Monday, July 30, 2012

Mississippi A & M vs. Club Atlético de Cuba (1912)

On January 1, 1912, Mississippi A & M defeated the Cuban Athletic Club by a score of 11-0. Here's an entry about the game and Coach D. W. Chadwick that I made for Mississippi State's SBN site, "For Whom the Cow Bell Tolls." Pretty sure they win for the most creative site name.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tulane vs. Club Atlético de Cuba (1910)

On January 1, 1910, the Cuban Athletic Club football team made history by defeating Tulane by a score of 11-0. This was the first victory of a Cuban football team over a North American squad.

Assuming they would replicate the success of LSU in 1907, the Tulane football team appeared overconfident in the lead-up to the contest. Several articles from the Daily Picayune in December 1909 reported that "no great difficulty in licking the Cuban aggregation is expected," "the boys have been practicing a little for the coming contest, but do not believe there is very much need," "They anticipate a victory when the battle is over at Almendares Park," and "they think they will bring home most pleasant recollections of a triumphant taking of Havana."
Photo of Tulane team from 1909. Taken from
University of Florida vs. Vedado Tennis Club 1912 game program.
The game did not go as they had envisioned it. The Daily Picayune account described it best with "Tulane was beaten from start to finish" and that they were "outweighed and outplayed" by the Cuban Athletic Club who had "several former members of first-class college teams" (As a side note, most athletic club football teams had former college players). The game was also a social event with the highest representatives of Havana society in attendance.

Photo of Club Atlético de Cuba team from 1909. Taken from
University of Florida vs. Vedado Tennis Club 1912 game program.

With this victory, the Cuban Athletic Club capped an exceptional year for Cuban teams in international games. In November and December, the 1909 American League Champion Detroit Tigers (except Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford) traveled to Cuba and played twelve games against the Almendares and Habana Baseball Clubs. The Tigers went four and eight during the series, including a few embarrassing losses against the integrated Cuban teams.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

American Football as Played on the Field

Before continuing with the games, a post on the development of American football will give a better idea of what the game was like in the first decade or so of the twentieth century. "Football" games date back to the Middle Ages in Europe, but the modern game of English football became codified in 1863 with the creation of the Football Association (FA). Association football, or "soccer," grew in popularity in the United States in the late-nineteenth century.

During this same time, another "football" game became institutionalized in the United Kingdom. In 1871, twenty-two amateur teams formed Rugby Football Union. Rugby, a sport named for the school where it started, featured carrying the ball, touchdowns, tackles, punts, and field goals. American football evolved from this game.

The first intercollegiate "football" game was played on November 6, 1869. About two hundred spectators witnessed Rutgers defeat Princeton six goals to four in a game that resembled a cross between a soccer match and a street fight. These contests became common among elite colleges in the Northeast United States.

In 1874, Harvard played a series of soccer and rugby matches with McGill University (McGill is located in Montreal, Canada. These were likely the first international football contests for an American team). After these contests, Harvard adopted rugby over soccer. Soon, other schools followed suit.

Changes to the rules in the 1880s, influenced by Walter Camp of Yale, led to the creation of American football. This new sport departed from rugby in that a line of scrimmage replaced the scrum, the offense had a set number of attempts to advance the ball a certain distance (originally three downs to gain five yards), a lined field ("gridiron"), and tackling below the waist.

These modifications reduced the game's improvisational style associated with rugby and led to more set plays and strategies. Offensive innovations, such as the short-lived "Flying Wedge"and other mass momentum plays, increased American football's brutality resulting in more injuries and deaths. Several attempts to reform the game in 1890s failed to increase safety. Criticism mounted and some doubted the future of American football.

The crisis came to a head during the 1905 season. Three college players and eighteen participants at all levels of the game died either while playing or as result of injuries sustained on the field. On October 9, 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt held a White House conference of representatives from the "Big Three" (Harvard, Yale, and Princeton) with the hopes of finding a way to preserve the game through reforms.

The conference formed the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS). This institution, the forerunner of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), appointed a rules committee that attempted to increase players' safety by "opening" the game.

The rules changes for the 1906 season included:
  1. Three downs to gain ten yards.
  2. Legalization of the forward pass (limited to under twenty yards and none across the goal line).
  3. Six men on the line of scrimmage for the offense.
  4. Certification of officials. 
The LSU game against the University of Havana in 1907 operated under these rules, as well as the Rollins College game in 1908 and the Tulane game in 1910.

The next major rules changes, which created "modern" American football, came in 1912. They included:
  1. Four downs to gain ten yards.
  2. Liberalization of the forward pass.
  3. One-hundred yard field with ten yard endzones. 
  4. Touchdowns account for six points.
The rest of the games played between U.S. and Cuban teams operated under the rules for the modern game and the modifications to them that occurred between 1912 to 1956.

