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Shaping College Football: The Transformation of an American Sport, 1919-1930 (Sports and Entertainment) Hardcover – June 18, 2007
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About the Author
Raymond Schmidt is the author of Two-eyed League: The Illinois-Iowa of 1890-1892 and Football's Stars of Summer. He lives in Ventura, Ca.
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If so, you have to read Raymond Schmidt's history of football in the 1920s (college football because the NFL was still in its infancy). Whether it's the Haskell Indians, traditionally African-American schools, or the rising Catholic powers, Schmidt ranges far and wide. He portrays a gridiron landscape no longer dominated by the traditional eastern schools (think Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Penn, and Army). The Midwest flanked by the South and West Coast now became the regions that produced big-time coaches,teams,and star players.
Schmidt's research is truly remarkable. No doubt most of us know something of the Golden Age of Sport--the age of prosperity and consumerism that produced sports legends like Knute Rockne and Red Grange. Yet how many are familiar with the bitter controversies that raged after Grange quit college to join the Chicago Bears? Or the national football machine created by Knute Rockne consisting of former players turned coaches who fed him insider information. Or the forward passes (just legalized in 1906) like burgeoning aircraft that filled the gridiron stratosphere.
Not that there weren't controversies and scandals. Schmidt airs the endless disputes and the conniving by teams for whom winning had become obsessive. The University of Iowa, a flagrant example, accumulated a slush fund that brought the wrath of today's Big Ten down on its head--not a conference team, many of them also tainted, would play the Hawkeyes. In 1929, the Carnegie Commission catalogued the numerous sins against the "amateur ideal." Unfortunately for the Commission, the report was released the same week as the stock market crash.
By 1930, the world of football, as Schmidt views it, was far closer to today's game, practices, and strategy than the pre- or immediately post-World War I version. As if to bookmark the end of an era, Knute Rockne died in an airplane crash after the 1930 season. Schmidt shows how Rockne personified the myth and reality of big-time football--and how the outpouring of tributes to Rockne illustrates the enormous power of its transformation.
"Indeed, that period from 1919 to 1930," Schmidt writes," had served to radically reshape the sport and lay the groundwork for most of what has transpired within intercollegiate football since that time, and it was truly the game's age of Transormation."