Harvard, Teddy Roosevelt, and Football

Published by Ralph Haro on April 22, 2011 at 11:16PM

As the NFL continues to deal with negotiations between owners and the Player’s Union, it calls for a look to the past when the game of football almost ended, forever.

In his latest book, “The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football,” author John J. Miller explains that the movement to ban the sport evolved after 18 football-related deaths in 1905.

But luckily, one man who witnessed his first football game in 1876, came to the rescue of the sport, and revolutionized the way it would be played forever: President Theodore Roosevelt, Class of 1880. Roosevelt’s experience that day at the second-ever match-up between Harvard and Yale provided him with the belief that the game was good for the nation because it developed character in its players.

Roosevelt, who was President at the time of the rising progressive movement against the sport led by many including Harvard President Charles W. Eliot, brought the coaches of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton together. In this meeting, they made rule changes, such as adding the forward pass, which distinguished the sport from others at the time and helped lead to the creation of the NCAA.

So when Harvard students think and debate about the merits of our sports teams, it is important to remember the Crimson’s long-storied history that predates many generations but continues to make an impact today.