Last Issue: Tuesday, December 18 2007
Maryland Football's Not-so-Auspicious Start

By Keith Swaney, graduate student in the history/library and information science program
Published on 20-Sep-05

A mix of professors and students, the university's first football team strikes a confident pose.
Photo courtesy of University Archives

Though fans of Terps football can be proud of today's athletes, the university's team didn't always offer players worth cheering.

According to the Maryland Agricultural College Bulletin of April 1915, cadets at the Maryland Agricultural College (M.A.C.) started playing football in the fall of 1890 when 11 men organized a club team. The squad only played two games, against Sandy Spring and Laurel high schools, that year and was defeated in both contests.The following season, unfortunately, did not produce better results for the team; the group, according to the Bulletin, was "composed of practically the same menn" who also had "little success."

Unlike the first two club teams, the 1892 squad received funding from the college. Howard Strickler, a professor of physical education at the M.A.C.,was named coach of the team, and Sothoron Key, a junior, became its manager. According to Kings of American Football:The University of Maryland, 1890-1952, Strickler, along with the commandant of cadets of the M.A.C., actually saw considerable playing time throughout the season. A report from the Monthly Chronicle that covered the team's game against Episcopal High School also made mention of a Professor Mead, who ran the football for positive yardage. Despite the efforts of these faculty and administrators, however, the squad floundered throughout its first official season in 1892, losing games to St. Johns (50-0), Johns Hopkins (62-0), and Episcopal High School (16-0).

To deepen the team's misery, the game against Episcopal High featured a rather humorous spectacle. As Morris Bealle pointed out in Kings of American Football, M.A.C.'s Pearse "Shorty" Prough ran the wrong way with the football for 30 yards,"came to his senses, reversed his field, cut over to the sideline and nearly went all the way. He ended up with a 35-yard net gain." Newspaper coverage of this game also mentioned this play, reporting that an Episcopal High player tackled Prough at the 15-yard line and that Prough claimed, after the game, he could have gone all the way if he had received one more block. While the 1892 season ended with three overwhelming defeats for the football team, the squad bounced back the following year, easily winning the Washington, D.C. championship under the guidance of Sothoron Key, with a 6-0 record.
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