1906–17 Stanford rugby teams

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The Big Game between Stanford and California was played as rugby from 1906 to 1914.

The Stanford rugby teams of 1906 to 1917 represented Stanford University as the school's only football program during those years, replacing American football with rugby union. The school had played American football from 1892 to 1905, but in 1906, concerned with the growing levels of violence in football, Stanford and other universities changed to rugby. Stanford played twelve seasons of rugby, during which it played other college teams, club teams from the United States, Canada, and Australia, as well as the New Zealand national team and Australia national team. Despite the team's success, it became clear that other schools were not adopting rugby in large numbers, and after rival California returned to football in 1915, Stanford faced a limited number of potential opponents; and after a year of playing neither sport officially due to World War I, the school returned to American football in 1919.

Switch to rugby[edit]

The Stanford University team that played the All Blacks in 1913.

American football in the early 1900s had become increasingly violent; with no forward pass, the ball carrier would be typically pushed and pulled up the field by his own players in massive formations that often resulted in serious injuries.[1][2][3] In 1905, 18 deaths, three at the college level, were attributed to football; 159 serious injuries were also reported, 88 at the college level.[1]

Reform was demanded by such voices as U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, who decried the brutality and foul play of the game, and called a meeting of school presidents to discuss the issue.[1][3] As a result, before the next season began, new rules were put in place to discourage such play.[1] The forward pass was also introduced to open up the game and reduce the role of dangerous mass formations.[1] Despite the planned changes, a number of universities banned the sport for the coming year, including Columbia, NYU, and Northwestern.[2][3]

Several universities on the West Coast, led by California and Stanford, replaced the sport with rugby.[3] At the time, the future of football was very much in doubt and these schools believed that rugby would eventually be adopted nationwide.[3] Other schools that made the switch included Nevada, St. Mary's, Santa Clara, and USC (in 1911).[3] However, due to the perception that West Coast football was inferior to the game played on the East Coast anyway, East Coast and Midwest teams shrugged off the loss of the teams and continued playing football.[3] With no nationwide movement, the available pool of rugby teams to play remained small.[3] The schools scheduled games against local club teams and reached out to rugby powers in Australia, New Zealand, and especially, due to its proximity, Canada. The annual Big Game between Stanford and California continued as rugby, with the winner invited by the British Columbia Rugby Union to a tournament in Vancouver over the Christmas holidays, with the winner of that tournament receiving the Cooper Keith Trophy.[3][4][5]

Return to football[edit]

In 12 seasons of rugby, Stanford was remarkably successful: the team had three undefeated seasons, three one-loss seasons, and an overall record of 94 wins, 20 losses, and 3 ties for a winning percentage of .816. However, after a few years, the school began to feel the isolation of its newly adopted sport, which was not spreading as many had hoped. Students and alumni began to clamor for a return to football to allow wider intercollegiate competition.[3] The pressure at rival California was stronger (especially as the school had not been as successful in the Big Game as they had hoped), and in 1915 California returned to football. As reasons for the change, the school cited football rule changes, the overwhelming desire of students and supporters to play football, interest in playing other East Coast and Midwest schools, and a patriotic desire to play an "American" game.[3]

California's return to football increased the pressure on Stanford to also change back in order to maintain the rivalry. Stanford played its 1915, 1916, and 1917 "Big Games" as rugby against Santa Clara and California's football "Big Game" in those years was against Washington, but both schools desired to restore the old traditions.[3] The onset of World War I gave Stanford an out: in 1918, the Stanford campus was designated as the Students' Army Training Corps headquarters for all of California, Nevada, and Utah, and the commanding officer, Sam M. Parker, decreed that football was the appropriate athletic activity to train soldiers and rugby was dropped.[3]

After the war, Stanford resumed its football program and relegated rugby to a minor sport. Several Stanford rugby players who played during those years—including Daniel Carroll, Dink Templeton, Morris Kirksey, Erwin Righter, John Patrick, and Charles Doe—went on to win a gold medal for the United States in rugby at the 1920 Summer Olympics.[6]

