“Esprit de corps”: Football at Madison College

Kickoff by Edgar Ausberry at first football game. Madison Century, 104.

Kickoff by Edgar Ausberry at first football game. Madison Century, 104.

Justification for Athletics

Carrier once stated that football was needed for Madison campus to change “psychologically… to be coeducational” (Hilton, 58). There would be activities for students and faculty on the weekends and prevent the “mass exodus from campus on the weekends” (Hilton, 58). It would help expose Madison to a broader audience and also form a rallying point for the college, or an “espirit de corps”. To help facilitate this change, Carrier brought in Dean Ehlers from Memphis State as the school’s first athletic director. It was decided that another man from Memphis State, Challace McMillin, would be the first football coach. However, this decision was made in July of 1972, barely leaving enough time to recruit players. The coaches were forced to recruit possible players from the registration lines for fall classes and 50 players showed up at the first team meeting, but “after being told that college football was a rough sport and involved bone-jarring physical impact, all but thirty disappeared when the team went down two flights of stairs to pick up equipment” (Hilton, 58-59). There weren’t enough players to hold a full scrimmage and one of the assistant coaches was forced to be the opposing quarterback at practices (Hilton, 59).

First football game played at Madison College. Images of James Madison University, pg. 107.

First football game played at Madison College. Images of James Madison University, pg. 107.

The first football game was played on October 7, 1972 against the Shepherd College junior varsity team. The game was supposed to be played on the Harrisonburg High School football field, but after heavy rains flooded the field and the high school officials refused to allow Madison to play there, a makeshift field was quickly made adjacent to Godwin Hall. There were no stands at the game and most spectators were forced to stand, however a few did sit like Dr. Carrier as pictured below. Madison lost the game, 6-0. The Madison football team would go on to lose every game during the 1972 season with a record of 0-4-1 (Hilton, 59). It seemed that the football program was a failure and that Carrier had made an error in judgement.

Dr. Carrier and Vice President Ray V. Sonner at first football game. Madison Century, 104.

Dr. Carrier and Vice President Ray V. Sonner at first football game. Madison Century, 104.

However, the football team won its first game in the season-opener of the 1973 season, had a winning season against varsity teams in 1974, and went undefeated in the season of 1975 (Hilton, 60). In 1976, the Madison football team was briefly ranked Number 1 in their division and played in the first Division III game televised by a major network, but lost (Hilton, 60). The creation of the football program and its eventual success led to such changes as the Astroturf in 1974, the formation of the Madison Marching Band, and the formation of the Duke Dog mascot.

Laying down the Astroturf, The Breeze, October 19. 1973.

Laying down the Astroturf, The Breeze, October 19. 1973.

The basketball team during the late 1940’s had already taken the name of, “The Dukes”, after the president of the college at the time, Samuel Duke. With the new football program, a mascot had to be created to serve as a rallying point for the college and foster school spirit. Dr. Ray Sonner, who was the director of public affairs during the early 1970’s, created the Duke Dog image. He reasoned that an English “duke” would have an English bulldog for a pet, and so the Duke Dog was born. During the 1972-1973 school year, the Duke Dog made its first appearances as a cartoon, student mascot, and a real bulldog (Hilton, “Dukes Nickname and the Duke Dog”). The Duke Dog is still the beloved mascot of James Madison University and its students, faculty, and staff take pride in being “Duke Dogs”.

Duke I. Rooted on Bluestone Hill.

Duke I. Madison Century website.

 

Works Cited

Hilton, Fred. “Changing from a College to a University: Madison College to James Madison University, 1971-1977.” Master’s thesis, James Madison University, 1996.

Hilton, Fred. “Dukes Nickname and the Duke Dog.” Madison Century: 1908-2008. http://www.jmu.edu/centennialcelebration/dukedog.shtml