PHOTO CREDIT: University Archives

Coach: Alden KnipeRecord: 8-0-1 Audio: Audio Video: Video

Ticket booths were constructed around Iowa Field and a four-foot wire fence was put up to keep out all "illegal spectators." Nor were all legitimate spectators treated equally during these early days of Iowa football. While chairs were provided for the women, the men were required to stand.

Iowa went undefeated in 1899, ending the season with an 8-0-1 record, plus money in the bank! As it was reported in the Hawkeye: "Profit from games, $1,678; from the Mikado benefit [starring Coach Knipe], $361; and from alumni, $95; total profits $2,134. Out of this was taken $953 as current expenses for keeping the team in the field; leaving a balance of $1,181, of which over $800 is clear gain. Universities of our grade laugh at the idea of a team running on less than a thousand dollars for current expenses, but Mr. McCutchen [the football manager] supplied them well for less."

In his memoirs about football in the Gay Nineties, W.C. Edson, 01LLB, recalled that white canvas painter's pants cost 75 cents a pair and a football cost $5. "For headgear," he wrote, we let our hair grow." Another Iowa player, Michael McKinsley, 1895LLB, described the 1894 football uniform this way: "Each player was provided with a pair of mole-skin trousers, a plain jersey, shoes, and a sweater.... A football player in those days, especially in the Big Nine Conference, did not know what head-gears were. Shoulder and neck protectors were also unknown, and a tight-fitting jersey, with thinly padded moleskin, was his only armor."

Iowa Field was located on the east side of the Iowa River, just below and to the south of Old Capitol.


Though 19th century football equipment lacked sophistication, the battle on the field provided thrills any true fan can appreciate. Writing for a 1912 edition of The Iowa Alumnus, W.C. Edson remembered Iowa's 1899 game with Nebraska:

"It was in the season of '99. Iowa had won all its games before meeting Nebraska. No team had yet crossed the Iowa goal. The members of the Iowa 'varsity' had formerly agreed between themselves that so long as they played together on the team, they would never let an opponent cross the last white line.

"The game was at Omaha, and the teams were about evenly matched in both weight and experience. In speed and rapidity of play, Iowa was superior. Shortly after the game commenced, Iowa made her first score. Nebraska came right back, and before Iowa realized what had happened, Nebraska had the ball within our five yard line, and it was first down.

"The grandstand and bleachers were wild with excitement. Was Iowa going to lose? Was Nebraska going to beat the team that the Chicago champion team could not make a touchdown against? Crandall, Nebraska's quarterback, was calling quick, sharp signals. Benedict, Williams, and Gordon, the Nebraska backs, plunged into the line. 'Second down, three yards to gain,' called the referee.

"Again the Nebraskans attempted to break through the line. John Griffith was defending just behind the Iowa center, and at the call of the signal, John plunged through and over the line between the center and guard just as the ball was passed and landed squarely upon Quarterback Crandall as he received the ball. The referee called the play 'offside' and gave Nebraska one-half the distance to the goal, one and a half yards, and it was Nebraska's ball, first down.

"The excitement had grown intense; the entire crowd stood up in their places in the grandstands, tense and silent to watch the final struggle. Crandall's voice again rang out clear and distinct, and again Nebraska charged the line desperately. When the referee got down to the ball, he called 'second down, no gain.' Again they charged hard and low and all together. 'Third down, one yard to gain.' The crowd still stood in dead silence; Nebraska, hopeful, Iowa, dreading what seemed to be the inevitable.

"The ground where they play was, was dry and bare, and when the opposing teams sprang to their places for the last desperate charge, the soil about the spot seemed to have been dug up and torn by the contending forces.

"Nebraska's attack in the last play was directed at Iowa's left guard. Opposed to him was the giant Ringer, one of the best guards who ever played on the Nebraska team. The Nebraska back field again charged hard and low, straight at the guard position. Twenty-two men seemed to meet at the same time, and no one could tell at first whether or not the distance had been gained. The referee blew his whistle when the play was stopped and removed man after man from the pile.

"The goal line had been entirely obliterated.

"Gordon was at the bottom on the pile clasping the ball. The crowd still stood in intense silence awaiting the verdict. The referee rose, glanced along the goal line, marked the location of the ball and shouted, 'Iowa's ball, first down,'

"It was some minutes before play could be resumed or any signals heard because of the demonstration made by the Iowa supporters. Slight further delay was caused, I am told, on account of the Iowa quarterback and field captain taking time at this point to telegraph the news to Shelby. When Nebraska failed to score, they apparently lost heart and the final score was, Iowa, thirty; Nebraska, nothing."

December 1

Iowa and Indiana joined the Western Intercollegiate Conference, later to be known as the Big Ten. Member schools included the two newcomers, plus Chicago, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Purdue, and Northwestern.

PHOTO CREDIT: University Archives

Coach: Alden KnipeRecord: 3-4-2 Audio: Audio Video: Video

Shortly after Dr. Knipe arrived at Iowa, rebellion erupted among the upperclassmen on the team. Before long, the "Blackmore Revolt: ended in a mass exodus from the team. Knipe quickly promoted younger players to starting positions on the varsity squad and went undefeated for the next three seasons!

PHOTO CREDIT: University Archives

Coach: Otto WagonhurstRecord: 4-4-0 Audio: Audio Video: Video

Scoring values changed for the first time. The value of a touchdown increased from four to five points, while a successful goal or point after touchdown was reduced to one point from two. Field goals continued to count for five points and safeties were worth two.

Though many spectators gloried in a rowdy game of football, the violence of the game came under attack. An alumnus asked to share reminiscences for the 1897 edition of the Hawkeye referred to the game as "that barbarism of the ages—foot ball."