Season results[edit]

1906 season[edit]

1906 Stanford rugby football
Stanford block S.jpg
Conference Independent
1906 record 6-2-1
Head coach James F. Lanagan (1st year)
Home stadium Stanford Field
Seasons
« 1905 1907 »

In its first season of rugby, Stanford retained head football coach James F. Lanagan as its first rugby coach. Lanagan had coached the football team for three years, including an undefeated 1905 season.[7] With no experience playing or coaching rugby, Lanagan initially offered his resignation, but Stanford insisted he stay on, so he traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia to study the sport.[4][7][8] Stanford won its first five games, including two wins over a visiting club team from Vancouver. As winners of the first Big Game against California played as rugby, Stanford competed against Vancouver-area club teams for the Cooper Keith Trophy, losing two games and tying one.[9]

Schedule[edit]

Date Opponent Site Result
October 20 Nevada Stanford FieldStanford, California W 11–0  
October 27 vs. Pomona Los Angeles, California W 26–0  
October 31 Vancouver Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 5–3  
November 3 Vancouver Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 16–6  
November 10 at California California FieldBerkeley, California (16th Big Game) W 6–3  
December 25 at Vancouver Club Vancouver, British Columbia L 9–11  
December 29 at Vancouver Club Vancouver, British Columbia L 0–3  
January 1, 1907 at Vancouver Club Vancouver, British Columbia T 3–3  
January 5, 1907 vs. Victoria Club Seattle, Washington W 11–0  


1907 season[edit]

1907 Stanford rugby football
Stanford block S.jpg
Conference Independent
1907 record 8-4
Head coach James F. Lanagan (2nd year)
Home stadium Stanford Field
Seasons
« 1906 1908 »

In Stanford's second season of rugby, Jimmy Lanagan returned as coach and the team finished 8–4. Stanford continued its series with Nevada, Vancouver, and Victoria and added games against Bay Area club team the Barbarians and a Los Angeles club called the Castaways. Stanford won its second Big Game rugby match, earning a second straight tournament in British Columbia.[9]

Schedule[edit]

Date Opponent Site Result
September 28 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford FieldStanford, California W 10–6  
October 5 Castaways Club (Los Angeles) Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 15–11  
October 18 vs. Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Los Angeles, California W 16–13  
October 23 vs. Nevada Los Angeles, California W 31–0  
October 28 vs. Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Los Angeles, California L 6–13  
October 30 vs. Vancouver Club Los Angeles, California W 23–12  
November 2 vs. Vancouver Club Los Angeles, California W 5–3  
November 9 California Stanford Field • Stanford, California (17th Big Game) W 21–11  
December 25 at Vancouver Club Vancouver, British Columbia L 0–3  
December 28 at Vancouver Club Vancouver, British Columbia W 3–0  
January 1, 1908 at Vancouver Club Vancouver, British Columbia L 5–9  
January 4, 1908 at Victoria Club Victoria, British Columbia L 3–12  


1908 season[edit]

1908 Stanford rugby football
Stanford block S.jpg
Conference Independent
1908 record 12-2
Head coach James F. Lanagan (3rd year)
Home stadium Stanford Field
Seasons
« 1907 1909 »

Lanagan returned for his final year as Stanford's coach and the team finished 12–2, winning not only its third consecutive Big Game, but also going on to win the Cooper Keith Trophy in the end-of-season Vancouver tournament. Stanford added two games against San Francisco's Olympic Club and played a final game against the Australian national team, the Wallabies.[9]

Schedule[edit]

