Those Were The Days - Kansas

Sep 7, 2023

1916! This week Detlef is taking us back to 1916. The US President was... Woodrow Wilson? No, I think he was elected in 1920. I'm doing that thing where I make guesses out loud before looking something up. I'm gonna guess that Woodrow Wilson was President when Illinois beat Kansas in 1916. Googling now...

I was right! Woodrow Wilson was President from 1913 to 1921. That's one that I should know immediately (because of World War I) but for whatever reason I always flip Wilson and Harding. So the game Detlef is talking about took place in October of 1916 which means that this was just before the Woodrow Wilson/Charles Evans Hughes election. See now I need to know which candidate Illinois voted for.

Illinois backed Charles Evans Hughes. So maybe there were even some Hughes/Fairbanks tents set up near Illinois Field. Perhaps they were handing out flyers hitting Wilson hard for the Teapot Dome scandal.

See, I just had that feeling that Teapot Dome wasn't Wilson. Looking it up and it was... ha! It was Harding. Be very glad I'm not teaching your children.

ANYWAY, here's Detlef to take you back to 1916 and a football game played between Springfield & University and Wright & Matthews in Urbana (see, I do know SOME history)...

Illinois travels to Kansas to play the Jayhawks in football for the first time since 1968! Does Bill Self come back to Champaign if Illinois wins? Does Illini Nation want him back? I apologize, this is a football story.

Anyhow, I will be in Lawrence along with my tailgate crew, we hope to see you there! This week's tale has the distinction of being the oldest game I have ever written about for this column. The game details are not the best but it's still interesting.

October 7, 1916: This was the opening game for Illinois. Can you imagine the season starting in October? Head Coach Robert Zuppke started his fourth season. Illinois, members of the Western Conference, hosted the Kansas Jayhawks of the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

It was an unusually warm fall day in Champaign, high of 86 degrees. While war raged in Europe, America sat isolated and concentrated on sports. The story mentioned that during the football game, several announcements were made about Game 1 of the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Brooklyn Robins.

Kansas brought a significant amount of fans who boomed "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk" to the confusion of Fighting Illini fans at Illinois Field. The Kansas fans including many engineering students on their annual field trip who visited the engineering college at Illinois. Due to the heat, both teams substituted freely.

Illinois dominated the game, cruising to a 30-0 win. Kansas could muster only one first down! The Illinois defense was so fast it seemed they were in the Kansas backfield at the snap of the football. Illinois defenders of note included linemen Reynold Craft (Oak Park), Elmer Rundquist (Harvey Thornton), and Manley Petty (Lawrenceville). On offense, captain Burt Macomber (Oak Park) ran all over Kansas and even booted a field goal! Running backs George Halas (Chicago Crane) and Robert Knop (Chicago Lane Tech) enjoyed big games.

Kansas assistant coach George "Potsy" Clark appreciated the hospitality of Illini Nation who welcomed back the former Illinois football letterman. Before the game, Illinois cheerleaders presented Clark (Carthage) with a handsome traveling bag and a bouquet of red roses. "My heart will always be with Illinois, and as often as I can I'm going to pack up that old bag and beat it back here."

Clark went on to coach football at Michigan State, Kansas, Butler and Nebraska. He also coached the 1935 Detroit Lions to the NFL championship. He later served as athletic director at Butler and Nebraska. George Halas, aka Papa Bear, owned and coached the Chicago Bears to NFL titles. Also, Halas played baseball for the New York Yankees!

Illinois finished the season 3-3-1, good for fifth place in the Western Conference.

Sources: "Jayhawks Lose To Zupmen 30-0" Daily Illini, October 8, 1916.


larue on September 7, 2023 @ 06:08 PM

I was at the game in '68, Riggins was a freaking beast. Didn't make the one in '16.

Illiniboat on September 8, 2023 @ 06:47 AM

Zupmen is good. That should be an alternate nickname for the football team.

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