Roar, Lion, Roar: A Celebration of Columbia Football

Early Days > The Ban

The Ban, 1905-1915

Intercollegiate football was banned at Columbia from 1905 to 1915. According to University President Nicholas Murray Butler, football had "become an academic nuisance because of its interference with academic work and an academic danger because of the moral and physical ills that follow in its train." Without proper rules in place, the game was considered "brutal and abominable" (Spectator, December 4, 1905) and the University Committee on Student Organizations worked to abolish the game. Butler hoped to start a movement to remove the commercialism and professionalism which he felt dominated intercollegiate athletics. There were mass meetings and protests from students; and the alumni actively engaged with petitions for football’s reinstatement. After a ten-year ban, football returned in 1915 with very specific limitations and on a probationary basis. The team won its first game back against St. Lawrence, 57-0, and went undefeated for the rest of the season.

Columbia Spectator Front Page

Columbia Spectator front page from December 21, 1905 featuring news about the abolishment of football at Columbia University.

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A three-page October 3, 1919 letter from Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler to Frank Fackenthal, Secretary of the University and Chairman of the University Committee on Student Organization, regarding the reinstatement of football and the end of the required trial period.

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