above is advisory coach Walter Camp and halfback Hugh Knox of Yale
during practice in 1906. And if you're wondering why Knox was
practicing throwing the football, it's because the forward pass was
just legalized this season.
Major Changes in College Football for 1906
forward pass was just one of many changes in college football in 1906,
all coming in response to a growing outcry against the violence (and to
a lesser extent, the "professionalism") of college football. Indeed,
college football had been on the verge of being nationally banned
following the 1905 season. Some schools, including all of the major
California schools, dropped football altogether. Many others
drastically reduced the number of games they played. The Western
Conference (Big 10) cut the number of games they played in half, and
also instituted stringent eligibility standards.
And then there
were the major rules changes. In addition to the introduction of the
forward pass, teams now had to gain 10 yards to get a first down
(rather than 5), games were reduced from 70 minutes to 60, and referees
were urged to enforce various roughness penalties that were already in
the rulebook (but too often ignored).
The 1906 National Championship Race
is no Western team that is a contender for the 1906 national
championship (the last time this happened was 1900). Michigan finally
started playing Eastern powers, and took their only loss 17-0 to Penn
(who was only 7-2-3). 4-1 Minnesota lost to another Eastern power, 9-3
Carlisle, by the same 17-0 score. Those two scores also cast some doubt
on the validity of Western teams as national championship contenders
But back to 1906. 4-1 Chicago and 9-1 Iowa State lost to
Minnesota, while 8-1 Vanderbilt and 8-1 Ohio State lost to Michigan.
9-1 Texas lost to Vanderbilt 45-0. Wisconsin did go 5-0, but against an
incredibly weak schedule that
did not include Minnesota, Chicago, or Michigan. As such, they are
simply not a contender at all. Neither is 11-0 St. Louis, but they were
an interesting team, and I will recap them below.
it all comes down to the Eastern champions, 9-0-1 Yale and 9-0-1
Princeton, who tied each other 0-0 in Princeton's finale. Writers at
the time overwhelmingly considered Yale the best team in the nation.
is how the "major selectors" listed in the NCAA
Records Book, all selecting long after the fact, see the 1906 college
championship (omitting math/computer
ratings, which neither I nor
anyone else recognize as constituting titles):
You can click on the selector to read my review of that person or
organization. This 1906 season figures prominently in my reviews of Helms and the NCF.
That is because their choice of Princeton as a stand-alone champion
makes little sense, and can only be explained by poor
research. But you can look at the facts below and judge for yourself.
All rankings in the following article, except as noted, come from my 1906 top 25, which is based on a hypothetical AP poll (within logical reason of course).
wrote summaries of previous Yale seasons for my 1902, 1904, and 1905 national
articles. Yale lost all 4 of their consensus All Americans from the
1905 team, but they still had another 4 consensus All Americans in 1906:
end Robert Forbes, guard L. Horatio Bigelow, halfback/fullback Hugh Knox, and
halfback Paul Veeder (also the punter and kicker). End Clarence Alcott
and quarterback Tad Jones would be consensus AA in 1907. Three more
players were nonconsensus AA in 1906, including Samuel F. B. Morse, who
would go on to build the famed Pebble Beach golf course.
Yale shut out
every opponent they faced in 1906 except 3-5-1 Army, long a pesky thorn
in Yale's side. Army played a
very difficult schedule, and was much better than their record would
seem to indicate. The cadets lost to 10-1 Harvard 5-0 and to 9-0-1
8-0, and they always saved their best game for Yale. Still, no one
expected them to so thoroughly stonewall Yale, who nevertheless won
10-6 in West Point for what the New York Times called "the luckiest
victory in her history." Yale could not manage a single first down in
this game, and trailed 6-0 at the half, but they blocked a punt for a
touchdown, then hit a field goal with less than 2 minutes left.
themselves only tallied 120 yards rushing, and but 4 first downs,
mostly in the first half. Their touchdown came on a 50 yard drive that
featured a 30 yard pass to the Yale 20, from where they drove it over
the goal. Minutes after that touchdown, Army drove inside the Yale 10,
but lost the ball on downs. Late in the half, Army hit another pass to
the Yale 20, but time ran out after 2 runs. That was it for Army's
offense, as they were stymied in the second half.
did no better, but they dominated the second half through punting and
returns. Yale's punter, Paul Veeder, gained advantage on frequent kick
exchanges, then Clarence Alcott blocked a punt from Army's 15, grabbing
the ball as it caromed off of his chest, and ran it in for the tying
touchdown. Veeder's 40-50 yard punts kept the ball in Army territory
for most of the half. Yale blocked another Army punt at their 18, but
lost the ball on downs. A Hugh Knox 50 yard punt return brought the
ball to Army's 25, but they were stopped again. Relegated to the fact
that they could not gain a first down, Yale resorted to field goal
tries. Morse missed one, then Veeder missed one following a 30 yard
Alcott punt return.
