1918 college football season

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The 1918 college football season was a season of college football in the United States. There was no consensus champion, with the Official NCAA Division I Football Records Book listing Michigan and Pittsburgh as national champions. [1]


World War I's impact on colleges in the country, and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 eliminated most of that year's scheduled college football games. [2] However, to boost morale of the troops, many military organizations fielded teams to play against collegiate programs. This is exemplified no more strongly than in a letter published in the Spalding Guide from US president Woodrow Wilson:

"It would be difficult to over-estimate the value of football experience as a part of a soldier's training. The army athletic directors and the officers in charge of special training schools in the cantoments have derived excellent results from the use of elementary football and other personal contact games as an aid in developing the aggressiveness, initiative and determination of recruits, and the ability to carry on in spite of bodily hurts or physical discomforts. These qualities, as you well know, were the outstanding characteristics of the American soldier." -Woodrow Wilson (1919 letter) [3]

A huge military offensive was planned by the Allied countries in the spring of 1919, so all able-bodied men of ages 18 to 20 were scheduled to be drafted in the fall of 1918. As an alternative, the men were offered the option of enlisting in the Student Army Training Corps, known as SATC, which would give them a chance to pursue (or continue pursuing) their educations at the same time as they participated in a 12-week war-training session. This was essentially an alternative to boot camp. The colleges were paid by the government to train the future soldiers, which enabled many of them to avoid closure. The program began on October 1, 1918. [4] Most of the students who were potential football players were under the auspices of the War Department's SATC program. [5]

In an early September meeting between college and War Department officials in Plattsburg, Missouri it became clear that the training regimen envisioned for the soldiers could be incompatible with participation in intercollegiate athletics. [5] On September 13, 1918 newspapers around the country reported that the War Department had asked colleges to reexamine their football schedules. [6] [7] In August and September, athletics backers successfully argued that athletics training was an important part of military training, and the season was back on. [8] [9] [10]

The influenza outbreak was colloquially called Spanish flu. Most flu outbreaks disproportionately kill juvenile, elderly, or already weakened patients, but the 1918 pandemic predominantly killed previously healthy young adults. [11] To maintain morale, wartime censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. [12] [13] Papers were free to report the epidemic's effects in neutral Spain (such as the grave illness of King Alfonso XIII). [14] This created a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit, [15] thereby giving rise to the pandemic's nickname, "Spanish Flu". [16] By the end of the pandemic, between three and five percent of the world population had died as a result, [17] making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history. [18] [19] [20]

Conference and program changes

School1917 Conference1918 Conference
Carlisle Indians IndependentSchool closed
Southern Methodist Mustangs Independent Southwest

Season summary

Perhaps the highest profile game was a highly publicized War Charities benefit staged at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh in front of many of the nation's top sports writers, including Walter Camp. The game pitted John Heisman's undefeated, unscored upon, and defending national champion Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets against "Pop" Warner's Pittsburgh Panthers who were sitting on a 30-game win streak. Pitt defeated Georgia Tech 32–0.

Rose Bowl

The Rose Bowl, then the only bowl game, pitted the Mare Island Marines of California and the Great Lakes Navy from Illinois. It was a celebration of victory following the end of fighting in World War I on November 11, 1918. Great Lakes Navy defeat Mare Island, 17–7.

Conference standings

Major conference standings

1918 Big Ten Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Michigan +200  500
Illinois +400  520
Purdue +100  330
Iowa 210  621
Minnesota 210  521
Northwestern 110  221
Wisconsin 120  330
Indiana 000  220
Ohio State 030  330
Chicago 050  461
  • $ Conference champion
1918 Missouri Valley football standings

Due to events related to World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic, the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association did not schedule any official conference games, recorded no standings, and awarded no title for 1918.
Conference members:
1918 Pacific Coast Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
California $200  720
Oregon 210  420
Washington 110  110
Oregon Agricultural 020  240
  • $ Conference champion
1918 Rocky Mountain Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Colorado Mines $200  400
Denver 310  320
Colorado 120  230
Colorado College 120  120
Colorado Agricultural 020  020
  • $ Conference champion
1918 South Atlantic Intercollegiate Athletic Association football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
VPI $300  700
Davidson 200  211
Richmond 100  311
Maryland State 201  411
Johns Hopkins 001  001
NC State 010  130
St. John's (MD) 010  010
William & Mary 010  020
VMI 020  130
Washington and Lee 020  120
Georgetown 000  320
  • $ Conference champion
1918 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Georgia Tech $300  610
Vanderbilt 200  420
Mississippi A&M 200  320
Clemson 310  520
South Carolina 211  211
Furman 130  351
Sewanee 010  320
The Citadel 011  021
Auburn 020  250
Ole Miss 020  130
Wofford 020  030
  • $ Conference champion
  • There were several SIAA schools that did not field a team due to World War I.
1918 Southwest Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Texas 400  900
Oklahoma 200  600
Texas A&M 110  610
Rice 110  151
SMU 120  420
Arkansas 010  320
Oklahoma A&M 020  420
Baylor 020  060
  • No champion recognized [21]


