Stagg's University The Rise, Decline, and Fall of Big-Time Football at Chicago Synopsis
For this first case study of college football by a social historian, Lester has brought life to the story of a university football program that had an unusual beginning, a glorious middle, and a unique and inglorious conclusion. The nation's first tenured coach and the most creative and entrepreneurial of all college coaches from the 1890s to the 1920s, Amos Alonzo Stagg headed a program marked by creation of the letterman's club and by the dominant use of the forward pass, of jersey numbers, and of the collegiate modern T formation. Stagg, who had been an all-American football player at Yale University, joined the company of nine former college or seminary presidents and academic notables including John Dewey, Thorstein Veblen, and Albert Michelson when he was named associate professor of physical culture and coach of the football team at the University of Chicago in 1892. Within fifteen years the charismatic Stagg had developed a program so powerful that more Americans knew of it than of the physics experiments of Michelson, who in 1907 became the first U.S. citizen to win the Nobel Prize. The logical commercial trail established by Stagg and University President William Rainey Harper helped change football into a mass entertainment industry on American campuses. This fascinating look at the birth of bigtime college sport shows how today's gridiron glory and scandal were prefigured in Chicago's football industry of the early twentieth century, presided over by the brilliant, combative, saintly, but very human Amos Alonzo Stagg.
Stagg's University The Rise, Decline, and Fall of Big-Time Football at Chicago Press Reviews
[Stagg's University] illuminates a complex of deeply embedded practices and beliefs which have structured all of our lives... It is painstakingly researched, extraordinarily well written, and very wise ... the best book ever written on the subject. -Bruce Kidd, chair, prize committee for the North American Society for Sport History This volume is academically solid, scrupulously researched, and written with style... Lester's narrative is compelling, and, in short, if you want to understand the place of intercollegiate athletics in the larger American society in the twentieth century, this volume is the place to start. - Ronald A. Smith, Journal of Sport History Lester, who had private access to all of Stagg's papers and letters, has scrutinized the phenomenon of college football as closely as anyone has. His book is an amazing compendium of the forces that bred big-time college football. -Rick Telander, Chicago Sun-Times An impressive analytical account... Lester's unsparing look at big-time college athletics is thought-provoking and challenging. -Vernon L. Volpe, Illinois Historical Journal Excellently researched - American Historical Review Lester's attractive study of [Stagg] has provided an important contribution both to the history of American football and the general history of sport. - International Journal of the History of Sport Makes an important contribution to social, cultural, and sport history by expanding our knowledge of college football's formative decades. This volume is particularly valuable for its detailed and realistic depiction of how big-time football influenced university life, as well as how the roles of players, coaches, and spectators changed over the decades. - Reviews in American History Lester interweaves the lives and goals of three men, Amos Alonzo Stagg, William Rainey Harper, and Robert Maynard Hutchins, to provide fascinating reading... His research of primary sources is extensive and revealing. - Choice An outstanding book... Proves to fulfill everything that a true history of college football should strive to be... Everyone is familiar with the popular mythology that surrounds the reputation of Stagg... For the first time in book form, Professor Lester discloses some of what was really going on at Chicago in relation to the football program from 1892-1939. This is NOT a book of 'revisionist' history, but rather a thoroughly researched and well organized presentation of the facts, with ample footnotes on sources... A spell-binding read that was difficult to put down. It is the classic example to us all of just what a football history can and should be. - College Football Historical Society Lester has a good, dramatic tale to tell ... and he tells it well. - S.J.S. Ickringill, The Sports Historian ADVANCE PRAISE This splendid biography of a famous coach is, among other things, a brilliant commentary on football's role in the American university and the national culture. -Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Lester's learned and lucid history of the rise and fall of football at the University of Chicago shows us that, as Clemenceau said of war and generals, intercollegiate athletics is too important to be left to sports writers. He has given us a well written and very carefully researched book that will be of special interest to anyone who has been involved with the University of Chicago. - William H. McNeil, Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago, and author of Hutchin's University: A Memoir of the University of Chicago, 1929-1950 It is hard to think of a better story than the creation of a great university, the career of a legendary coach, and the abolition of a sacred ritual. Lester tells the stories of William Rainey Harper, Amos Alonzo Stagg, and Robert M. Hutchins with the skill of a mature historian (or is he a budding novelist?). - Allen Guttmann, author of The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games This tale of pride and prejudice, boosterism and overwhelming ambition should be read by anyone interested in or connected to college sports and higher education. - Randy Roberts, author of Jack Dempsey: The Manassa Mauler