Stagg Bowl has unique history

Austin Walther

The 44th annual Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl was completed between UW Oshkosh and Mary Hardin-Baylor on December 16 in Salem, Va. The game was first originated in 1969 as the West Regional Championship for small college teams as the East Regional Championship was named after Knute Rockne.

According to the 2016 NCAA Stagg Video, he was chosen to have his name associated with this championship because of his contribution to the game of football.

“He was perhaps the most important individual in the early history of college athletics,” the video said. “He had more of an impact on the game of football as we know it today than any other coach.”

Amos Alonzo Stagg has been considered one of the great innovators of college football and his contributions go back as far as 1889.

Stagg was selected to the first-ever All-American team in 1889 for his senior season at Yale as an end.

A year later, Stagg organized the Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA football team which is now known as Springfield College. One of Stagg’s players was James Naismith who was the inventor of basketball.

When William Rainey Harper, Stagg’s divinity professor at Yale, was named the first president of the University of Chicago in 1892, Harper named Stagg head football coach and director of the development of physical culture, where he would there stay for the next 41 years.

Current sports information director Nathan Lindquist said Stagg put Chicago on equal footing with Michigan and Notre Dame back in the day as the school was still a young University.

“He [Stagg] led the University of Chicago into prominence athletically,” Lindquist said. “It really raised the profile of the institution in terms of athletics.”

Stagg not only coached football for the Maroons, but he also coached track for 32 years, baseball for 19 and basketball for one season.

While at Chicago, Stagg helped organize the Big Ten Conference, which was known as the Western Conference and he was one of the founders of the American Football Coaches Association.

Under the guidance of Stagg, UChicago emerged as one of the football powerhouse programs during the first quarter of the 20th Century. From 1892 to 1932, Stagg compiled a record of 242-112-27 and appeared in seven Big Ten Championships.

Even though Chicago doesn’t have many ways of honoring Stagg anymore, Lindquist said Stagg is remembered at the University by having his name all over the place.

“He is inextricably tied to our facilities,” Lindquist said. “Our football field and the grass field complex is all Stagg Field. His name is on the archway above the football gates.”

So many different inventions to the game have been credited to Stagg, including the tackling dummy, the huddle, the reverse, man in motion plays, the lateral pass, uniform numbers and awarding varsity letters.

After retiring from Chicago, Stagg served as head coach at Pacific from 1932 to 1946 and then as an assistant to his son until 1952 at Susquehanna. Stagg would live to be 102 when he passed away in 1965.

Amos Alonzo Stagg was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 as both a player and a coach.

In 1973, the NCAA developed the National Division III Championship game and adopted the Stagg Bowl name over Knute Rockne. According to the University of Chicago athletic page, Rockne was quoted by saying, “All football comes from Stagg.”

After the West Regional Championship game was played in two different Ohio cities and concluded in Phenix City, Alabama. The National Championship then began its first ten years in Alabama.

The Stagg Bowl went back to Ohio for two years before returning to Alabama and then spent three years in Florida before it finally ended up in Salem in 1993. It has been there ever since.

Tournament Manager Carey Harveycutter has been a part of the Stagg Bowl committee since it has arrived to Salem and he said Stagg’s legacy has carried on quite nicely for 24 years.

“Amos Alonzo Stagg epitomized the way to do sports in Division III with emphasis on the student-athlete,” Harveycutter said. “Playing fair, winning the right way and it’s the only NCAA Championship that is named after somebody.”

A few family members of Amos Alonzo were in attendance for the 2016 Stagg Bowl and Harveycutter said the family was excited to see how it has grown.

“They were just excited that they can come to something named after their relative,” Harveycutter said. “They have a special fondness to the championship.”

The NCAA recognizes Stagg as one of the key additions to college athletics early on in history during the Stagg preview video.

“Amos Alonzo Stagg was a shining example of honesty, integrity and pure amateurism in athletics,” the video said. “A spirit that is exhibiting throughout NCAA Division III athletics and a legacy that the Stagg family continues today.”