Date Opponent Site Result
September 19 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford FieldStanford, California W 22–0  
September 26 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 28–0  
October 3 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 24–0  
October 10 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 12–3  
October 17 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 28–3  
October 24 at Nevada Reno, Nevada W 14–0  
October 31 at Nevada Reno, Nevada W 26–0  
November 4 Vancouver Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California L 3–11  
November 7 Vancouver Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 11–3  
November 14 at California California FieldBerkeley, California (18th Big Game) W 12–3  
December 25 at Vancouver Club Brockton OvalVancouver, British Columbia W 11–0  
December 29 at Vancouver Club Brockton Oval • Vancouver, British Columbia W 10–3  
January 1, 1909 at Vancouver Club Brockton Oval • Vancouver, British Columbia W 16–10  
February 5, 1909 Australia Wallabies Stanford Field • Stanford, California L 3–13  


1909 season[edit]

1909 Stanford rugby football
Stanford block S.jpg
Conference Independent
1909 record 8-1
Head coach George J. Presley (1st year)
Home stadium Stanford Field
Seasons
« 1908 1910 »

Following Lanagan's departure, George Presley was named Stanford's new rugby coach. Presley played one year of rugby under Lanagan in 1906 and had been an assistant coach in 1907 and 1908. Presley also coached Stanford's baseball team. Stanford won its first eight games—seven by shutout—but then lost Big Game for the first time in seven years.[7][9]

Schedule[edit]

Date Opponent Site Result
September 18 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 16–0  
September 25 Olympic Club Stanford FieldStanford, California W 3–0  
October 2 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 11–0  
October 9 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 15–0  
October 23 at Castaways Club (Los Angeles) Los Angeles, California W 41–0  
October 30 Reliance Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 59–0  
November 3 Vancouver Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 56–0  
November 6 Vancouver Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 19–3  
November 13 California Stanford Field • Stanford, California (19th Big Game) L 13–19  


1910 season[edit]

1910 Stanford rugby football
Stanford block S.jpg
Conference Independent
1910 record 7-1
Head coach George J. Presley (2nd year)
Home stadium Stanford Field
Seasons
« 1909 1911 »

In Presley's second year as coach, Stanford was led by Ben Erb and Jim Arrell. The season was almost identical to the previous year: the team won its first seven games by shutout, and then lost Big Game to undefeated California. Stanford led in that game 6–0, but did not score again as California won 25–6. This Big Game is recognized as the first intercollegiate game to feature card stunts.[7][9]

Schedule[edit]

Date Opponent Site Result
September 17 Olympic Club Stanford FieldStanford, California W 4–0  
September 24 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 21–0  
October 1 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 19–0  
October 8 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 34–0  
October 22 Nevada Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 8–0  
October 29 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 60–0  
November 5 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 27–0  
November 12 at California California FieldBerkeley, California (20th Big Game) L 6–25  


1911 season[edit]

1911 Stanford rugby football
Stanford block S.jpg
Conference Independent
1911 record 10-3
Head coach George J. Presley (3rd year)
Home stadium Stanford Field
Seasons
« 1910 1912 »

In the 1911 season, Stanford went 10–3 and added USC to the schedule, as the school dropped football in favor of rugby.[9]

Schedule[edit]

Date Opponent Site Result
September 16 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford FieldStanford, California W 23–3  
September 23 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 19–0  
September 30 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 31–3  
October 7 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 16–0  
October 14 Nevada Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 41–0  
October 21 USC Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 6–3  
October 28 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 39–3  
November 1 British Columbia Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 27–3  
November 4 British Columbia Stanford Field • Stanford, California L 5–6  
November 11 California Stanford Field • Stanford, California (21st Big Game) L 3–21  
at Vancouver Club Vancouver, British Columbia L 6–13  
at Vancouver Club Vancouver, British Columbia W 10–5  
at Vancouver Club Vancouver, British Columbia W 9–0  


1912 season[edit]

1912 Stanford rugby football
Stanford block S.jpg
Conference Independent
1912 record 5-3–1
Head coach George J. Presley (4th year)
Home stadium Stanford Field
Seasons
« 1911 1913 »