1918 military service football records
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Camp Greenleaf     900
Chicago Naval Reserve     700
League Island Navy     600
League Island Marines     100
Mare Island Marines     1010
Great Lakes Navy     702
Cleveland Naval Reserve     510
Camp Hancock     412
Camp Upton     412
Camp Taylor     311
Camp Lewis     720
Camp Devens     420
Mather Field     210
Camp Dodge     211
Camp Grant     330
Camp Dix     122
Camp Gordon     240
Camp Perry     240
Georgia Eleventh Cavalry     010
Mineola Aviation Station     030
1918 Eastern college football independents records
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Bucknell     600
Princeton     300
Holy Cross     200
Army     100
Buffalo     610
Columbia     510
Syracuse     510
Pittsburgh     410
Boston College     520
Rutgers     520
Franklin & Marshall     210
Geneva     420
Swarthmore     420
Harvard     210
Fordham     421
Villanova     320
Penn     530
Lehigh     430
Dartmouth     330
Wash. & Jeff.     220
New Hampshire     221
Lafayette     340
Brown     230
Tufts     230
Penn State     121
Vermont     011
Drexel     010
NYU     040
1918 Midwestern college football independents records
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Detroit Junior College     400
Central Michigan     100
Marquette     201
Heidelberg     510
St. Xavier     411
Notre Dame     312
Butler     211
Western State (MI)     320
Michigan Agricultural     430
Akron     221
St. Mary's (OH)     110
Toledo     110
Michigan State Normal     120
Iowa State Teachers     130
Wabash     130
Fairmount     140
Lake Forest     010
Detroit     020
Haskell     020
1918 Southern college football independents records
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Centre     400
Presbyterian     200
Navy     410
Southwest Texas     421
Tennessee (SATC)     320
Oglethorpe     530
Delaware     122
Wake Forest     120
Florida     010
1918 Western college football independents records
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Hawaii     310
USC     222
Washington State     110
Saint Mary's     070

Minor conferences

Central Intercollegiate Athletics Association No champion
Inter-Normal Athletic Conference of Wisconsin No champion
Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference College of Emporia
Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association No champion
Nebraska Intercollegiate Conference Unknown
Ohio Athletic Conference Wittenberg 3–0
Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference No champion
Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference No champion
Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Talladega

Minor conference standings

1918 Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Lincoln (PA) 200  500
Virginia Union 101  101
Hampton 111  111
Howard 030  030
1918 Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Southern Illinois     210
Carthage 010  120
1918 Ohio Athletic Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Wittenberg $300  400
Miami (OH) 401  501
Mount Union 510  610
Wooster 510  610
Western Reserve 510  520
Ohio 101  401
Cincinnati 002  302
Ohio Wesleyan 220  320
Case 232  352
Akron 121  221
Oberlin 140  140
Baldwin–Wallace 041  541
Kenyon 040  140
Ohio Northern 050  150
Denison 050  160
Ohio State *300  330
  • $ Conference champion
  • * – did not complete for championship

Awards and honors


The consensus All-America team included:

PositionNameHeightWeight (lbs.)ClassHometownTeam
QB Frank Murrey So. Princeton
HB Tom Davies 5'8"158Fr. Gas City, Indiana Pittsburgh
HB Wolcott Roberts 5'7"160So. Elmwood, Illinois Navy
FB Tank McLaren 185Sr. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Pittsburgh
E Paul Robeson 6'3"219Sr. Princeton, New Jersey Rutgers
T Pete Henry 5'10"230Jr. Mansfield, Ohio Washington & Jefferson
T Lou Usher Jr. Chicago, Illinois Syracuse
G Doc Alexander 5'11"210So. Silver Creek, New York Syracuse
C Bum Day 5'10"190Fr. Nashville, Georgia Georgia Tech
C Jack Depler 5'10"220So. Lewistown, Illinois Illinois
G Lyman Perry Sr. Andover, Ohio Navy
T Leonard Hilty Sr. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Pittsburgh
T Joe Guyon 5'11"184Sr. Magdalena, New Mexico Georgia Tech
E Bill Fincher 6'0"182So. Atlanta, Georgia Georgia Tech

Statistical leaders

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