The Manly Sport of UChicago Football

(Photo illustration by Michael Vendiola)

Six score of UChicago football

From Big Ten champions (1899) to nothing (1939) to Midwest Conference scholar-athletes (2019).

In 1899 the University of Chicago won its first Big Ten championship in football. The Maroons won again in 1905, 1907, 1908, 1913, 1922, and 1924, for a total of seven titles.

In 1939 University president Robert Maynard Hutchins famously got rid of varsity football. UChicago’s massive stadium—with space for more than 50,000 fans—was later demolished to make room for the Regenstein Library.

In 1969 football returned as a varsity sport, though not in Division I. UChicago is now part of the Division III Midwest Conference, playing against institutions such as Grinnell College, Knox College, and Washington University in St. Louis. This year’s team ended the season with a record of 6–3. Go Maroons!

Horace Greeley Bodwell, EX 1900
Horace Greeley Bodwell, EX 1900, played on the baseball and football teams. (UChicago Photographic Archive, apf5-00210, University of Chicago Library)
Photo collage of Chicago Maroon Football 1930s
Clockwise from top left: Jay Berwanger, AB’36, the first winner of the Heisman Trophy, served as an assistant coach after graduation; football cocaptain John Davenport, AB’40, was also a champion sprinter; UChicago’s pep band marches with Big Bertha, reportedly the world’s largest drum. (UChicago Photographic Archive, apf4-01701, apf5-00531, apf1-00642, University of Chicago Library)

“Never before has such a heterogeneous conglomeration of Hyde Park weirdos ever supported the same event.”—Chicago Maroon, October 14, 1969, on UChicago’s first home varsity football game in 30 years

Photo collage of Chicago Maroon Football 1960s
Clockwise from top: The 1969 varsity squad; Coach Walter L. Hass confers with players; Richard Kulp, AB’70, MBA’72, who joined the club football team in 1966. The varsity sweater Kulp received after the 1969 season “is still proudly displayed in my home,” he says. (UChicago Photographic Archive, apf5-03335, apf4-00599, apf1-03616, University of Chicago Library)
Photo collage of Chicago Maroon Football 2019
Clockwise from top: The 2019 Monsters of the Midway; both running back Vittorio Tricase, Class of 2021 (left), and quarterback Marco Cobian, Class of 2020, were named to the UAA All-Academic Team in 2019. (Photos courtesy University of Chicago Athletics)