1891 Stanford football team

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1891 Stanford football
Stanford block S.jpg
Conference Independent
1891 record 3–1
Head coach none
Captain John Whittemore
1892 »

The 1891 Stanford football team represented Stanford University in the 1891 college football season. This was the inaugural year of both the University and the football team: the University opened in October 1891 and the four-game season was played in early 1892.


Soon after Stanford opened on October 1, 1891, students set out to form a football team.[1] One transfer student, John Whittemore, had played football at Washington University. He was chosen as captain and began to organize the team.[1]

Whittemore acted as de facto coach, drawing up plays and organizing practices.[1] The team won its first two games against Hopkins Academy and Berkeley Gym before losing to a team from San Francisco's Olympic Club.[2] In its final game of the first season, Stanford upset a more experienced team from the University of California, Berkeley, setting the stage for what would become the longstanding Big Game rivalry.[1][3][4]


Date Opponent Site Result
January 30, 1892 vs. Hopkins Academy Redwood City, CA W 10–6  
February 6, 1892 vs. Berkeley Gym Berkeley, CA W 22–0  
February 13, 1892 Olympic Club Stanford, CA L 6–10  
March 19, 1892 California Haight Street GroundsSan Francisco, CA (1st Big Game) W 14–10  

Game notes[edit]


1st Big Game
1 2 3 4 Total
California 0 0 4 6 10
• Stanford 8 6 0 0 14

Soon after formation of Stanford's team, players at the University of California, Berkeley, which had been playing football for 10 years, contacted the team to set up a Thanksgiving Day game; as the Stanford team was still organizing, a spring game was eventually agreed to.[1][4]

On March 19, 1892, the Stanford and California teams met to play at Haight Street Grounds in San Francisco. Stanford's team manager was future U.S. President Herbert Hoover; Hoover had printed 10,000 tickets for the game, but soon an overflow crowd forced Hoover to collect cash payment for admission.[1] As the game was about to begin, both teams realized that no one had brought a ball. An owner of a sporting goods store who was in attendance was dispatched on horseback to retrieve a ball and the game eventually started an hour late.[1]

Stanford employed some trick plays and scored the first three touchdowns of the game (touchdowns were worth 4 points at that time) and held on to upset the more experienced California team 14–10.[1][4]


The next season, Whittemore wrote to legendary Yale coach Walter Camp asking him to recommend a coach for Stanford; to Whittemore's surprise, Camp agreed to coach the team himself, on the condition that he coach the season at Yale first.[1]

Whittemore's son, also named John Whittemore and also a Stanford student, lived to the age of 104 and was renowned as a masters track and field athlete.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Migdol, Gary (1997). Stanford: Home of Champions. Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing LLC. pp. 8–11. ISBN 1-57167-116-1. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Stanford Game-by-Game Results; 1891–1894". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 
  3. ^ Results from "Stanford Football Media Guide" (PDF). p. 142. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c McCormick, Ginny (December 1997). "The Hundred Years' War". Stanford Magazine. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 
  5. ^ Porter, A. Spencer (December 1997). "Still a contender". Stanford Magazine. Retrieved February 22, 2013.