Football is Back!

The Columbia Jester, October 1915, cover artwork by G.W.T. Gillette, CC 1918. Call# CP1 C723

In the “Roar, Lion, Roar” exhibition on Columbia football (on view now at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library), we have a couple of documents on display illustrating “The Ban.” In November 1905, the University Committee on Student Organizations voted to abolish intercollegiate football at Columbia. Other colleges and universities similarly discontinued the sport following a season of repeated injuries and deaths. The Ban at Columbia lasted 10 years and when football returned in 1915, it was reestablished with a number of limitations (which teams Columbia could not play against, when the games would be scheduled, how many games, etc.) and on a probationary basis for the first five years.

In our Central Files (named for Central Administration or the Office of the President), there are a number of letters documenting how the University prepared for football’s return. During the last ten years, South Field had been used primarily for baseball, not football. The field was too hard for football, it needed new stands for the crowds, and all of this would have to be in place in a matter of months. So while the 1915 season marks the return of football and an undefeated season for the Lions, Central Files shows us that there was a lot that happened on campus that summer in order to allow football its triumphant return to campus.

-Columbia University Archives Staff