The University of Chicago Magazine October 1995
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Legends of the Fall

The coaches were heroes, their teams undefeated, the players skilled machines. In 1905, Michigan met Chicago-a match that showed the nation college football was no longer just a game.

By Robin Lester
Illustrations by Victor Juhasz

On a gray, chilly Thanksgiving day in 1905, two well-trained teams, coached by men whose university compensation surpassed almost everyone's on their respective campuses, met in Chicago to decide something football followers deemed crucial-the championship of the West. Three decades later, sportswriters would determine that the game had identified the mythical "national champion" that year.

The contest pitted a legendary Michigan Wolverine team, coached by Fielding Yost, against the U of C Maroons, coached by another legend, Amos Alonzo Stagg, and led by All-American quarterback Walter Eckersall.

Michigan, favored two to one over Chicago, had been unbeaten since Yost's arrival four years earlier. From 1901 up until the last game of 1905, his teams had won 56 games and scored 2,821 points to only 40 for their opponents. Chicago scored 12 of those opposition points, but had been disappointed for four years in late-season clashes with its chief rival, and Maroon supporters judged a football season successful only if Michigan were beaten.

The teams' 1905 meeting elicited the greatest volume of interest in a single game west of Philadelphia to that time. One estimate was that only 20 percent who wanted tickets could

CONTINUE READING "Legends of the Fall"

"Saint Amos": The innovations that Amos Alonzo Stagg--and the University of Chicago--brought to the game of football.

"Local Hero": Walter Eckersall starred as the Maroon's quarterback--and later as a sportswriter for the Chicago Tribune. But he struggled in the classroom.

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