From the front page of September 24, 1940 edition of the Michigan Daily, announcing the demise of the once-great University of Chicago football program:

RIPSo why did one of the original members of the Big Ten, who brought us the heralded Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg (and Fritz Crisler, for that matter), ditch football?  This issue of Sports Illustrated from 1954 put it nicely:

The University of Chicago abandoned intercollegiate football in 1939 because the game hampered the university’s efforts to become the kind of institution it aspired to be. The university believed that it should devote itself to education, research and scholarship. Intercollegiate football has little to-do with any of these things and an institution that is to do well in them will have to concentrate upon them and rid itself of irrelevancies, no matter how attractive or profitable. Football has no place in the kind of institution Chicago aspires to be.

It has been argued that Chicago is different. Perhaps it is and maybe it is just that difference that enabled the university to separate football from education.

That’s sweet and all, but methinks the 85-0 beating at the hands of Tom Harmon’s Wolverines in 1939 had a hand in it as well.  Here’s one of my favorite all-time photos featuring Tom Harmon cooling off on the sidelines during that very game:

1939 Tom Harmon vs Chicago

Following the game there was bit of a media frenzy about the future of college football in the Windy City, stemming from a few remarks from the President.  Here’s a tasty headline from the (St. Petersburg) Evening Independent:

Chicago Football a JokeThat same week the Milwaukee Journal quoted one demoralized UC loser student discussing the state of their pigskin program:

“It doesn’t matter much, does it?  The players are having a lot of fun, so why worry?  If a man must look at football, he can always go to see the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers.  They’re even better than the best of the college teams.”

At the turn of the century Stagg’s Maroons were Michigan’s fiercest rival and it the squad that handed Yost his first Wolverine defeat in 1905.  And speaking of Stagg & Yost – the heavy drama between the two is being chronicled by writer John Kryk (Natural Enemies) for a new book that will certainly be required reading! 

 

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