Monday, July 9, 2012

LSU vs. University of Havana (1907)

Photo of 1907 LSU football team from the LSU Digital Archives 

On December 25, 1907, LSU's football team defeated the University of Havana by a score of 56-0 in Havana, Cuba. First year coach Edgar Wengard led the Tigers along with team captain Charles Bauer and standout athlete George "Doc" Fenton. As the score suggests, the game was pretty one-sided but the event itself was more important than the final score. This game marked the first time a football team from a North American college traveled to Cuba to play a Cuban team.

LSU vs. University of Havana
Almendares Park, Havana, Cuba
December 25, 1907
According to press coverage, the game was a social event on par with the early Thanksgiving Day games held in New York City between Princeton and Yale. On Christmas Day, the elite of Cuban society, students from the University of Havana, LSU supporters, and U.S. servicemen from two gunboats and Camp Columbia filled Almendares Park. To paraphrase one Cuban report, "There will be plenty of college spirit shown, and the Havana University students are practicing their yells, their college songs, and various forms of noise making which convey enthusiasm to the players, while the colors of the colleges will be seen on all sides" (Diario de la Marina, Dec. 25, 1907, p.12). A municipal band also added to the game-day atmosphere. Despite the result on the field, it seems the organizers and fans in Cuba were well-acquainted with the spectacle associated with this North American college game.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

List of Games

Here is a list of football games played between U.S. and Cuban teams. It is by no means complete, but it is a good place to start. The information I used to form this list came from university records, U.S. and Cuban newspaper articles, and

Year - U.S. team - Cuban team

1907 - Louisiana State University (LSU) - University of Havana                                                     

1908 - Rollins College - University of Havana 

1910 - Tulane University - Cuban Athletic Club (CAC)

1912 - Mississippi A&M (Mississippi State University) - Cuban Athletic Club (CAC)           

1912 - University of Florida - Vedado Tennis Club 

1915 - Florida Southern College - Cuban Athletic Club (CAC)

1915 - Florida Southern College - Cuban Athletic Club (CAC)

1920 - Stetson University - Cuban Athletic Club (CAC)

1921 - University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) - Cuban Athletic Club (CAC)   

1922 - Rollins College - University of Havana

1922 - American Legion (Tampa) - Cuban Athletic Club (CAC)     

1923 - Rollins College - Cuban National Police

1923 - Rollins College - University of Havana

1923 - Rollins College - Cuban Athletic Club (CAC)

1924 - Florida Southern College - University of Havana

1924 - Florida Southern College - University of Havana

1925 - American Legion (Tampa) - University of Havana           

1926 - University of Miami (FL) (Freshmen) - University of Havana           
1927 - Howard College (Samford University) - University of Havana            

1928 - University of Miami (FL) - Vedado Tennis Club

1931 - Rollins College - Cuban Athletic Club (CAC)

1934 - University of Tampa - Cuban Athletic Club (CAC) 

*1937 - Alabama Polytechnic Institute (Auburn University) - Villanova University 

1938 - Rollins College - University of Havana

1938 - University of Tampa - University of Havana

1939 - Georgia Teacher's College (Georgia Southern University) - University of Havana           

1939 - Georgia Teacher's College (Georgia Southern University) - University of Havana

1939 - Rollins College - University of Havana

**1939 - University of Tampa - Rollins College

1939 - University of Tampa - University of Havana

1944 - Presbyterian College - University of Havana

1946 - University of Alabama ('B' Team) - University of Havana
1946 - Norman Junior College (GA) - University of Havana

1946 - Southern Mississippi University - University of Havana 

1956 - Stetson University - University of Havana 

*Game played in Havana between two North American teams. By most accounts, this was the first game to be labeled "Bacardi Bowl" by U.S. sportswriters.

**Another game played in Havana between two North American teams.


"Bacardi Bowl" is one of several names attached to American football games that occurred in Havana, Cuba in the first half of the 20th century. Most North American schools that played a game on the island have crafted popular histories of the event, describing it as their "first bowl game" or claiming that they were the "first" or "last" to play in Cuba. The actual stories of these games are more complex.

American football games took place on a fairly regular basis in Cuba. Cuban universities and athletic clubs began playing the sport in 1904. An amateur league developed and Cuban teams played one another for a local championship. From 1907 to 1956, at least eighteen U.S. teams, not counting U.S. military squads, competed against Cuban teams on their home soil. At no point were these games considered "bowl" games in the modern sense of the word. They were more like post-season exhibition games along the same lines as the original Rose Bowl. 

As mentioned in my bio, I am a Ph.D. student writing a dissertation that focuses on these games. I started this blog as a means of organizing and sharing my research. While my dissertation goes in depth on historiography and theory, this blog is going to be more of a chronological sketch of the games with maybe a few asides about sources. This is my first attempt at blogging, so I'm learning as I go. I am planning on updating it weekly, but don't hold me to that. Anyway, I hope you find it interesting and informative. Feel free to comment.

Michael T. Wood

Twitter: @bacardi_bowl