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College Football: History, Spectacle, Controversy Hardcover – October 3, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Since its rude beginnings in 1875, college football has become a vivid icon linking students, alumni, and the general public. Watterson (Thomas Burke, Restless Revolutionary ) painstakingly details the development from an overly rough, rugby-like battle to the highly organized, semi-professional game of today. (A disastrous 0-0 Yale-Princeton championship game in 1881 resulted in the first-down rule.) In the sport's early years, Harvard president Charles Eliot wanted it banned, but it was defended by Princeton's Woodrow Wilson. From the 1920s on, well-paid celebrity coaches like Knute Rockne made football big business. The years after World War II brought real integration, professional football's impact, TV, and more scandals. This frank account is a good fit for most academic and large public libraries.DMorey Berger, St. Joseph's Hosp. Lib., Tucson, AZ
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

In this carefully researched and thoroughly documented examination of college football, Watterson, an assistant professor at James Madison University, resurrects long-forgotten scandals and controversies that are amazingly similar to today's headlines. Current debates over "spearing"--using the head as a weapon--resemble outrage over the "flying wedge" in the game's early days. Overzealous recruiters in the twenties would entice young prep school phenoms to leave school a year early to enter a university and play football. Sound familiar? As Watterson meanders through a century of college-football history, readers will realize that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Through the years, ineffectual attempts have been made to reform the sport, but to no avail. In that spirit, Watterson offers his own solutions, but they are too radical to ever be implemented. This is a thoughful, intellectually challenging historical examination of college football that places today's headlines in the context of a century of controversy. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press (October 3, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801864283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801864285
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 6.8 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #934,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Ever since publication of the landmark work on college football's history by Allison Danzig in 1956 ("The History of American Football"), sport historians have been patiently waiting for another well-written work about college football's storied past which would bring the tale up to modern times. After any number of unsuccessful attempts by various authors, at long last we have that book with the release of John Watterson's "College Football" by John Hopkins Press; a work that is recommended by this reviewer.
Watterson, a professor at James Madison University, has previously delivered talks and written a considerable number of articles on the early history of college football, and to his book "College Football" he brings the same attention to research and an easy-to-read style of writing that has characterized his earlier work.
Rather than droning on endlessly about one season after another in college football's past that dates to 1869, Watterson has instead tackled football's history by using each chapter to examine the predominate and notable events through the years that served to gradually transform the game into what we see today. The result is a history of college football that provides an essential foundation for the novice historian, while still providing plenty of new and interesting material for the more experienced reader.
The author takes up his story with the origins of big-time football in the 19th century, including the major controversies of the 1890s that evolved from the game's increasing violence and serious injuries.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "evreng" on February 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
A useful book for everyone who has a long-lasting interest and knowledge on the College Football, but it can be a little bit dazy and hard-to-understand for the beginners. College Football by Watterson is an analytical book which also solves the past-time football's problems according to the periods national crisis' and situations with huge acknowledgements. If you already have a good knowledge on College Football, then you will find a lot of interesting things in this book; if you have no or a little knowledge, then I will suggest you to read easier books to prepare yourself for this book. I really liked reading and learned a lot from this book though.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert Pruter on January 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
College Football is an outstanding and important work. It is a true history--not a greatest teams and greatest players-type of celebratory writing--and falls under the rubric of sport history. Sport history, which is a subcategory of social history, relates sports to broader themes in society, and John Sayle Watterson in this regard does a terrific job in relating the history of football to the issue of collegiate life as a whole, and even to society as a whole (particularly where the colleges had to fight the pro game for the public's entertainment dollar).
College Football is published by a university press (Johns Hopkins), but it is marketed as a trade book. Thus, the misleading subtitle "History-Spectacle-Controversy," as there is not much spectacle in this book. But there is plenty of controversy, relating to violence, subsidies, and cheating scandals throughout the sport's history and the mostly failed attempts by the college football establishment to reform the sport.
Watterson's work is actually a more narrow history of the governance of college football, rather a broad history of the sport (Johns Hopkins surely did not want to put the word "governance" in the title). As such, however, College Football is the best overview of the subject ever written, primarily because the author takes the story from the beginning up to the present day.
I have some minor carping: there is an excessive number of typos and errors in this book for a university press book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This enlightening book covers the history of college football from an interesting and neglected point of view. That is to say, it contains none of the usual lionisation of players and coaches, and no re-working of big games we're all familiar with. Rather, Watterson examines (and questions) the place of the game in American society and its role on campus. The book establishes quite clearly that the over-emphasis placed on gridiron is hardly a recent phenomenon or even (as I foolishly suspected) down to the evils of television - that schools have been fielding ineligible players, fiddling grades, and operating slush funds from the days of Walter Camp. Watterson details the various movements which have attempted to reform the game and how it is run, and explains lucidly why virtually all of them failed. A seemingly insatiable desire for victory and glory to the alma mater has resulted in a gradual yet steady erosion of the original purpose of sport on campus, to the point where today a college President can express a desire to "build a university the football team can be proud of" without a trace of irony.
The book's only real fault lies in some woeful editing, which results in a few stories being re-told, and several paragraphs being repeated almost word-for-word many pages later (not to mention some grammatical howlers which don't strike me as being the author's fault). I found myself able to to overlook this, though, and can unreservedly recommend it. It may not be one which the more avid Sooner, Fighting Irish, Crimson Tide, or Buckeye-backer will gravitate toward, but those who enjoy big-time football and yet abhor how tainted it has all become will find it difficult to put down.
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