And a Cedar Rapids Gazette editorial included this comment about the game: "The Iowa University football captain is against any changes in the rules, declaring the game is not brutal as played now. That fellow ought to be pulled out of college and used as a bumping post in some railway yard."

Nonetheless, the Hawkeye noted that "this is without a doubt the most popular branch of our sports. Everyone likes a foot ball game. The faculty go to show their patriotism; the students find an extra fifty cents in some corner of their pocket and every one attends the game."

PHOTO CREDIT: University Archives

Coach: A.E. BullRecord: 7-1-1 Audio: Audio Video: Video

Iowa won seven of its nine games, including a contest against the University of Missouri in Columbia, where Iowa star Frank "Kinney" Holbrook became the target of racial prejudice. Perhaps the first black to play intercollegiate football in the state of Iowa, Holbrook was described as "one of the best half-backs in the west. He was generally given the ball when a good gain was needed on the last down. His line bucking was excellent. In falling on the ball after a fumble, he has his superior yet to meet. His ability lay in great part in his strength and sprinting qualities."

When Iowa officials declared there would be no game unless Holbrook were allowed to play, Missouri alumni and townspeople turned against the entire Iowa team. Iowa persevered and—with one of two touchdowns made by Holbrook—won the game 12-0.

PHOTO CREDIT: University Archives

Coach: N/A N/ARecord: 2-5-0 Audio: Audio Video: Video

Posting a disappointing 2-5 season, the Iowa team at least showed creativity. According to a story in Chuck Bright's University of Iowa Football: The Hawkeyes, "The only high point occurred in Lawrence, Kansas, during the Jayhawk game. The Hawkeye team lacked a cheering section, so it assembled the cast members of the Black Crook Opera Company of Lawrence and taught them the Iowa songs and yells. The vocal support left nothing to be desired (except a victory), and the squad repaid its debt by attending the show and 'producing one of the most vociferous claques ever to whoop things up at a theatrical performance.'"

PHOTO CREDIT: University Archives

Coach: Roger ShermanRecord: 4-4-1 Audio: Audio Video: Video

November 19


Iowa traveled to Missouri for a memorable game and a brawl. According to W.H. Bremner, 1895LLB, "the Iowa team ran into difficulties in the game with Missouri University at Columbia. In that game, play had progressed into the second half when the Missouri center and the Iowa quarter mixed things over what the Iowa quarter thought was rough treatment on the part of the Missouri man, and the result was that the entire male audience swarmed on to the field and proceeded to give the Iowa team the biggest scare of its existence; a number of the players being struck with canes and fists and for a little while it looked as though a free-for-all fight would be the result.

"One of the strange things in connection with this instance was that the officers of the law seemed to think that the entire fault rested with the Iowa team and several members of the team were placed under arrest by an officious constable. Order was finally restored, however, and those who had been arrested were released and permitted to finish the game. One of the members of the Iowa team . . . expressed the feeling of the team after this row very nicely when he said that during the balance of the game 'he played with one eye on the crowd and the other on the ball.' Under such circumstances good football could hardly be expected."

Apparently Bremner did not care to extend his reminiscing to include the outcome of the game. Missouri conquered the Hawkeyes 32-6.


Games were shortened from 90 minutes to 70, with two 35-minute periods.

This was the first year players didn't have to buy their own uniforms. The Athletic Association at Iowa provided the team with old gold sweaters, stockings, and jerseys.

By the end of the season, Iowa fans had learned this first generally accepted Yearbook illustration from 1894.cheer:

Come right this way I O W A Football we play Rush lines we break Touchdowns we make We take the cake Rah! Rah! Rah!

And fans were requested to do more than cheer. The Hawkeye yearbook reported that the athletic grounds were expanded to nine acres in 1894, adding this admonition: "Students, alumni, and friends of the University will please note that these athletic grounds are not yet paid for, and contributions of any and all sizes will be thankfully received at any time."

Though the athletic facilities were enlarged, little money was spent coaching. The S.U.I. Quill, "Published each Saturday of the College Year," editorialized: "We believe that the coach could very well be done away with. Professional football coaches are not desired, at least not at the State University of Iowa."

PHOTO CREDIT: University Archives

Coach: Ben DonnellyRecord: 3-4-0 Audio: Audio Video: Video

The Vidette-Reporter noted that "men who are heavy and strong can have places on the team for the asking."

PHOTO CREDIT: University Archives

Coach: E.A. DaltonRecord: 3-2-1 Audio: Audio Video: Video


E.A. Dalton, a Princeton graduate, was hired as Iowa's first professional football coach. He coached for ten days during October.

PHOTO CREDIT: University Archives

Coach: Martin Wright SampsonRecord: 3-2-0 Audio: Audio Video: Video

November 25

Iowa played its first game beyond state boundaries, defeating the University of Nebraska in Omaha 22-0. After the game, President Charles Ashmead Schaeffer exclaimed with pride: "Nothing can do us more good in so short a time and at so little expense as a winning game of football. As a means of advertisement, athletic success cannot be equalled."

PHOTO CREDIT: University Archives

Coach: Martin Wright SampsonRecord: 1-1-0 Audio: Audio Video: Video

October 18

Iowa played its first home game. In spite of English teacher Martin Sampson's 70-yard run for Iowa's first touchdown ever, the Hawkeyes couldn't best the Pioneers from Iowa College. Final score: 14-6.

Thanksgiving Day

Iowa won its first game, a rout against Iowa Wesleyan played at the fairgrounds in Mt. Pleasant. In those days, touchdowns were only worth four points, but field goals counted five and game scores were not necessarily low. Abe Lincoln's son Robert and over 1,400 fans watched Iowa whip Iowa Wesleyan. Final score: 91-0.