He feels that sports has a place in college life, but it must be honest and safe.
During the 1890’s and early 1900’s a debate of considerable proportions raged in the public press, on college campuses, and in educational, literary, and sporting journals over the game of football. At the time it was a college sport rather than a professional one, yet many players were being paid and their...
During the 1890’s and early 1900’s a debate of considerable proportions raged in the public press, on college campuses, and in educational, literary, and sporting journals over the game of football. At the time it was a college sport rather than a professional one, yet many players were being paid and their academic records tampered with to give athletes better grades.
Moreover, the absence of standards led to its becoming increasingly violent and brutal. The major culprits were the flying wedge, football’s major offense at the time, and the game’s mass formations and gang tackling, which resulted in numerous injuries and deaths. These problems culminated in a crisis during the 1905 season, when the future of American intercollegiate football was in jeopardy.
Pres. Roosevelt believed strongly in the strenuousity of football in developing character and teaching virility in young men, and feared that the abolitionist spirit could prevail if football players and coaches failed to exhibit sportsmanship, and if the rules of the game were not changed to prevent brutal contests. He determined to try and save the sport by calling for reform and leaning on colleges to agree.
He invited a number of schools to meet with him at the White House, and they did so in October 1905. A joint statement was then issued, saying that American football leaders would consider it an obligation for the rest of the football season to prevent roughness and foul play, "in letter and in spirit." This intervention was crucial, as the move for abolition did in fact gather steam as the season progressed. After a riot at the Wesleyan game, Columbia abolished football and took the lead in attempting to convince other institutions to do the same.
In December, 13 major colleges had a convention to consider the question “Should the present game of football be abolished?” By a narrow margin, one likely influenced by the President’s attitude, the decision was to attempt reform instead of calling for immediate abolition. The convention issued a call for a national convention to be held on December 28, 1905. There the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS) was founded by 62 member colleges.
The group was officially constituted on March 31, 1906, and in 1910 changed its name to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Caspar W. Whitney was an important figure in early American sports. As part owner of This Week’s Sport magazine, in 1889 he initiated the first list of college football players who were best at their positions. He called this listing the "All-America Team," a name that has stuck. Whitney went on to found The Outing magazine, which was the premier sporting publication of the time, and continued selecting All-America teams until 1908. In addition to his interest in football, Whitney was one of the founders of the American Olympic Committee and served as its president. He was also a friend of Theodore Roosevelt.
Ralph D. Paine was a popular author of the time, often writing books on subjects that appealed to boys and occasionally writing for The Outing. In the December 1905 issue of that magazine, Paine wrote about visits he had just had with leaders of colleges on the west coast. He related that they were very generally fed up with football conditions, and that the game had to either be radically altered or there would be no choice but to abolish it. The article called for a national convention of colleges and universities to create acceptable rules and standards (a call that preceded, and influenced the decision to convene, the convention that would meet on December 28). It also quoted Benjamin Wheeler, president of Berkeley, as saying, “It would seem that President Roosevelt is the man to lead such action, as he has actively interested himself in the problem.”
In sum, Paine’s article saw a place for sports in collegiate life, but insisted that sports must be wholesome and fair, not corrupt and dangerous. Thus it called for a concerted policy for a new game of football, with the President as the visible symbol of the effort. Whitney then wrote T.R., asking him to write an introduction for a book he and Paine planned on the subject.
Typed Letter Signed on White House letterhead, Washington, February 29, 1906, to Whitney, whom he addresses familiarly as “My dear Whitney, Bring Paine down with you here and both of you take lunch some day with me, and I will tell you why I cannot, much as I should like to, write the introduction even for a book like that. I will tell you of some of the requests I have to write introductions.” Crucially, he adds in holograph “Tell Paine I absolutely agree with what he says in the last Outing about athletics in college life.”
So T.R. goes in writing as supporting college athletics and opposing the abuses in its practice. Reforming sports, making it safe, clean, and honest, was pure Theodore Roosevelt, so it is no surprise that he endorsed Paine’s views. He probably also agreed that he was the man to be seen as heading the effort. Although T.R.’s name is linked in history with sports, this is the first letter of his concerning it that we’ve seen.
Frame, Display, Preserve
Each frame is custom constructed, using only proper museum archival materials. This includes:The finest frames, tailored to match the document you have chosen. These can period style, antiqued, gilded, wood, etc. Fabric mats, including silk and satin, as well as museum mat board with hand painted bevels. Attachment of the document to the matting to ensure its protection. This "hinging" is done according to archival standards. Protective "glass," or Tru Vue Optium Acrylic glazing, which is shatter resistant, 99% UV protective, and anti-reflective. You benefit from our decades of experience in designing and creating beautiful, compelling, and protective framed historical documents.Learn more about our Framing Services