The University of Minnesota'scollege football program has a long history including national championships, conference titles, and many legendary All-American and Hall of Fame players and coaches. However, its beginnings were humble. Students began gathering to play the game recreationally and its popularity grew.
Once the sport had taken off, it was only a matter of time before a team was formed to play against other schools. Early teams were very loosely organized, not requiring all of the players to be students and not having designated coaches. The players on the team started to recruit faculty members who had played football at schools in the East to help organize the team. Some years, they played without a coach. Other years, they played with multiple coaches. In total, from 1882 through 1899, the team played 16 seasons of football and had 15 different coaches. As the years went by, the leadership structure started to become more formal. In 1900, the hiring of Dr. Henry L. Williams, the school’s first full-time salaried coach, signaled the end of the early, chaotic days.:15
The inaugural 1882 Minnesota football season was played without a head coach. The first known mention of football at the University of Minnesota was on October 30, 1878 in the Ariel, the student newspaper at the time. It said that "Football has been the all-absorbing amusement for the past few weeks".:11 However, in those days, the only games played were against other Minnesota students.
Minnesota's first intercollegiate game which has its results recorded took place at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds on September 29, 1882.:11 It was scheduled to be a three team track meet with the University of Minnesota, Carleton College and Hamline University competing. The team from Carleton College was unable to attend, so the other two teams went on with the meet without them. Following the meet, the athletes from Hamline wanted to go home, but were talked into playing a game of football first.:14 A.J. Baldwin, the team captain, was the first Minnesota player to score in an intercollegiate game, leading his team to a 4-0 victory.:11
According to the Ariel, "It is only fair to say that the Hamlines did not have their full strength and the University won by two goals in fifty-five minutes. This ended the day and the crowd dispersed well satisfied with the beginning which had been made in intercollegiate sports.":12 The teams had a rematch a couple of weeks later which was won by Hamline.
Thomas Peebles was the first college football head coach for the University of Minnesota in 1883, leading the team to a 1-2 record in his only season at the helm. He came to the University to teach philosophy and since he had played football with distinction at Princeton University, he was recruited to coach the football team. He was described as "having a twinkling eye, a moustache, winged collars and the bearing of a scholar so that even on the field of play he looked as though he were en route to the court of St. James.":311
The 1883 Minnesota football season was the only season under head coach Thomas Peebles. Upon arrival in Northfield, Minnesota for the first game of the year, there was a dispute between the arriving players from Minnesota and the team representing Carleton College. Carleton insisted that a member of the faculty be allowed to play, and they also insisted on playing rugby style football. Coach Peebles preferred the soccer style of play,:4 but agreed to the conditions as long as he could act as the referee.:13 Carleton won the game 4-2.
Team of 1883: J.W. Adams (captain), Don Davidson, Mitchell, Blanding, Niles, Winchell, Graham, McNair, Bassett, Smith, Hammond, Crafts.":14
Dean Frederick S. Jones was a college football head coach for the University of Minnesota from 1886 through 1888, leading the team to a 3-3 record in three seasons. He came from Yale to teach physics and became known as the "father of Minnesota football".:4 Unlike Coach Peebles, he preferred the rugby style of football. They each put together competing teams, but practical considerations helped to decide the future of football at Minnesota - Alfred F. Pillsbury arrived on campus and he owned a brand-new rugby ball, which was rare in those days. From that point on, football at Minnesota was played in the rugby style.:15
Following his time as coach, Jones continued his involvement in athletics. He helped secure land and funding for Northrop Field, the program's first true home field. He also signed Dr. Henry L. Williams to be the new coach in 1900.:4
The 1886 Minnesota football season was the first season under head coach Frederick S. Jones. After not fielding a team in 1884 and 1885, the 1886 season saw the debut of Alf Pillsbury, a crucial figure in the early days of Minnesota football. Due to a lack of rules regarding eligibility in college football, he played on the team for eight years and was captain for two of them. On the way to the game in Faribault, the team designed its first set of signals. It didn't seem to help much in the game itself, which they lost 9-5.:17 The rematch with Shattuck back in Minneapolis marked the first time that admission was charged at a Minnesota game.:17
