The rise of gridiron university Higher education's uneasy alliance with big-time football

Brian M. Ingrassia

Book - 2012

Offers the most incisive account to date of the origins of college football, tracing the sport's evolution from a gentlemen's pastime to a multi-million dollar enterprise that made athletics a permanent fixture on our nation's campuses and cemented college football's place in American culture.

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Series
Culture America.
Subjects
Published
Lawrence, Kan. : University Press of Kansas c2012.
Language
English
Physical Description
xiii, 322 p. : ill. ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (p. [269]-304) and index.
ISBN
9780700618309
0700618309
Main Author
Brian M. Ingrassia (-)
  • Introduction: The cultural cornerstone of the ivory tower
  • 1. Physical culture, discipline, and higher education in 1800s America
  • 2. Progressive era universities and football reform
  • 3. Psychologists : body, mind, and the creation of discipline
  • 4. Social scientists : making sport safe for a rational public
  • 5. Coaches : in the disciplinary arena
  • 6. Stadiums : between campus and culture
  • 7. Academic backlash in the post-World War I era
  • Epilogue: A circus or a sideshow?
Review by Choice Reviews

Ingrassia (history, Middle Tennessee State Univ.) offers a fresh perspective on the origins of big-time college football. Other scholars have produced works on the same subject, for example, Ronald Smith in Sports and Freedom: The Rise of Big-Time College Athletics (CH, Apr'89, 26-4533) and Robin Lester in Stagg's University: The Rise, Decline, and Fall of Big-Time Football at Chicago (CH, Feb'96, 33-3385). Ingrassia's book stands apart because of its focus on the role of faculty in the development of big-time college football. As he persuasively argues, faculty in the late-19th and early-20th centuries "institutionalized athletics" and played a key role in giving athletics a "permanent place on college campuses." He credits social scientists with providing a theoretical framework used to justify both the existence of intercollegiate football programs and efforts to reform them. Ingrassia links the construction of football stadiums and the proliferation of formal academic departments devoted to athletics to the academic justifications for football programs. His study ends in the post-WW I era, a time when faculty attitudes toward athletics soured, yet faculty largely lacked the power to eliminate big-time programs from their campuses. Ingrassia's intriguing, insightful book makes an important contribution to the literature on intercollegiate athletics. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; professionals; general readers. Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Professionals/Practitioners. C. M. Smith Cabrini College Copyright 2012 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

This is an academic history of the establishment of big-time football within the university, covering the period from the 1820s to the 1930s. From the growth of physical culture through the 19th century, Ingrassia (history, visiting, Middle Tennessee State Univ.) traces the evolution of the concept of manliness from one of self-discipline to that of force and victory well exemplified on the gridiron. He observes that football evolved within the academic world at the same time that large American universities were making a push to stress research over teaching, and he writes that the popularity of the game was seen as a way to sell the ivory tower to the general population. However, many other academics saw the emphasis on lowbrow football as corrupting the mission of the university. That debate continues today, but Ingrassia maintains that the permanence of the game within academia, as circus or sideshow, was firmly established with the advance of professional coaches and the construction of concrete stadiums in the early 20th century. He also addresses the progressive era, militarism, sexism, racism, and the effects of the newer disciplines of psychology and social sciences in regard to this topic. VERDICT Although thoroughly researched, this book makes for very dry reading, which will limit its audience to specialists.—John Maxymuk, Rutgers Univ. Lib., Camden, NJ [Page 73]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The most complete account to date of the origins of college football and its role in shaping the modern university. Traces the sport's evolution from a gentleman's pastime to a multi-million dollar enterprise that made athletics a permanent fixture on our nation's campuses and cemented college football's place in American culture.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The quarterback sends his wide receiver deep. The crowd gasps as he launches the ball. And when he hits his man, the team's fans roar with approval—especially those with the deep pockets. Make no mistake; college football is big business, played with one eye on the score, the other on the bottom line. But was this always the case? Brian M. Ingrassia here offers the most incisive account to date of the origins of college football, tracing the sport's evolution from a gentlemen's pastime to a multi-million dollar enterprise that made athletics a permanent fixture on our nation's campuses and cemented college football's place in American culture. He takes readers back to the late 1800s to tell how schools embraced the sport as a way to get the public interested in higher learning-and then how football's immediate popularity overwhelmed campuses and helped create the beast we know today. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Ingrassia proves that the academy did not initially resist the inclusion of athletics; rather, progressive reformers and professors embraced football as a way to make the ivory tower less elitist. With its emphasis on disciplined teamwork and spectatorship, football was seen as a "middlebrow" way to make the university more accessible to the general public. What it really did was make athletics a permanent fixture on campus with its own set of professional experts, bureaucracies, and ostentatious cathedrals. Ingrassia examines the early football programs at universities like Michigan, Stanford, Ohio State, and others, then puts those histories in the context of Progressive Era culture, including insights from coaches like Georgia Tech's John Heisman and Notre Dame's Knute Rockne. He describes how reforms emerged out of incidents such as Teddy Roosevelt's son being injured on the field and a section of grandstands collapsing at the University of Chicago. He also touches on some of the problems facing current day college football and shows us that we haven't come far from those initial arguments more than a century ago. The Rise of Gridiron University shows us where and how it all began, highlighting college football's essential role in shaping the modern university-and by extension American intellectual culture. It should have wide appeal among students of American studies and sports history, as well as fans of college football curious to learn how their game became a cultural force in a matter of a few decades.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

The most complete account to date of the origins of college football and its role in shaping the modern university. Traces the sport's evolution from a gentleman's pastime to a multi-million dollar enterprise that made athletics a permanent fixture on our nation's campuses and cemented college football's place in American culture.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

The quarterback sends his wide receiver deep. The crowd gasps as he launches the ball. And when he hits his man, the team's fans roar with approval—especially those with the deep pockets. Make no mistake; college football is big business, played with one eye on the score, the other on the bottom line. But was this always the case? Brian M. Ingrassia here offers the most incisive account to date of the origins of college football, tracing the sport's evolution from a gentlemen's pastime to a multi-million dollar enterprise that made athletics a permanent fixture on our nation's campuses and cemented college football's place in American culture. He takes readers back to the late 1800s to tell how schools embraced the sport as a way to get the public interested in higher learning-and then how football's immediate popularity overwhelmed campuses and helped create the beast we know today. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Ingrassia proves that the academy did not initially resist the inclusion of athletics; rather, progressive reformers and professors embraced football as a way to make the ivory tower less elitist. With its emphasis on disciplined teamwork and spectatorship, football was seen as a "middlebrow" way to make the university more accessible to the general public. What it really did was make athletics a permanent fixture on campus with its own set of professional experts, bureaucracies, and ostentatious cathedrals. Ingrassia examines the early football programs at universities like Michigan, Stanford, Ohio State, and others, then puts those histories in the context of Progressive Era culture, including insights from coaches like Georgia Tech's John Heisman and Notre Dame's Knute Rockne. He describes how reforms emerged out of incidents such as Teddy Roosevelt's son being injured on the field and a section of grandstands collapsing at the University of Chicago. He also touches on some of the problems facing current day college football and shows us that we haven't come far from those initial arguments more than a century ago. The Rise of Gridiron University shows us where and how it all began, highlighting college football's essential role in shaping the modern university-and by extension American intellectual culture. It should have wide appeal among students of American studies and sports history, as well as fans of college football curious to learn how their game became a cultural force in a matter of a few decades.