Spotlight: University athletics

GW football dominated the pages of The Hatchet in the early-1900s. The Hatchet wrote in 1904 that “football is the most important of fall and winter athletics.”

Head coach Alexander Rorke led the 1904 team, which trained at the Oxford Hotel downtown, to a 4-2-2 record. He spoke like a true football coach when interviewed in the first issue of The Hatchet.

“Every man will be given a fair trial, and if any player thinks he has got his position cinched and takes things easy, right then will be the time he will find someone else in his place,” Rorke said. “I am going to insist on work, work, work.”

While the team’s record varied from year to year, large point margins were common, such as a 0-62 loss to Emerson in 1904. However, The Hatchet editorial board was a big supporter of the football team, and often wrote staff editorials encouraging students to attend the games and cheer on the team.

In 1908, GW football reversed its losing streak with an 8-1-1 season, including a 77-0 win over Maryland. The 1908 season remains a high-point in the GW football program, which ran from 1880 to 1966. Led by coach Fred Nielsen, the team went on to win the South Atlantic Championship by defeating Virginia Tech 6-0. The November game was delayed due to a snowstorm. “Colonials shutout Virginia Tech in snowstorm to win Conference Title,” read The Hatchet’s headline following the game. The victory of 1908 was followed by two losing seasons before varsity football was suspended from 1911 to 1915, though the reason is unclear.

The year 1906 marks the beginning of GW men’s basketball, when student Donald Wilhelm suggested that the University organize a team. That year, team won the Southern championship. Six years later, in 1912, student Theodosia Darling Seibold Nelson started the first women’s basketball team.

Baseball and tennis received varsity recognition in the 1900’s, as both sports remained popular with University athletes. In 1904, the baseball team played in Van Ness Park, near the White House, but the land was soon sold and the team was without a home field. With no field to play on, the 1905 team traveled to area colleges. But the next year, GW baseball was disbanded until 1920.

Tennis was introduced to Columbian University in 1898 and the Tennis Association secured its own courts a year later. In 1910, the Association rebuilt its Northwest courts with soil reclaimed from a construction area behind the White House.

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