The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983

The Bible Decade and the Origin of
National Athletic Prominence
JAMES W. POHL*
IT WAS ON THE BANKS OF THE OLD RARITAN IN THE YEAR 1869 THAT
Rutgers met Princeton in the first intercollegiate football game
played in the United States. To the casual observer, the contest ap-
peared to be more like an English rugby match; but it marked the
birth of a national sporting obsession that has grown, virtually un-
abated, to a presently enormous popularity. Baseball may well be the
national pastime as its proponents insist, but even as they declare it,
there can be little doubt that football is the national sport.,
One hundred years later, in the centennial festivities marking its
existence, the game had expanded far beyond its humble beginnings
in New Jersey. In fact, the president of the United States not only
attended the Texas-Arkansas game but also, at its conclusion, declared
the victorious Longhorns to be the number-one team in the nation. As
a fitting ornament to the already historic season, Texas defeated Notre
Dame, in the latter's first bowl appearance, in the closing seconds of
the Cotton Bowl game on January 1, 1970. Apart from a few dissent-
ing grumbles from Pennsylvania State University, there could be little
doubt that the University of Texas Longhorns stood atop the Ameri-
can collegiate football hill at the time of the sport's most illustrious
celebration.2
How did that event come about? Assuredly, the 1969 team under
the leadership of Coach Darrell Royal had the most to do with it, but,
of course, the story began long before that. It started more than four
decades earlier, when a short, portly, balding man named Dana Xene-
phon Bible stepped off a train in Austin to take over his duties as head
coach of the football team and athletic director of the University; but
*James W. Pohl is professor of history at Southwest Texas State University in San
Marcos.
1John Lowell Pratt and Jim Benagh, The Official Encyclopedia of Sports (New York,
1964), 118.
2Frank G. Merike, The Encyclopedia of Sports (rev. ed.; New York, 1975), 442. 447,
449; Dallas Morning News, Jan. i, 2, 1970.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101209/. Accessed December 28, 2014.