Team of 1886:Rushers, William Wagner (center), Alf F. Pillsbury, F.W. Nickerson, Christopher Graham, J. Paul Goode, Birney E. Trask, Charles H. Alden; Quarterback, Howard T. Abbott (captain); Halfbacks, John F. Hayden, Herschel J. Mayall and E.R. Allen; Back, Frank D. Jones; Substitutes, Henry Cotton and A.D. Meeds; Coach, Frederick S. Jones.:33
The 1887 Minnesota football season was the second season under head coach Frederick S. Jones. For this season, the Ariel recorded that "The alumni have had their turn and the Minneapolis high school had been met and conquered" but a hoped for game against Michigan couldn't be arranged and no other recorded games were played this season.:16
On one occasion, while getting the team ready to play, Alf Pillsbury noticed that the team was short a man, so he recruited a student from the group of Minneapolis Central students who were on hand. His name was William Walter 'Pudge' Heffelfinger and after playing for Minnesota for a year, he went on to Yale and became one of the biggest names in the early days of football.:16
Team of 1887:Rushers, Paul Goode (center), Fred M. Mann, John H. Corliss, Birney Trask, William H. Hoyt, Henry S. Morris, Edmund P. Allen; Quarterback, Alf Pillsbury (center); Halfbacks, John F. Hayden, William D. Willard; Back, Alonzo D. Meeds; Substitutes, W. Dann, Walter Heffelfinger.:33:1
The 1888 Minnesota football season was the third and final season under head coach Frederick S. Jones. Following the 14-0 Minnesota win over Shattuck, the Ariel reported that "The game was followed by a bus-ride about the city, and the University and Shattuck yells combined to make the day hideous till supper time.":16
Team of 1888:Rush Line, S.S. Start, J. Paul Goode, M.E. Trench, William H. Hoyt, M. H. Gerry, William C. Leary, Birney E. Trask (captain); Quarterback, Alf F. Pillsbury; Halfbacks, John F. Hayden, George K. Belden; Fullback, Grant B. Rossman.:33
The 1889 Minnesota football season was the only season to feature game coaches. Once again, an attempt was made to schedule a game with the University of Michigan, but "Michigan wanted Minnesota to pay all of the expenses of the trip, which would amount to two hundred dollars. The Minnesota management was not able to see its way clear to guarantee this and so the game was given up.":17
1889 finally saw the formation of a football association. Before 1889, there wasn't any kind of official connection between the football team and the student body, which sometimes resulted in player shortages and required recruitment from other schools in order to have enough men to play in the games.:17
Team of 1889:Quarterback, Alf F. Pillsbury (captain); Halfbacks, George K. Belden, John F. Hayden; Fullback, Grant Rossman; Rush Line, Birney E. Trask (l.e.), A.J. Harris (l.t.), R.B. Brower (l.g.), E.H. Day (r.e.), J.E. Madigan (r.t.), George C. Sikes (r.g.), H.R. Robinson (center); Substitutes, M.B. Davidson, Charles E. Guthrie and W.M. Thompson.:33
Tom Eck was a college football head coach for the University of Minnesota for the 1890 season, leading the team to a 5-1-1 record. He started holding signal drills before each game and established a training table. This is considered to be the start of "scientific football" at Minnesota.:311 He also acted as the team's trainer.
The 1890 Minnesota football season was the only season under head coach Tom Eck and featured the historic first meeting between Minnesota and Wisconsin, the most-played rivalry at the top level of NCAA college football. The two teams have played each other every year since then except for 1906. That game was canceled by President Theodore Roosevelt who had decided to "cool off heated college football rivalries because of injuries and deaths on the field.":249 The game was a decisive 63-0 Minnesota win.
The week before that game, Minnesota took on Grinnell in Minneapolis, the first out-of-state opponent in Minnesota football history. The game was a hard fought 18-13 Minnesota victory.:18
The Ariel declared this team to be the "champions of the northwest".:19
Team of 1890: Horace R. Robinson (captain), William C. Leary, George K. Belden, J.A. Harris, S.S. Start, Grant B. Rossman, Eugene L. Patterson, William C. Muir, George C. Sikes, Alf F. Pillsbury, Harry E. White, Charles E. Guthrie, James E. Madigan, David R. Burbank, Everhard P. Harding; Trainer Tom Eck.:33
The 1891 Minnesota football season was the only season under head coach Edward "Dad" Moulton and it saw Minnesota's first out-of-state trip with a pair of games in Iowa. The first of these games was against Grinnell and ended up in a 12-12 tie. The second game was Minnesota's first meeting with long-time rival Iowa and resulted in an easy 42-4 Minnesota victory.:20
Team of 1891Center, James Madigan; Tackles, George Sikes, R.C. Dewey; Guards, Charles G. Flanagan, Everhard P. Harding; Ends, L.C. Edson, E.C. Bisbee, David R. Burbank; Halfbacks, Eugene L. Patterson, William C. Leary (captain); Quarterback, Alfred F. Pillsbury; Fullback, Charles S. Hale; Substitutes, George Hawley, Russell H. Folwell, John C. Ohnstad, Grant B. Rossman, A.T. Larson, A.J. Harris, R.L. Cramb; Coach/Trainer Edward "Dad" Moulton.:36
The game against Michigan was Minnesota's first game in the historic rivalry that would spawn the most famous of all rivalry trophies, the Little Brown Jug. The game against Northwestern was also the first meeting with that school.
