Monday, 4 July 2016

Sports in American History recommends 'enlightening, accessible' Stagg vs. Yost: 'a solid example of primary source research'

Scholar Michael T. Wood offers a hearty recommendation of Stagg vs. Yost: The Birth of Cutthroat Football in his review for the group blog Sport in American History:

A doctoral candidate in the Department of History and Geography at Texas Christian University, Wood writes that he "would recommend Stagg vs. Yost to both a scholarly and general audience. It serves as a solid example of primary source research and is an enlightening, accessible account of the personalities and contradictions in early college football history."

The book was released last summer. Numerous scholars have praised author John Kryk's second book on college football history.

Wood writes that Kryk offers "a revisionist history of Stagg, consistent with Robin Lester’s Stagg’s University (1995) and counter to the popular image of Stagg as an 'all-American paragon of virtue.' Stagg v. Yost also offers an argument for greater consideration of Yost’s achievements and his place in college football history.

Beyond the Yost-Stagg contrasts and illuminations, Wood says that "Kryk rightly describes both the violence and brutality of the game and the search for order that began in the 1890s, with the founding of regional conferences. As members of the Big Nine, representatives from the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan often squabbled over scheduling, eligibility requirements, and rule changes. Here, Kryk challenges Stagg’s pristine image, arguing that it was a calculated fa├žade that hid his true win-at-all-costs behavior. He also exposes the University of Michigan’s “loan” scheme that existed from the 1890s to the 1920s whereby instead of payments, administrators and alumni would lend athletes money to defray the cost of attendance."

Wood furthermore writes that Kryk "provides engaging narratives" of each season from 1901 to 1905, "correctly marks" 1905 as an epochal year in football, "successfully supports Lester’s depiction of Stagg as not just college football’s 'Grand Old Man' but as a calculating, hypercompetitive coach willing to compromise amateur ideals in order to win, [and] also provides a strong argument for Yost to be considered alongside Stagg, Glenn “Pop” Warner, John Heisman, and Knute Rockne as the best coaches in early college football history."

What's more, Wood writes that even beyond Kryk's "intended focus, the amount of turnover year-to-year on college rosters and the competition among teams for current players were particularly interesting. With eastern schools raiding western teams and western teams raiding smaller schools, I gained an increased appreciation for just how 'cutthroat' college football was at the time."

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