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UT vs. A&M Football Series at West End Park, 1908-1911

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Below is a link to a facebook page that concerns a recently released print concerning the UT vs. A&M football series played at West End Park, 1908-1911. The narrative information reveals that the 20 live-action photos of the games are the earliest known images of live-action football being played in Houston, and that the panoramic view of West End Park at the top of the poster is of the 1910 game which set a state record of 10,000 for attendance at a football game. The complete view of the ball park brings it to the public eye for the first time in a century.

Here's the link:



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And to this day the Aggies cling to a relic of those days in the Aggie War Hymn, where they sing "Saw varsity's horns short".

I am a dyed in the purple Aggie fan, but speaking just for myself I think it is long past time for someone to come up with some new and more relevant lyrics to that old song. Can you name another college in the country where the entire theme of their fight song is to sneer at an old rival they don't even play anymore?

BTW, West End Park was that baseball field on the southwestern edge of downtown Houston. It was on a spot where the NB I-45 Pierce Elevated starts curving around that hotel to go under the Dallas St. overpass, and where the SB side curves around past the Leland Federal Bldg.


Think about this the next time you drive I-45 through downtown. You're driving over the hallowed spot of ground where the first three UT/A&M games were played.

Edited by FilioScotia
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The series of 4 games, 1908-1911, played in Houston during carnival (called "No-Tsu-Oh) between "Varsity", as UT 's football team was known as, and the "Farmers", as A&M was known as, was not the beginning of the football rivalry. They had played each other 14 times before with UT holding a significant 12-1-2 advantage.

But the 20 photos included in the print are the best condensed representation of the origins of the football rivalry between the two. There are a few photos of the games, here and there, before the Houston series, but we do not see such a concentration of images as is seen here in the print that exist prior to 1908.

The Houston games were the first time that A&M stood even with Varsity, splitting the series 2-2. And indeed much of the divisiveness between the two schools as a result of the games played in Houston set the tone for the intensity of the rivalry into the future. There were any number of controversies and disputes that contributed to this arising from the Houston games.

One involved A&M supporters planting a large "championship" banner for the 1911 season atop the grandstands at West End Park in declaration of their assumed win, even though the game with UT had still yet to be played and the victor would then be able to lay claim to that distinction. As things tend to work out when making such assumptions about victory, UT won the game and Varsity supporters captured the banner to use in their celebration in the streets of Houston.

The football scene in Houston contributed to this series played in Houston. Feldhake, Jones and Captain Dyer had played football at Houston High School before their days at UT. And Carlin for the Farmers had been a newspaper boy while growing up in Houston.

Edited by cypress4289
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You are correct. I misstated the history in saying the rivalry began in Houston. The site of the old West End Park is still a kind of "hallowed" ground though, don't ya think?

I've always felt a small ping of pride driving through downtown and thinking about what used to be on that spot just south of the Dallas St. overpass.

Edited by FilioScotia
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  • 2 months later...

In those days UT and A&M played twice a season one of the games being in Houston.


The 1911 Texas-TexasA&M game at West End Park resulted in a melee between students. UT students paraded at halftime with brooms meant to symbolize a "sweep" of the Farmers. The cadets thought they were mocking their military traditions and took out after them. A UT student was stabbed in the head. Texas won 24-8.


UT wanted to end the series with A&M after that. The games in Houston tended to have a lot of violence and drunkeness around them that fueled what was already a nasty rivalry.


In 1911 Varsity (the Longhorns) beat A&M 6-0 and a riot ensued. According to Lou Maysel's book, Here Come the Texas Longhorns, gangs of angry Aggies roamed downtown Houston looking for people wearing orange to beat up. UT broke off athletic relations with A&M after that. Likely it was because Aggie coach Charley Moran used ringers. They didn't play again until 1915 when both were in the brand new Southwest Conference.


The SWC was formed, largely to heal the rift between the two universities and provide some firm rule enforcement on eligibility. So, West End Park's association with the Texas-Texas A&M game has some interesting history.


Rice played Notre Dame at West End Park in 1915, the same year that the Irish (called the Ramblers back then) upset Army with the forward pass. Knute Rockne and Gus Dorias were on that ND team.

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Knute Rockne and Gus Dorais (note spelling) both graduated from ND in 1913.  Rockne went to work as an assistant coach the following year, 1914, so he was probably on the sidelines of that 1915 game in Houston. He became head coach in 1918, and died in a plane crash in 1931.


Gus Dorais also went into coaching. He coached at several colleges around the country, and he was head coach for the NFL Detroit Lions in the 1940s. He was backfield coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers for one year in 1952. He died in 1954.


I am fascinated by the fact that when he was ND's QB, Dorais stood 5 feet 7 and weighed 145 pounds. I haven't been able to find Rockne's physical stats, but he was probably about the same size. They were tiny compared to today's giants.


A lot of people think Rockne and Dorais invented the forward pass. Not true. The pass had been around for some time, but it was only used as a desperation last resort when a team was trying to come from behind late in a game.


Rockne and Dorais were the first to make the pass an important part of their offense and use it throughout the game. It made national news when they used it confuse and beat Army 35 to 13 in 1913. The fans loved it and it revolutionized the game.



Edited by FilioScotia
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Ah, you're right, FilioScotia, I confused Notre Dame's 1913 trip to Texas with their 1915 trip.


Back in those days the football field was divided into a grid because you had to be five yards behind the line of scrimmage to pass and you could not run or scramble to throw. That's where we get the term 'gridiron' from.


On the subject, does anyone know when the first football game was played in Houston? More specifically, when was the first high school game played here? Football was introduced to Texas in Galveston, so there should have been some early teams here.

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