Sports and Freedom: The Rise of Big-Time College Athletics

By Ronald A. Smith | Go to book overview

VII

The Americanization
of Rugby Football:
Mass Plays, Brutality,
and Masculinity

THE RUGBY GAME, first introduced by McGill to Harvard, became the dominant American college sport by the 1890s. The vast benefits which were believed to accrue to colleges from the growth of football were not without cost. The positive values of developing an image of virility in what was often looked upon as effete college education and increasing the visibility of collegiate life had a reverse side. The negative involved the whole question of academic integrity and the place of organized sport in institutions which were formed to further moral and intellectual qualities. Football, more than any other sport, received the credit and took the brunt of criticism given to college sport. To many it was a cancer because of its brutal side and unethical play; to others it was valued for its promotion of character, virility, and esprit de corps. Football began to represent college sport, and no individual came to represent college sport more than Walter Camp.


Walter Camp, Father of American Football

For the historian, who sees some kind of balance between the major forces in history and the influence of prominent individuals, Walter Camp is a prime example of how powerful men helped give direc

-83-

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