Big-time Football at Harvard, 1905: The Diary of Coach Bill Reid
In 1905, twenty-six-year-old Bill Reid, a former Harvard athlete, was wooed back to the campus by the offer of a salary higher than that of any faculty member and approaching that of long-time president Charles W. Eliot. His mission: beat Yale. With the intent of providing a how-to manual for future coaches, Reid set down day by day an account of his activities on and off the field. In so doing, he provides clear evidence of what many have suspected for a long time: that the unethical conduct so common in modern-day football has roots in the early history of the game and has not been limited to the so-called football factories. Reid offhandedly discusses such topics as spying on other teams, pressuring faculty members to give players passing grades, requiring that players cut classes to attend practice, and hiding injuries from players to keep them on the field. By coincidence, Reid kept his diary during the single most inflammatory year in the history of college football. In the fall of 1905, President Roosevelt called a White House conference, attended by Reid and the coaches at Yale and Princeton, to discuss brutality and unethical conduct in college football. Harvard was among a number of institutions that considered dropping the sport in 1905, and a few actually did, including Columbia, California, Northwestern, and Stanford. After the death of a Union College player, a national conference was held to discuss the future of college football, which resulted in the formation of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
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