Finally, with little time left, Hugh Knox
made a great play on a difficult catch of a punt at Army's 35, and Yale
lined up for their last shot. It was Horatio Bigelow's turn, the third
player to take a crack at a winning field goal, and he came through
with the deciding points from a difficult angle.
Prior to the Army game, Yale's best win was 10-0 over 8-1-1
Penn State. PSU shut out every other opponent they faced in 1906, and
with big wins over Carlisle (#5) and Navy (#7), I have them ranked #4 for 1906. Yale also blasted 6-3 Syracuse (#17) 51-0.
But after the Army game, Yale struggled for the second straight
week, beating Brown (6-3, #16) at home by a mere
touchdown, 5-0. Brown outplayed Yale in the first half, outrushing them
150-20 yards, but Veeder's 50 yard punts saved Yale, and Brown couldn't
quite score. Brown drove from their 30 to the Yale 17 before being
stopped, and later drove to the Yale 23. Late in the first half, Yale
turned the tide with a Knox 60 yard punt return to the Brown 5, but
Yale was held on downs there. The second half was Yale's, Morse capping
a drive with a touchdown early, and Yale playing it safe from there on
fans came to watch 9-0 Princeton host 8-0 Yale in Princeton's finale.
The game was dominated start-to-finish by Yale, but ended in a 0-0 tie.
had only one threat in the game, getting to the Yale 20 early before
turning the ball over on a pass attempt (an incomplete pass resulted in
a loss of possession then). Yale returned the favor by turning the ball
over at the Princeton 7 on a pass completion that was ruled illegal.
Late in the first half, Yale's Paul Veeder missed a crucial 25 yard
field goal attempt.
The second half was a stalemate for a long
time, and then Yale started to move the ball. Veeder missed another
field goal attempt. Then late in the game, Yale mounted their first
long drive against a tiring Princeton defense, but time was called with
the ball at the Princeton 15. Princeton's season was over, but Yale had to play their second straight "game of the
season" seven days later.
32,000 fans gathered in New Haven to watch 8-0-1 Yale play 10-0 Harvard for what was considered at that time to be the national championship.
Princeton the week before, Harvard mounted only one threat, and it was
also early in the game. But their field goal attempt was blocked.
first threat followed a 50 yard punt return by Hugh Knox. He initially
dropped the punt, but picked it up and returned it to about Harvard's
10 yard line. Yale's offense was held there, and they lined up for a
field goal attempt. But it was a fake, with Paul Veeder rolling out,
then throwing the ball back across the field to a wide-open Clarence
Alcott. Unfortunately, Alcott dropped an easy touchdown, and Harvard
This play was repeated in Yale's next 2 possessions:
fake field goal, Veeder throwing to Alcott at the same spot. On the
second attempt, Harvard intercepted the pass. But on the third attempt,
Alcott jumped high amongst a throng of defenders and came down with the
ball at the Harvard 3 yard line for a first down. Tom Roome,
substituting for Hugh Knox, scored a touchdown 2 plays later (pictured above), giving
Yale a 6-0 lead they would not relinquish. Here is how the New York
Times described the ensuing pandemonium:
"The scene that
followed Roome's touchdown can only be pictured by those who have seen
football crowds in the throes of the wild delirium that stirs them when
their favorite team manages to win its way behind the goal line of a
desperate foe. The mad Yale cohorts executed the frantic dances, with
accompanying incoherent shouts, more wildly than they had ever done it
before. It was as though victory had been won from the most formidable
foe Yale has met this year. The great eastern stand, given over
entirely to Yale supporters, was a waving mass of color. Those on the
field fairly went beside themselves."
was just the first half, but it was all the scoring there would be in
the game. Harvard advanced no threats in the second half. Yale missed 2
field goals, and then, similar to the Princeton game the week before,
they mounted a long drive in the closing minutes, pushing the ball to
Harvard's 10 before time was called.
This was Bill
Roper's first of 17 seasons coaching his alma mater. He went 89-28-16
in 3 stints at Princeton, 1906-'08, 1910-'11, and 1919-'30. Overall he
was 112-38-18 at 4 schools, including 7-0-1 at Missouri in 1909. He is
still the winningest coach in Princeton history, and he coached two
other Princeton teams that are considered to be national champions: 8-0-2 in 1911 and 8-0 in 1922 (I disagree with the 1911 claim).
player, tackle James Cooney, played on their 1903 national championship
team. I covered him and that team in my article on the 1903 national championship.
Cooney was one of Princeton's 3 consensus All Americans (one less than
Yale), the others being end Caspar Wister and quarterback Edward Dillon.
players would be consensus AA in later years, including Hall of Fame
fullback Jim McCormick, who was a consensus AA in both the season
before and the season after this one. He was supplanted on most AA lists this season by Yale's Paul Veeder.
