March 05, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Amos Alonzo Stagg

The name Amos Alonzo Stagg should be very familiar to even the most casual college football fan. As a player, he was selected as an end to the first All-America team in 1889. As a coach, he started the football program at the University of Chicago in 1892, where he,and won a national championship in 1905. His career , and had a career that lasted until he reached the age of 84, totaling 315 winswining 315 games. He was also a great innovator, having invented the tackling dummy, the reverse, the man in motion and the lateral pass.

But what you may not know is that Stagg was also a great contributor to the sport of basketball and is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame as well. After graduating from Yale in 1888, his first coaching assignment came at Springfield College (then known as the International YMCA Training School) two years later. One of his football players was James Naismith. In 1891, Naismith became an instructor at the school, and in December was given the assignment of coming up with a new indoor sport. His creation was basketball. In the first public demonstration of the sport, Stagg scored the only basket scored by a for the faculty team in a 5-1 loss.

Stagg left Springfield that spring to start the athletic program at the newly established University of Chicago, which opened for classes in the fall of 1892. As Director of the Department of Physical Culture, one of the activities Stagg brought with him was the new sport of basketball with him to Chicago. In its early days, the sport undertookBasketball underwent many changes. Most basic was, including the number of players. Without a governing body, the number of players playing per team varied. The account of one game had as many as 50 players on the court.

On January 16, 1896 Stagg took his team to Iowa City to face the Iowa Hawkeyes. In front of 400 people the first intercollegiate basketball game played between two five man teams took place with the Chicago Maroon taking a 15-12 victory. To college basketball historians, this was is the equivalent of the first college football game played between Rutgers and Princeton in 1869.

Stagg organized the University of Chicago National Interscholastic Basketball Tournament, which ran until 1931. The event greatly influenced the standardizing of rules and promoted the sport in high school.

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