History Timeline 1900's

Photo above: Wright Brothers airplane 1903. Right: Mesa Verde Cliff Dwelling. Photos courtesy Library of Congress.

Mesa Verde

U.S. Timeline - The 1900s

The World Takes Flight



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  • Timeline

  • 1906 Detail

    March 31, 1906 - The Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States is formed to set rules for amateur sports in the United States at the urging of President Theodore Roosevelt. It would become the National Collegiate Athletic Association in 1910.

    College Football Scrimmage 1902


    What we now know as the NCAA, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, had its beginning as the IAAUS, and was formed, predominantly, to administer the safety and rules of two sports, rowing and college football. Yes, that first is a surprise today. However, rowing, with the first collegiate competition stemming from Harvard versus Yale on the water in a regatta in 1852 sponsored by the Elkin Railroad Company, was one of the most popular sports at the turn of the 20th century. And those early rowing contests, becoming commercialized, may have included a non student. Football, newer to the college landscape, but not by much, was becoming much more popular as the years of the turn of the century passed. But the game was having serious problems with injuries. There were over one hundred and fifty injuries and eighteen deaths in 1905 alone. So, athletic meetings were held to make changes, pushed at the highest levels of government. They were prompted by President Theodore Roosevelt.

    A preliminary meeting was called by President Roosevelt on October 9, 1905 between the athletic directors of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. Walter Camp was one of two representatives from Yale. They formed the American Football Rules Committee. The rules of football, both for safety and competition reasons, were leading to those injuries and had caused some institutions to discontinue the sport (Columbia 1905) and the public to consider its reform or abolition. Many of the games had been run by student organizations with no eligibility rules. Players often did not have to be students of the university involved, and the rules for each game could be different.

    In December of 1905, New York University Chancellor Henry McCracken also held a meeting, inviting the Roosevelt group, to further establish football rules. It is thought that this larger group, and McCracken, wanted to abolish the game. There was some tension between the original group established by Roosevelt and the newer group headed by McCracken. However, by the end of the month, sixty-eight colleges had joined together to become charter members of the new institution, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS). Its focus now would not be to abolition football, but make it safer. One month later, the new rules committee met. The Roosevelt committee was still meeting, too, but would join together with the McCracken group by the end of 1906. The Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States was chartered on March 31, 1906. Its focus had been broadened from football to all collegiate athletics.

    Part of its Constitution included the following statement, "The Colleges and Universities enrolled in this Association severally agree to take control of student athletic sports, as far as may be necessary to maintain in them a high standard of personal honor, eligibility, and fair play, and to remedy whatever abuses may exist."



    Early Years of the IAAUS


    For the first several decades of the IAAUS and NCAA, the organization remained predominantly a rules making committee. It focused on amateurim and the rules for eligibility and each sport under the Presidency of Palmer Pierce of West Point. He would hold that position for most of the first twenty-five years of the association.

    The constitution partitioned the country into seven districts; the New England States, the Middle States and Maryland, the Southern States, the Middle Western States, the Northwestern States, the Southwestern States, and the Pacific Coast States. Although sixty-eight institutions had attended the December conference, only thirty-nine colleges affirmed the IAAUS 1906 Constitution. Some contend that the lack of ratification had something to do with the original tension between the two groups, however, it is not known today whether that was true, or whether institutions with high travel costs to attend national meetings or those in established conferences were originally hesitant to join.

    By the end of 1906, with both the Roosevelt and McCracken rules committee in concert as the American Intercollegiate Rules Committee, Walter Camp of Yale began exerting his influence and the rules of college football began to take shape. The influence and reach of the IAAUS and NCAA began to grow. From the initial thirty-nine institutions who had ratified the Constitution, by 1901, there were seventy-six members. Within twenty-five years of its establishment, there were one hundred and fifty members, including all of the hesitant members of the Roosevelt committee; Yale, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Chicago, Cornell, and Navy.

    Students, with faculty oversight, were still, however, running many events during the initial decade of the organization. In 1921, it held its first national championship in Track and Field. By 1939, it was holding the first national championship in basketball.


    Initial Rules Changes in Football


    Original Roosevelt Rules Committee in December 1905 made several significant rules changes. No slugging or kneeing of players and penalties would be given for rough play. Game was shortened from seventy minutes to sixty minutes. The forward pass was added to open up the game. The five yards to down rule was extended to ten yards.

    Once the joint committee of the IAAUS was established, additional rules were added to end mass plays or piling on. The forward pass and onsides kick were passed.


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    Charter Members of the IAAUS


    There were sixty-two members of the IAAUS when constitutioned in 1906. They included Allegheny College, Amherst College, Bucknell University, Colgate University, University of Colorado, Dartmouth College, Denison University, Dickinson College, Franklin and Marshall College, George Washington University, Grove City College, Haverford College, Lehigh University, Miami University (Ohio), University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska, New York University, Niagara University, University of North Carolina, Oberlin College, Ohio Wesleyan University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester, Rutgers College, Seton Hall College, Swarthmore College, Syracuse University, Tufts University, Union College, United States Military Academy, Vanderbilt University, Washington and Jefferson College, Wesleyan University, Western University (Pennsylvania), Westminster College (Pennsylvania), Williams College, Wittenberg University, and the College of Wooster.

    Photo above: College football scrimmage, 1902, F.J. Rentschler. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: College football game between Harvard and Princeton, 1903, E. Chickering and Company. Courtesy Library of Congress. Source: ncaa.org; "A Brief History of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Role in Regulating Intercollegiate Athletics," 1999, Rodney K. Smith, Marquette Law Review; "The Age of Innocence: The First 25 Years of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, 1906 to 1931," 2006, 2012, W. Burlette Carter, Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law, George Washington University Law School; Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States, Constitution, 1906; Library of Congress; Wikipedia Commons.


    College Football 1903





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