Team of 1892Center, James E. Madigan; Right guard, Everhard P. Harding; Left guard, Augustus T. Larson; Right tackle, George C. Sikes; Left tackle, Constant Larson; Right End, Edgar C. Bisbee; Left end, William F. Dalrymple; Quarterback, Alfred F. Pillsbury; Right halfback, William C. Leary (captain); Left halfback, Eugene L. Patterson; Fullback, Russell H. Folwell; Substitutes, David R. Burbank, Harry E. White, Fred W. Foote, John E. LeCrone, William C. Muir.:38
The 1893 Minnesota football season was the only season under head coach Wallie Winter and it featured the second season of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the Northwest. Minnesota plowed undefeated through its schedule to set up an end-of-season matchup with Wisconsin for the league title. The game was a rout and the teams agreed to stop the game early after Minnesota took a 40-0 lead. Due to financial difficulties, the league disbanded after the 1893 season.:23
Team of 1893:Center, James E. Madigan (captain); Right guard, Everhart P. Harding; Left guard, Augustus T. Larson; Left tackle, Constant Larson; Right tackle, William C. Muir; Right end, Edgar C. Bisbee; Left end, William F. Dalrymple; Quarterback, Charles H. Van Campen; Right half, Walter N. Southworth; Left half, George K. Belden; Fullback, Henry C. Cutler; Substitutes, Charles Adams, Ralph K. Keene, George A. Finlayson, Mason W. Spicer, W. Oakley Stout, Willis J. Walker, J. LeMoyne Danner Jr.; Coach "Wallie" Winter.:40
Tom Cochrane Jr. was a college football head coach for the University of Minnesota for the 1894 season, leading the team to a 3-1 record. He was yet another Yale man to coach at Minnesota. The program was suffering financially, so Cochrane delivered lectures titled "Football as Played in the East" at locations around the nation to help raise money.:312
The 1894 Minnesota football season was the only season under head coach Tom Cochrane Jr. and it featured Minnesota's first trip to Madison, WI, a game which they were heavily favored to win. However, Wisconsin won a hard fought game by a score of 6-0. It also featured Minnesota's first game against Purdue, resulting in a decisive 24-0 victory.:24
Team of 1894:Center, A.E. Finlayson; Right guard, Everhart P. Harding (captain); Left guard, Augustus T. Larson; Right tackle, Willis J. Walker; Left tackle, John S. Dalrymple; Left End, John M. Harrison; Right end, William F. Dalrymple; Quarterback, Charles H. Van Campen; Right half, Walter N. Southworth; Left half, Charles E. Adams; Fullback, Henry C. Cutler; Substitutes, Edward W. Matthews, William H. Condit, Thomas M. Kehoe, Charles E. Slusser, Joel G. Winkjer, George T. Pettibone; Coach Thomas Cochrane Jr.:43
As a result of this emerging conference, this season would be Minnesota's last season as an Independent. Minnesota won its first ever match with Chicago with a last minute touchdown to win a very close, physical game by a score of 10-6.:26 Financially, the team rebounded from some lean years. They "secured a large subscription from the business men of the city, the attendance at all of the games was good, and at the close of the season there was a large surplus in the treasury.":26
Team of 1895:Left end, John M. Harrison; Left tackle, John S. Dalrymple; Left guard, Augustus T. Larson (captain); Center, James C. Fulton; Right guard, George A.E. Finlayson; Right tackle, Willis J. Walker, Right end, Thomas M. Kehoe; Quarterback, Charles E. Adams; Left half, George T. Pettibone; Right half, Henry C. Loomis; Fullback, H.A. Parkyn; Substitutes, Clinton L. Walker, Martin Teigen, Ivan A. Parry, Stanley H. Bissell, John B. Loomis, H.B. Gilbert; Trainer, Edward "Dad" Moulton; Coach Walt Heffelfinger.:48
Alexander Jerrems was a college football head coach for the University of Minnesota for the 1896 and 1897 seasons, leading the team to a 12-6 overall record including 1-5 in Big Ten conference play. Jerrems was born in Sydney, Australia and grew up in Chicago, IL before he went off to Yale to play halfback and fullback.:5 He was the only Minnesota coach in the 1890s to coach for more than one season. He had a good overall record but only won one of the six Big Ten games he coached in.