In Presley's last year as coach, Stanford finished with a 5–3–1 record, its worst record of the rugby era. Stanford avoided a fourth straight loss in the Big Game by tying California. Despite an outstanding 30–8–1 overall record as coach, coach Presley was 0–3–1 against the Bears.[7][9]

Schedule[edit]

Date Opponent Site Result
September 28 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford FieldStanford, California W 12–0  
October 5 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 17–0  
October 12 Australian Waratahs Stanford Field • Stanford, California L 0–6  
October 16 Australian Waratahs Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 13–12  
October 19 at USC Los Angeles, California W 14–0  
October 23 Santa Clara Stanford Field • Stanford, California L 10–15  
October 26 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford Field • Stanford, California L 0–6  
November 2 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 19–0  
November 11 at California California FieldBerkeley, California (22nd Big Game) T 3–3  


1913 season[edit]

1913 Stanford rugby football
Stanford block S.jpg
Conference Independent
1913 record 8-3
Head coach Floyd C. Brown (1st year)
Home stadium Stanford Field
Seasons
« 1912 1914 »

Floyd C. Brown succeeded George Presley as coach. Like Presley, Brown had played for and served as an assistant under the previous coach. Stanford finished with an 8–3 record, including its first Big Game win in five years, led by Danny Carroll, who had won a gold medal in the 1908 Summer Olympics as a member of the Australia national rugby union team and who was now earning a degree in geology from Stanford. Stanford played its final rugby game against USC, who returned to American football the next year, and suffered two blowout losses to the famed New Zealand All Blacks, who were on a North American tour.[7][9]

Schedule[edit]

Date Opponent Site Result
September 13 Olympic Club Stanford FieldStanford, California L 3–5  
September 20 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 88–3  
September 27 U.C. Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 13–3  
October 4 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 18–0  
October 11 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 29–3  
October 15 New Zealand All Blacks Stanford Field • Stanford, California L 0–54  
October 18 New Zealand All Blacks Stanford Field • Stanford, California L 0–56  
October 25 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 21–5  
November 1 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 19–12  
November 8 California Stanford Field • Stanford, California (23rd Big Game) W 13–8  
November 22 at USC Los Angeles, California W 10–0  


1914 season[edit]

1914 Stanford rugby football
Stanford block S.jpg
Conference Independent
1914 record 10-0
Head coach Floyd C. Brown (2nd year)
Home stadium Stanford Field
Seasons
« 1913 1915 »

Brown's second year as coach was the best in Stanford rugby history: the team was undefeated entering the Big Game at California, who was also undefeated. A record crowd of 26,000 turned out to see Stanford defeat the Bears, 26–8. This would be the last Big Game for several years as California returned to football for the 1915 season. Despite Stanford's success in rugby, the previous year's humiliating defeats to the All Blacks and the switch by rivals USC and California to football intensified the sentiment for Stanford to switch back as well.[7][9]

Schedule[edit]

Date Opponent Site Result
September 12 Olympic Club Stanford FieldStanford, California W 17–0  
September 19 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 31–3  
September 26 University Alumni Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 61–8  
October 3 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 19–4  
October 10 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 19–5  
October 17 Titans Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 35–6  
October 24 Santa Clara Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 13–0  
October 31 University Alumni Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 31–3  
November 7 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 36–6  
November 14 at California California FieldBerkeley, California (24th Big Game) W 26–8  


1915 season[edit]

1915 Stanford rugby football
Stanford block S.jpg
Conference Independent
1915 record 10-0–1
Head coach Floyd C. Brown (3rd year)
Home stadium Stanford Field
Seasons
« 1914 1916 »

By 1915, there was only one other U.S. college playing intercollegiate rugby: Santa Clara. The rest of Stanford's schedule was made up of local club and all star teams. The team played to a scoreless tie with the Olympic Club team to start the season, but recovered to win the rest of the games on the schedule.[7][9]

