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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
ConferenceIndependent
1906 record6-2-1
Head coachJames F. Lanagan (1st season)
Home groundStanford 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]

DateOpponentSiteResult
October 20NevadaW 11–0
October 27vs. PomonaLos Angeles, CaliforniaW 26–0
October 31Vancouver Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 5–3
November 3Vancouver Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 16–6
November 10at CaliforniaW 6–3
December 25at Vancouver ClubVancouver, British ColumbiaL 9–11
December 29at Vancouver ClubVancouver, British ColumbiaL 0–3
January 1, 1907at Vancouver ClubVancouver, British ColumbiaT 3–3
January 5, 1907vs. Victoria ClubSeattle, WashingtonW 11–0

1907 season[edit]

1907 Stanford rugby football
ConferenceIndependent
1907 record8-4
Head coachJames F. Lanagan (2nd season)
Home groundStanford 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]

DateOpponentSiteResult
September 28Barbarians Club (San Francisco)W 10–6
October 5Castaways Club (Los Angeles)
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 15–11
October 18vs. Barbarians Club (San Francisco)Los Angeles, CaliforniaW 16–13
October 23vs. NevadaLos Angeles, CaliforniaW 31–0
October 28vs. Barbarians Club (San Francisco)Los Angeles, CaliforniaL 6–13
October 30vs. Vancouver ClubLos Angeles, CaliforniaW 23–12
November 2vs. Vancouver ClubLos Angeles, CaliforniaW 5–3
November 9California
W 21–11
December 25at Vancouver ClubVancouver, British ColumbiaL 0–3
December 28at Vancouver ClubVancouver, British ColumbiaW 3–0
January 1, 1908at Vancouver ClubVancouver, British ColumbiaL 5–9
January 4, 1908at Victoria ClubVictoria, British ColumbiaL 3–12

1908 season[edit]

1908 Stanford rugby football
ConferenceIndependent
1908 record12-2
Head coachJames F. Lanagan (3rd season)
Home groundStanford 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]

DateOpponentSiteResult
September 19Barbarians Club (San Francisco)W 22–0
September 26Olympic Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 28–0
October 3Barbarians Club (San Francisco)
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 24–0
October 10Olympic Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 12–3
October 17Barbarians Club (San Francisco)
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 28–3
October 24at NevadaReno, NevadaW 14–0
October 31at NevadaReno, NevadaW 26–0
November 4Vancouver Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
L 3–11
November 7Vancouver Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 11–3
November 14at CaliforniaW 12–3
December 25at Vancouver ClubW 11–0
December 29at Vancouver Club
  • Brockton Oval
  • Vancouver, British Columbia
W 10–3
January 1, 1909at Vancouver Club
  • Brockton Oval
  • Vancouver, British Columbia
W 16–10
February 5, 1909Australia Wallabies
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
L 3–13

1909 season[edit]

1909 Stanford rugby football
ConferenceIndependent
1909 record8-1
Head coachGeorge J. Presley (1st season)
Home groundStanford 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]

DateOpponentSiteResult
September 18Barbarians Club (San Francisco)
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 16–0
September 25Olympic ClubW 3–0
October 2Barbarians Club (San Francisco)
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 11–0
October 9Olympic Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 15–0
October 23at Castaways Club (Los Angeles)Los Angeles, CaliforniaW 41–0
October 30Reliance Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 59–0
November 3Vancouver Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 56–0
November 6Vancouver Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 19–3
November 13California
L 13–19

1910 season[edit]

1910 Stanford rugby football
ConferenceIndependent
1910 record7-1
Head coachGeorge J. Presley (2nd season)
Home groundStanford 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]

DateOpponentSiteResult
September 17Olympic ClubW 4–0
September 24Barbarians Club (San Francisco)
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 21–0
October 1Olympic Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 19–0
October 8Barbarians Club (San Francisco)
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 34–0
October 22Nevada
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 8–0
October 29Barbarians Club (San Francisco)
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 60–0
November 5Olympic Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 27–0
November 12at CaliforniaL 6–25

1911 season[edit]