Princeton struggled in two wins, scoring just one touchdown in each:
at home over 9-2 Washington and Jefferson (#19) and at 8-2-2 Navy (#7). The Washington &
Jefferson game was played on a wet, slippery field that severely
hampered both offenses. Princeton's touchdown came early, following a
punt return to the W&J 20. Wister caught a pass to go the rest of
the distance, Cooney added an extra point, and Princeton held it up for
the 6-0 win. The game at Navy was scoreless at half, Navy missing a
field goal and blocking Princeton's try. Princeton drove for a
McCormick touchdown early in the second half, securing the 5-0 win, and
they were driving at the Navy goal again when time was called.
Princeton's biggest win came 14-5 over 8-1-2 Cornell (#6). It was, of course, Cornell's only
loss. But prior to their game against Yale, the Princeton effort that
raised the most eyebrows was a 42-0 whipping of 6-3-1 Dartmouth (unrated). Similar to Yale's 51-0 defeat of Syracuse, it was
an unusual amount of points for one Eastern power to pile up
against another. Wister scored 2 of the touchdowns, and McCormick
kicked 5 extra points.
Then came their game of the year against Yale, as described in the Yale section above.
vs. Princeton in 1906
significant games for each team in 1906. The
rankings come from my 1906 top 25, which is based on a hypothetical AP poll (within logical reason of course). Click on the links in the table headers to see Yale
or Princeton's full schedule at the College Football Data Warehouse.
Yale defeated their other opponents by an average of 15.5-0, and Princeton
defeated the rest of their opponents by
an average of 32.5-1.
comparable schedules and results, equal records, and the tie against
one another, it makes sense for Yale and Princeton to share a national
title for 1906. But if you want to split hairs and rank only one of these
teams #1, or name only one of them the "champion," it should be
easy to see that Yale is the only sensible choice here.
The big difference, of course, is Yale's win over 10-1 Harvard.
It's what separates their schedule, and their season, from Princeton's.
And it's that win that had everyone at the time declaring Yale the best.
Furthermore, Yale clearly dominated their game with Princeton, despite it being played on Princeton's home field.
St. Louis 1906
Louis went 11-0, and outscored their opponents 407-11 (leading the
nation in scoring), but their schedule was not nearly tough enough to
merit national championship consideration. They played only 2 major
schools, beating 2-3 Iowa 39-0 and 7-2-2 Kansas 34-2.
St. Louis is noteworthy because they were the first college team to
attempt a forward pass, on September 5, 1906, in a game at Carroll
College. That fell incomplete, but they were also the first college
team to complete a forward pass, and that one went for a 20 yard
touchdown, sparking a 22-0 victory over Carroll. More importantly, St.
Louis 1906 was the first team to base its offense on the forward pass,
and it was spectacularly successful.
Their coach was Eddie Cochems, the star of the great 1901 Wisconsin team I covered in my article on the 1901 national championship.
He took 16 players to a training camp in Wisconsin in the summer and
drilled two players in throwing the football, but end/halfback Brad
Robinson (pictured), who played for Wisconsin in 1903, would be the
team's passer. Robinson's best game came against Iowa, when he
completed 8 of 10 passes
for 4 touchdowns.
St. Louis' passing attack was not as successful in subsequent seasons,
and therefore their offense did not really catch on nationwide. As a
result, until recent years, St. Louis 1906 had been completely
forgotten, and most people considered Notre Dame 1913 to be the first
offense with a significant passing attack. In fact, you can still find
plenty of ill-informed writers making that claim about Notre Dame 1913.
But St. Louis 1906 came first.
1906 #1: 9-0-1 Yale alone, or Yale and 9-0-1 Princeton in a tie National Co-champion: Princeton if Yale is #1 alone Contenders: None.
are the awards I have been handing out for each season, except seasons
when there are no contenders. For this purpose, what I mean by a
contender is a team that I think is very close to being worthy of
sharing the national championship. A team that you could make an
argument for, even if that argument is weak. But they are
teams that I myself do not see as national champions.
Kudos: in addition to 11-0
St. Louis and 5-0 Wisconsin, Washington State also had a perfect
record, finishing 6-0 and shutting out every opponent.
I have been grading the NCAA Records Book's selectors for each season,
and keeping a grade point average, so we can see who is relatively good
at selecting national champions and who is not. And although I do not
consider computer ratings to be legitimate national championship
selectors, I have been including them in this section as well,
just for comparison's sake. I am grading on a scale of 0
to 5, with 5 being the best.
The correct answer for
1906 is either Yale
alone or Yale andPrinceton sharing the title. A shared title would be preferable, but Princeton alone just does not make sense.
Parke Davis and Billingsley selected Yale. Grade:5
Helms and the National Championship Foundation selected Princeton. Grade: 2
Houlgate's system mysteriously does not have a selection listed in the NCAA Records Book for this season.