Football Programs General

Founded in 1873, The New York University Football Team was one of the first college football teams. The sport was central to the NYU student experience and was followed by area alumni and residents. Though the team never developed into a national powerhouse, the football program steadily improved throughout the early part of the Twentieth Century. In the 1920s, the team entered its “Golden Era” marked by winning records and games at Yankee Stadium in front of a sellout crowd. During this time, the University also began producing elaborate programs for its marquee match-ups with player photos, statistics, and information. These publications also featured local advertisements, cheers, and often topical artwork on the cover. Unfortunately, the heyday of NYU football was short and by 1930s the team began equally steeped decline. The New York University Council voted on March 9, 1953 to terminate the football team and mandated that Athletic Director James Gilloon begin to encourage interest in the basketball program. The next day, Henry Heald, NYU Chancellor, released a statement on athletics declaring, “Intercollegiate football today requires a large squad of players, a large staff to coach these players and administer the many details of he program, and a substantial amount of money to defray the cost of equipment, travel, staff, services, and playing facilities…A privately supported university cannot divert a disproportionate amount of its resources into football.”1 The New York University Fighting Violets left a unappreciated impact on football including developing the modern style of play and forming the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States, which would change its name in 1910 to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Additionally, Class of 1936’s running back Edward Strong is immortalized in college football history as the model used by sculptor Frank Eliscuof to create the Heisman Trophy.

A number of the NYU Football programs ranging from the 1910’s until the team was disbanded are housed at the NYU Archives, but are buried inside the Athletics Collection. College Football programs, particularly from the time period represented in the NYU Archives, are highly regarded and sought out by collectors, sports enthusiasts, and historians. Currently, the collection lacks a Finding Aid or other method of public access. I am proposing a pilot project utilizing the archival records of the football team to bring attention to this cherished part of the history of New York University and the city.

The programs stand on their own as important historical objects that feature a glance into the history of the sport, art, fashion, and society. Currently there are a number of amateur websites devoted to the collecting of these publications, but no authoritative source to view or learn about these unique pieces of popular Americana history exists. Additionally there are thousands of websites devoted to college football history; some of these sites feature one or a few scanned programs, but none found through a comprehensive Google search were from a NYU game.

More than just display the artworks that appear on the cover and inside the programs, the project would draw on and potentially digitize related newspaper articles, photos, yearbooks, and other materials that reside in the Records of the New York University Football Program. This would provide users with information about the artwork, football match, and relevant current events surrounding the period to understand the historical significance of each program. For example, the program from the Missouri-NYU November 1940 game in Missouri would feature primary sources about the Bates Seven Controversy. The long forgotten controversy surrounded the silent gentlemen's agreement followed by integrated northern football teams of not playing African-Americans against a southern team from a state banning black athletes from competing with whites.

Selection would consist of using all of the approximately two hundred programs ranging from 1912 until 1952. The holdings at the New York University Archives are not comprehensive of all programs produced for games played by NYU. After the completion of this pilot project, ideally a second phase would include expanding the scope of the project to include the traditional opponents of the Fighting Violets, such as Columbia, Princeton, Rutgers, and Colgate, to both capture the entire history of the NYU team and grow the site as a viable resource on college football programs in general.

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