1911 Stanford rugby football
ConferenceIndependent
1911 record10-3
Head coachGeorge J. Presley (3rd season)
Home groundStanford 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]

DateOpponentSiteResult
September 16Barbarians Club (San Francisco)W 23–3
September 23Olympic Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 19–0
September 30Barbarians Club (San Francisco)
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 31–3
October 7Olympic Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 16–0
October 14Nevada
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 41–0
October 21USC
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 6–3
October 28Olympic Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 39–3
November 1British Columbia
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 27–3
November 4British Columbia
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
L 5–6
November 11California
L 3–21
at Vancouver ClubVancouver, British ColumbiaL 6–13
at Vancouver ClubVancouver, British ColumbiaW 10–5
at Vancouver ClubVancouver, British ColumbiaW 9–0

1912 season[edit]

1912 Stanford rugby football
ConferenceIndependent
1912 record5-3–1
Head coachGeorge J. Presley (4th season)
Home groundStanford 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]

DateOpponentSiteResult
September 28Barbarians Club (San Francisco)W 12–0
October 5Olympic Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 17–0
October 12Australian Waratahs
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
L 0–6
October 16Australian Waratahs
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 13–12
October 19at USCLos Angeles, CaliforniaW 14–0
October 23Santa Clara
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
L 10–15
October 26Barbarians Club (San Francisco)
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
L 0–6
November 2Olympic Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 19–0
November 11at CaliforniaT 3–3

1913 season[edit]

1913 Stanford rugby football
ConferenceIndependent
1913 record8-3
Head coachFloyd C. Brown (1st season)
Home groundStanford 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]

DateOpponentSiteResult
September 13Olympic ClubL 3–5
September 20Barbarians Club (San Francisco)
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 88–3
September 27U.C. Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 13–3
October 4Barbarians Club (San Francisco)
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 18–0
October 11Olympic Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 29–3
October 15New Zealand All Blacks
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
L 0–54
October 18New Zealand All Blacks
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
L 0–56
October 25Barbarians Club (San Francisco)
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 21–5
November 1Olympic Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 19–12
November 8California
W 13–8
November 22at USCLos Angeles, CaliforniaW 10–0

1914 season[edit]

1914 Stanford rugby football
ConferenceIndependent
1914 record10-0
Head coachFloyd C. Brown (2nd season)
Home groundStanford 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]

DateOpponentSiteResult
September 12Olympic ClubW 17–0
September 19Barbarians Club (San Francisco)
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 31–3
September 26University Alumni
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 61–8
October 3Barbarians Club (San Francisco)
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 19–4
October 10Olympic Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 19–5
October 17Titans Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 35–6
October 24Santa Clara
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 13–0
October 31University Alumni
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 31–3
November 7Olympic Club
  • Stanford Field
  • Stanford, California
W 36–6
November 14at CaliforniaW 26–8

1915 season[edit]

1915 Stanford rugby football
ConferenceIndependent
1915 record10-0–1
Head coachFloyd C. Brown (3rd season)
Home groundStanford 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]

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

1916 season[edit]

1916 Stanford rugby football
ConferenceIndependent
1916 record9-1
Head coachFloyd C. Brown (4th season)
Home groundStanford 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]

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

1917 season[edit]

1917 Stanford rugby football
ConferenceIndependent
1917 record1-0
Head coachJim Wylie (1st season)
Home groundStanford Field
Seasons
← 1916
1919 →

Like the two coaches before him, Stanford's new head coach Jim 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]

DateOpponentSiteResult
November 24Santa ClaraW 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?" (PDF). 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" (PDF). 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"" (PDF). Journal of Sport History. 11 (3): 5–40. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-08-07.
  4. ^ a b Goldsmith, A. A (October 1913 – March 1914). "Why California Likes Rugby". Outing. 63: 742–750.
  5. ^ "History". British Columbia Rugby Union. Archived from the original on April 15, 2012. 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" (PDF). p. 142. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  10. ^ "Army, Navy, Marine football now looming". Bakersfield Californian. September 7, 1918. Retrieved October 26, 2011.