History and U: The football team’s first undefeated season

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From 1907 to 1911, Union Football had an overall record of 9-22-10. The team went through four coaches (it was common for a coach to only remain for a year prior to 1920) and appeared to be a broken team in a brutal sport.

However, the team was saved in 1912 after Fred Dawson was hired to take command over the program. Dawson would coach for five seasons and was the longest tenured football coach at Union at the time. He was also the baseball coach during that time period. Dawson led the Union boys to an NYSIAU pennant in 1912 and to an overall record of 27-10-3.

One of his most impressive accomplishments came 100 years ago. In 1914, he helped Union Football to claim its first undefeated season in the college’s history. The team certainly did not squeak this incredible accomplishment out. The team outscored their opponents in a landslide score of 121-17.

The team consisted of 31 players and the staff included three coaches, a trainer and a doctor. The captain of the 1914 Union Football team was Donald A. Starbuck. Starbuck and the Union boys had an 8-0 season. Their biggest win came against RPI, whom they defeated 24-0, and their closest game was against Hobar,t which ended in a grueling score of 7-3. Of the eight games, five were shutouts. The only opponents to score against them were Hobart (3), Stevens (7) and Hamilton (7). The team was led by Wallace Girling, who was only a sophomore during the 1914 season.

Another notable member of the 1914 team was Ernest B. Houghton. This superb athlete went on to play in the New York State Professional Basketball League, which was one of the earliest professional basketball leagues in American history. He was a two-time Helms All-American and was named the Helms MVP in 1915. Also, football-team member Lynde D. Hokerk patented four inventions, one of which was a way to attach soap to a string.

Football during the early 20th century was designed to make boys into men and train them for the brutality of war. In Union Football’s history, one student was killed. Harold Ransom Moore, Class of 1908, passed away due to a skull fracture he received while playing against NYU.

Football was, in fact, so dangerous that in 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt, Mr. Bad-Ass himself, held a meeting with several football experts on how to make the game safer. The nature of the game did, in fact, prepare several of the students on the team to fight a hellish war. Of the 36 members of the Union Football team, I was able to find at least six members who served in WWI, including Edward Clifton Vrooman, Ernest B. Houghton, Erwin Alpert, Gordon C. Nash, James D. McNab and Karl M. Stoller.

Union Football had humble beginnings. Through the determination of a few brave students, a ragged team of students turned into a force to be reckoned with. On that note, Go U!!

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