The 1896 Minnesota football season was the first season under head coach Alexander Jerrems and was the first season of competition in the Big Ten, or Western Conference as it was commonly referred to at the time. Minnesota won its first ever conference game over Purdue but lost its other two matches to Michigan and Wisconsin.
Team of 1896:Left end, John M. Harrison (captain); Left tackle, Ivan A. Perry; Left guard, George A.E. Finlayson; Right end, Henry A. Scandrett; Right tackle, A.M. Smith; Right guard, Everhard P. Harding; Center, James C. Fulton; Quarterbacks, George E. Cole, Richard E. Woodworth; Right half, S.W. Bagley; Left half, Martin Teigen, Elbridge L. Heath; Fullback, Harry C. Loomis; Substitutes, Clinton L. Walker, John Taresh, Carl S. Jorgens, Lloyd Sperry, Claude Nicoulin, L. Eugene Parker, Conrad H. Christopherson; Trainer, Edward "Dad" Moulton; Coach Alexander Jerrems.:54
The 1897 Minnesota football season was the second and final season under head coach Alexander Jerrems. The season started out well, but the team lost its last four games including all three of its conference games. The Ariel reported that there was a general opinion that the team's difficulties were the result of poor management.:26 Coach Jerrems was not asked to return and changes were made to the rules governing athletics at the University - managers would no longer be chosen by the students.:26
Team of 1897Left end, John M. Harrison (captain); Left tackle, George A.E. Finlayson; Left guard, A.M. Smith, Center, J.C. Winkjer; Right guard, A.K. Ingalls; Right tackle, Claude Nicoulin; Right end, C.R. Shipley; Quarterback, George E. Cole; Left half, G.W. Evans; Right half, S.W. Bagley; Fullback, Harry C. Loomis; Trainer, Edward "Dad" Moulton; Coach, Alexander Jerrems.:60
The 1898 Minnesota football season was the only season under head coach Jack Minds and it saw more losses than wins in a season with much adversity including bad weather and a mid-season injury to the team's captain.:27 Minnesota ended up in 5th place in a seven team conference.
Minnesota's first ever game against Illinois took place on Thanksgiving Day. A big storm had come through the previous day, but John Pillsbury (the student manager) put together a crew and worked overnight using horse-drawn plows to clear the field. The game itself was delayed several times when the ball was lost in snow drifts on the side of the field:21 and the temperature fell to about 10 below zero when the game was called at noon.:27 Illinois won the game 11-10.
Team of 1898:Left end, Scandrett (captain); Left tackle, Otte; Left guard, Parry; Center, Page; Right guard, Aune; Right tackle, Nicoulin; Right end, von Schlegell; Quarterback, Kienholtz; Left halfback, Bernhagen; Right halfback, Cameron; Fullback, Shepley; Trainer, John Wirtensohn; Coach, Jack Minds.:64
William C. "Bill" Leary and John Harrison were college football head coaches for the University of Minnesota for the 1899 season, together leading the team to a 6-3-2 overall record including 0-3 in Big Ten conference play. They coached the team as a part of a new alumni coaching program. Although most around the program considered the experiment a success, the program was discontinued with the hiring of the University's first full-time salaried coach, Dr. Henry L. Williams.:15
The 1899 Minnesota football season was the only season under head coaches William C. Leary and John Harrison and was another season with a good overall record but a poor conference record. This season's 0-3 record left Minnesota in a last place tie with Illinois.
Team of 1899:Left end, Dobie; Left tackle, Otte, Gray; Left guard, Aune; Center, Page; Right guard, Tifft, Flynn; Right tackle, Hoyt, Mueller; Right end, Scandrett (captain), Fosseen; Quarterback, Cole, Rogers; Left half, Evans, Bernhagen; Right half, Kienholtz, Freeman; Fullback, Glover.:70
^ abcdeMen's Intercollegiate Athletic Department of the University of Minnesota; Ralph Turtinen (editor) (1981). 100 Years of Golden Gopher Football. John Roberts.Cite uses deprecated parameters (help)
^ abcdefRainbolt, Richard (1972). Gold Glory. Wayzata, Minnesota: Ralph Turtinen Publishing.
^ abcdeUniversity of Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletics; Jeff Keiser and Shane Sanderfeld (editors) (2004). Minnesota Football 2004 Media Guide. University of Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletics Communications.Cite uses deprecated parameters (help)