Schedule[edit]

Date Opponent Site Result
September 11 Olympic Club Stanford FieldStanford, California T 0–0  
September 18 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 31–6  
September 25 Titan Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 18–0  
October 2 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 48–13  
October 9 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 80–0  
October 16 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 49–8  
October 20 Palo Alto Athletic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 28–3  
October 23 Palo Alto Athletic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 36–18  
October 30 Southern California All-Stars Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 21–5  
November 6 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 29–11  
November 13 vs. Santa Clara Ewing Field • San Francisco, California W 30–0  


1916 season[edit]

1916 Stanford rugby football
Stanford block S.jpg
Conference Independent
1916 record 9-1
Head coach Floyd C. Brown (4th year)
Home stadium Stanford Field
Seasons
« 1915 1917 »

In their last full season of rugby, Stanford won all its games except the "Big Game" against Santa Clara, played for the second year at Ewing Field in San Francisco. This was Stanford's first loss since 1913.[9]

Schedule[edit]

Date Opponent Site Result
September 9 Olympic Club Stanford FieldStanford, California W 9–8  
September 16 Barbarians Club (San Francisco) Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 43–0  
September 23 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 38–16  
September 30 Palo Alto Athletic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 13–8  
October 7 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 39–16  
October 14 Palo Alto Athletic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 19–8  
October 21 Presley's All-Stars Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 35–6  
October 28 Palo Alto Athletic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 26–9  
November 4 Olympic Club Stanford Field • Stanford, California W 29–0  
November 11 vs. Santa Clara Ewing Field • San Francisco, California L 5–28  


1917 season[edit]

1917 Stanford rugby football
Stanford block S.jpg
Conference Independent
1917 record 1-0
Head coach James Wylie (1st year)
Home stadium Stanford Field
Seasons
« 1916 1919 »

Like the two coaches before him, Stanford's new head coach James Wylie was a former Stanford player. He had also been a member of the New Zealand All Blacks team that had crushed Stanford's team in 1913. But with World War I imminent, Stanford played just one game, the "Big Game" against Santa Clara, winning 15–11. This was also Stanford rugby's last game as a major sport. The following year, Stanford president Ray Lyman Wilbur canceled all intercollegiate athletic events due to students' enlisting in the military for the war, and due to Stanford's designation as the regional headquarters of the Students' Army Training Corps.[3][7][9][10] When Stanford reformed a team in 1919, the school returned to American football as its major gridiron sport.[3]

Schedule[edit]

Date Opponent Site Result
November 24 Santa Clara Stanford FieldStanford, California W 15–11  


References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Watterson, John S. (Summer 2000). "The Gridiron Crisis of 1905: Was it Really a Crisis?". Journal of Sport History 27 (2): 291–298. 
  2. ^ a b Smith, Ronald A (Winter 1981). "Harvard and Columbia and a Reconsideration of the 1905–06 Football Crisis". Journal of Sport History 8 (3): 5–19. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Park, Roberta J (Winter 1984). "From Football to Rugby—and Back, 1906–1919: The University of California–Stanford University Response to the "Football Crisis of 1905"". Journal of Sport History 11 (3): 5–40. 
  4. ^ a b Goldsmith, A. A (October 1913 – March 1914). "Why California Likes Rugby". Outing 63: 742–750. 
  5. ^ "History". British Columbia Rugby Union. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Rugby at the Olympics". Rugby Football History. Retrieved October 21, 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Migdol, Gary (1997). Stanford: Home of Champions. Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing LLC. pp. 34–60. ISBN 1-57167-116-1. 
  8. ^ Elliott, Orrin Leslie (1937). Stanford University - The First Twenty Five Years 1891–1925. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. pp. 231–233. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Stanford Football Media Guide". p. 142. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Army, Navy, Marine football now looming". Bakersfield Californian. September 7, 1918. Retrieved October 26, 2011.