1891 Stanford football team

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1891 Stanford football
Conference Independent
1891 record 3–1
Head coach none
Captain John Whittemore
1892 »

The 1891 Stanford football team represented Stanford University in the 1891 college football season. This was the inaugural year of both the University and the football team: the University opened in October 1891 and the four-game season was played in early 1892.


Soon after Stanford opened on October 1, 1891, students set out to form a football team.[1] One transfer student, John Whittemore, had played football at Washington University. He was chosen as captain and began to organize the team.[1]

Whittemore acted as de facto coach, drawing up plays and organizing practices.[1] The team won its first two games against Hopkins Academy and Berkeley Gym before losing to a team from San Francisco's Olympic Club.[2] In its final game of the first season, Stanford upset a more experienced team from the University of California, Berkeley, setting the stage for what would become the longstanding Big Game rivalry.[1][3][4]


Date Opponent Site Result
January 30, 1892 vs. Hopkins Academy Redwood City, CA W 10–6  
February 6, 1892 vs. Berkeley Gym Berkeley, CA W 22–0  
February 13, 1892 Olympic Club Stanford, CA L 6–10  
March 19, 1892 California Haight Street GroundsSan Francisco, CA (1st Big Game) W 14–10  

Game notes


1st Big Game
1 2 3 4 Total
California 0 0 4 6 10
• Stanford 8 6 0 0 14

Soon after formation of Stanford's team, players at the University of California, Berkeley, which had been playing football for 10 years, contacted the team to set up a Thanksgiving Day game; as the Stanford team was still organizing, a spring game was eventually agreed to.[1][4]

On March 19, 1892, the Stanford and California teams met to play at Haight Street Grounds in San Francisco. Stanford's team manager was future U.S. President Herbert Hoover; Hoover had printed 10,000 tickets for the game, but soon an overflow crowd forced Hoover to collect cash payment for admission.[1] As the game was about to begin, both teams realized that no one had brought a ball. An owner of a sporting goods store who was in attendance was dispatched on horseback to retrieve a ball and the game eventually started an hour late.[1]

Stanford employed some trick plays and scored the first three touchdowns of the game (touchdowns were worth 4 points at that time) and held on to upset the more experienced California team 14–10.[1][4]


The next season, Whittemore wrote to legendary Yale coach Walter Camp asking him to recommend a coach for Stanford; to Whittemore's surprise, Camp agreed to coach the team himself, on the condition that he coach the season at Yale first.[1]

Whittemore's son, also named John Whittemore and also a Stanford student, lived to the age of 104 and was renowned as a masters track and field athlete.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Migdol, Gary (1997). Stanford: Home of Champions. Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing LLC. pp. 8–11. ISBN 1-57167-116-1. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 
  2. "Stanford Game-by-Game Results; 1891–1894". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 
  3. Results from "Stanford Football Media Guide" (PDF). p. 142. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 McCormick, Ginny (December 1997). "The Hundred Years' War". Stanford Magazine. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 
  5. Porter, A. Spencer (December 1997). "Still a contender". Stanford Magazine. Retrieved February 22, 2013.