Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sesquicentennial Stories: The Promise of UK #124

In 1880, the first college football game ever played in the South was held at a field, that once pastured President’ Patterson’s cows, on State College’s campus.  That field was to become Stoll Field at the University of Kentucky.

Professor A. M. Miller, second from left
 In 1892, after years of unorganized efforts, the students determined to make something of the game of football on the State College campus.  They scheduled games with neighboring colleges and as an organized team got a geology professor, Arthur Miller, to coach the team. 

Also in 1892, the official colors were chosen by a group of students. A football fan suggested blue and white - "blue like Dick Stoll's necktie." Judge Richard C. Stoll was an alumnus and long-term Board of Trustee member.

Before the next season the Central Kentucky colleges formed the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Association (KIAA) mainly for making rules.  In 1893, State’s Coach John A. Thompson led his team to Knoxville where they beat Tennessee 56-0, the most lopsided score in the history of the rivalry between the schools.  That game was the beginning of the Kentucky-Tennessee rivalry in football.

Football game crowd at Kentucky State College; fans are seated on first wooden grandstand, designed and erected by the Engineering Department; President James K. Patterson can be seen on the back row of the grandstand, middle left
 From Carl B. Cone’s University of Kentucky, A Pictorial History, “The magic of football as a spectator sport exerted itself almost at once.  Main Street businessmen and some faculty members, most of them strangers to the game, formed a stock company.  From the proceeds of stock sales, with labor donated by engineering students, and with Patterson’s cows evicted, the grounds were improved and enclosed by a fence, and wooden stands were erected on both sides of the field.  The college authorities assigned supervision of football, baseball, and track to a faculty committee of three, though the active management of the teams devolved upon three student managers, one for each sport, elected by students who became members of the athletic association by buying season tickets.”

1898 KSC football team
 The greatest UK team of that era was the 1898 squad, known as "The Immortals." To this day, the Immortals remain the only undefeated, untied, and unscored upon team in UK football history. The Immortals were coached by W.R. Bass.

In 1909, the Wildcat is adopted as the official nickname after the cadet commandant attended a football game and commented afterwards that the team "fought like wildcats."

Ky vs. Vanderbilt
 Stoll Field was officially dedicated in 1916 at the Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt game and was named in honor of Judge Richard C. Stoll.

In 1924, McLean Stadium, named for Price McLean, an engineering student who was fatally injured in a football game in 1923, opens. The stadium held 15,000, and was built on Stoll Field.

1946 marked football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant's first season. Bryant would coach at UK until 1954, coaching UK to Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl victories, in 1951 and 1952 respectively.

In 1973 the football team played the first game at Commonwealth Stadium, which had seating for 57,800 fans. UK defeated Virginia Tech, 31-26.

****October is National Archives Month.  Please visit Special Collections to see a historic display of UK Sports with a featured display on football!


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