1902, with the Pasadena Tournament of Roses' establishment of the east-west tournament game, later known as the Rose Bowl.[12] The Midshipmen would not participate in their first Rose Bowl until the 1923 season, when they went 5–1–2 and tied with the Washington Huskies 14–14 in the match.[13] As a result of the lack of a competition, there were no postseason games played after the 1882 season. According to statistics compiled by the National Championship Foundation, Parke Davis, and the Billingsley college football research center, Yale was declared the 1882 season champion, giving them their eight championship overall.[5]

The Naval Academy would not produce another football team until the 1882 season. The 1882 team would be the first with a coach, being supported by Academy officials. The 1879 season was the last time that a Navy squad would play the Baltimore Athletic Club. Navy would finish the 1880s with four winning seasons, and an overall record of 14–12–2, with one of those ties being the game against the Baltimore Athletic Club. Navy would outscore their opponents 292–231, and would finish the 19th century with an overall record of 54–19–3. The lack of a coach for the 1879 season was one of the two times the Naval Academy squad lacked one, the other time being from 1883 through 1891.[8][14]



  1. ^ No records exist to provide attendance figures for the game


  1. ^ Kroll (2002), p. 14
  2. ^ Schlabach, Mark (2013). "Rutgers Scarlet Knights–Nov. 6, 1869". NCAA Football. ESPN.com. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  3. ^ PFRA Research, "No Christian End!", p. 2
  4. ^ PFRA Research, "No Christian End!", p. 3
  5. ^ a b NCAA (2009), p. 78
  6. ^ a b United States Naval Academy staff (1879), "Navy's First Football Squad", The Team of 1879 (United States Naval Academy), retrieved April 18, 2013 
  7. ^ Kiland et al., p 191
  8. ^ a b Navy 2005 p. 154
  9. ^ a b Patterson (2000), p. 21
  10. ^ a b c Anderson (2004), "Chapter 10: The Game"
  11. ^ Bealle (1951), p. 8
  12. ^ Staff (2005). "Tournament of Roses History". Pasadena Tournament of Roses. Pasadena Tournament of Roses. Archived from the original on January 2, 2007. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  13. ^ Eckersall, Walter (January 2, 1924). "Annual East-West Football Battle Ends In 14–14 Tie". The Detroit Free Press. p. 16. ISSN 1055-2758. 
  14. ^ Castle, K.J. (January 5, 2011). "History of Navy Football". Livestrong.com. Early Years. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 


Reports and documents