Allegheny Helps Found the NCAA

In 1905, college football was in jeopardy. The ethics of the game were questionable at best. Violence on the gridiron was rampant, and frequent deaths had caused some colleges to consider banning the game. Where it had not been banned, players were known to bounce between colleges many times, even within a single season, to play for other teams. Professionals and adult players were recruited for college teams. Football was simply not fair or safe.

There was clearly a need for a new governing body to regulate college football as a sport. The precursor to the NCAA was born in 1905. Chancellor Henry MacCracken of New York University called thirteen dedicated colleges on the East coast to New York.  Allegheny College selected its president, William H. Crawford to join the other 12 college ambassadors sent to  New York to explore ethical questions surrounding college football.

President Crawford gave a powerful speech at the conference that explained how the ethical principles of the game could be preserved if people cared enough to re-write the rules. The lasting impact of the conference in New York City was the creation of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association, which later became the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Today this governing body establishes rules to keep players safe, and the game fair.


The Campus, Allegheny College, January 6th, 1906. Courtesy of Merrick Archives.

Special to The New York Times. (1906, Jan 21). FOOTBALL HIT HARD BY WESTERN COLLEGES. New York Times (1857-1922)
Special to the New York Times. (1906, Jan 25). NEW ATHLETIC RULES FOR COLLEGE SPORT. New York Times (1857-1922)


The news from before the conference shows the fragility of the game on a national level.

The news from after the conference shows the enormity of the changes after the colleges decided on sweeping reforms.

Courtesy Merrick Archives Digital Image Collection


Mack Cook, Allegheny College football player, shows off the uniform of 1917.

New protection including standardized helmets, and both shoulder and leg padding, helped reduce the number of injured players.

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