The people and places of Dickinson College

"What's the Snap Count?" -  Athletic Field 1900

 This photograph is taken of the 1900 Dickinson College football squad.  In modern football parlance, they are in a T-formation backfield with the ends drawn in tight to the tackles.  The picture was taken at the first college owned athletic field located at the corner of Louther and Cherry Streets.  The field had been rented from 1890 and purchased in June, 1892.  The stand seen in the photograph was built soon after , seating 250 people, but burned down later and was not rebuilt.

The 1900 squad shown here marked the move from Dickinson's golden years of football to a period of mediocrity.  The coach of the team was Samuel A. Boyle, Jr., a former University of Pennsylvania player, hired for the season.

The generally accepted first season of Dickinson football as an intercollegiate sport was in 1885.  The school has records of games before that season but they were not considered seasons, as such.  The sport of football at the College got off to a rocky start, but leadership by men like Professor Fletcher Durrell, the "Father of Dickinson Football", helped the sport gain a foothold at the school and grow with the College.  Durrell, a Princeton PhD and professor of mathematics and astronomy, was instrumental in organizing contests, players, and even playing himself in a number of games.  The colors of the team, Red and White, were chosen in 1887 from the colors of two rival student literary societies, the Union Philosophical and the Belles Lettres.   The team up until 1888 had never had a coach and in 1888 the team came under the direction of the Professor of Physical Culture.  The following year, the College moved to purchase its first athletic field.  Games had previously been held at the Fair Grounds.  A new constitution was drafted that increased the powers of the Athletic Association and land was leased northwest of the college.  1889 marked the first winning record for the football team with a 4-1-1 mark.  The early seasons of intercollegiate football at Dickinson were marked by controversial games.  This was due to the lack of official rules and procedures for the games.  As noted above, the year 1890 brought the college its first permanent field located at the corner of Louther and Cherry Streets.

At about the same time that the athletic facilities at Dickinson were improving, the demand arose for the college to hire a full-time coach so that the team would be properly prepared for the competitive season.  Previously, only large powerhouses like the University of Pennsylvania, Lehigh, and Lafayette had the financial resources and demand for a head coach.  Dickinson wanted to be able to compete with these teams and in 1896 the college hired its first true head coach, on a seasonal basis, in Dr. Nathan P. Stauffer, a University of Pennsylvania graduate.  The Athletic Association also enacted new eligibility rules governing the rules under which players could participate in intercollegiate contests only if they were college students taking required numbers of course hours.

The 1900 team took to the practice field with twenty candidates under interim head coach Forrest E. "Cap" Craver.  Craver served as the head coach until the arrival of Samuel A. Boyle, Jr., another former University of Pennsylvania player, hired to replace Dr. Stauffer for the season.  The 1900 team was the first to begin receiving increased financial support from the student body meant to increase the quality of equipment and training for the team.  Students had previously paid a $2.00 fee at the beginning of the academic year for athletics with no privileges.  They now paid a $4.00 fee and were allowed admission to twelve athletic events, including four football games.  Craver, a teacher of Greek at the Dickinson Preparatory School and physical director of the gym, led the team into its first game of the season against the Indian School.  The Indians were coached by the soon to be legendary Glenn S. "Pop" Warner, who during the game against Dickinson, introduced the z-formation which was the forerunner of the single wing.  The Red and White went down in defeat 21-0 against the powerful Indians.  The following week saw a victory against Swarthmore and then came the University of Pennsylvania game.  Dickinson was defeated 35-0 by the powerhouse Quakers and Head Coach Woodruff of Penn remarked after the game, "...had Dickinson spent more of her energies on the game rather than on slugging and horsing around, the score would have been more creditable to her..."  The Dickinsonian responded to these accusations with an editorial stating Woodruff was in error and that the officials at the game were biased and favored the Quakers.  The men of 1900 rebounded from the defeat with three straight victories against Penn State, Haverford, and Gettysburg.  The team however, slipped again and had two straight losses to Syracuse and Lehigh.  These were attributed to injuries, the lack of first class substitutes, and the breaking of training rules by some of the players.  Violations included smoking and midnight lunches (snacks).  The squad recovered and in the next two weeks beat rival Frankilin & Marshall and Lafayette.  Lafayette was possibly the best game of the season with the Red and White holding Lafayette to two field goals and stopping them at the goaline four times in front of 4,000 fans in Easton, Pennsylvania.  Thus the Red and White finished the college's 15th year of intercollegiate competition with a 5-5 mark and a mixed season of good and bad games.

                                                              Dickinson               Opponent
                Indians                                            0                            21
                Swarthmore                                    12                           0
                U. Penn                                           0                            35
                Penn State                                       18                          0
                Haverford                                        27                          0
                Gettysburg                                       49                          0
                Syracuse                                          0                            6
                Lehigh                                             0                            6
                F&M                                               7                            5
                Lafayette                                         10                          6

The football program of Dickinson College has come far from its beginnings in the late nineteenth century.  The uniforms, equipment, and training facilities have changed much during the nearly 120 years of competitive play.  By refering to this page and the 1890 photograph of the Dickinson-F&M game, one can see how the uniforms in a ten year period changed.  Also, the idea of formations and the forward pass were coming into being by 1900, whereas a decade earlier the primary formation was "the wedge," a mass rugby-like formation meant to drive through an opposing defense.  Formations became more elegant, if the players did not, and football began evolving towards the game of strategy and adaptation that it is today.  Notice the players wear no helmets, their only pads consisting of thick pants, shinguards on some, and thick, reinforced rugby type shirts.  The photograph of Forrest "Cap" Craver is a good illustration of the uniform of the time.  Numbers would not be used for a number of years.  Cleats were in use however, the advantage of good traction in possibly bad conditions already having been recognized.

Throughout its existence, the Dickinson College football program has been composed of young men taking the field to battle in a game of strategy and brutality.  They fight for victory, for their College, but mainly, they fight for each other.

Timothy Ferguson

Microcosm 1902, Dickinson College Yearbook
Gobrecht, Wilbur J. The History of Football at Dickinson College 1885-1969. Kerr Press. Chambersburg, PA, 1971
Sellers, Charles Coleman. Dickinson College: A History. Middletown, CT. Wesleyan University Press, 1973
The Dickinsonian 1900-01. Dickinson College Newspaper