Pigskin Pursuits – Sesquicentennial Snapshot

In the first installment of a three volume anthology of the history of athletics at Wheaton College, Through Clouds and Sunshine: A Story of Wheaton College Athletics from the Beginning (1892-1940), Edward Coray recounts the early endeavors of securing football at the school. Insights are also found another book by Coach Coray, The Wheaton I Remember.

Wheaton College Football, 1919 (Ed Coray, back row 4th from right)

President Charles Blanchard for a long time put football in the same category as gambling and hard liquor. To understand this, one needs to know something of Dr. Blanchard’s personality and character. A gentle man who loved the young people of Wheaton, he hated to think of any of these fine young men being involved in a sport where people might be maimed for life or even killed [note: a real possibility in the early days of football]. In addition the majority denounced the sport as brutal. So the administration and faculty members at Wheaton did not stand alone in being skeptical of the sport.

In 1906 radical rule changes made football a more open game and less susceptible to injuries. President Blanchard, a reasonable man, listened to the arguments of the boys who wanted to play football…Some of the boys, who he thought were nice boys, convinced him that it was a wholesome game and the purpose was really not to maim or kill your opponents. All you wanted to do was knock them down and run over them…Finally he became convinced that with the rules changed…the sport could be an asset rather than a liability in preparing young men for a lifetime of fruitful service….

He consented to having it on the program, though he never came to understand the fine points of the game. Once our opponents were running through our line as if it were made of paper. The backfield men were making such tackles as were made. I was in a good position to know how weak our line was because I was in it. Fans along the sidelines began moaning. “We need a line. If only we had a line.” Finally Dr. Blanchard said, “The college budget is quite low but if we need a line perhaps we should buy one. How much do they cost?”



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