Trinity Enters Intercollegiate Athletics
From earliest days, Tigers develop a “small-but-tough” reputation
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Trinity football collage from 1900

Trinity’s inaugural football team in 1900, known as the Trinity “Warriors.”

At the dawn of the 20th century, intercollegiate athletics became an important part of life at Trinity.

Before then, Trinity's founders had seen organized athletics as being a frivolous, threatening diversion from academic routine, but the younger faculty encouraged exercise and athletic competition as a means of developing individual discipline and promoting school spirit. More than 60 members of the campus YMCA raised money for exercise equipment for the student body, and by 1900 had furnished two rooms with parallel and horizontal bars, a punching bag, hand weights, Indian clubs, and tumbling mats. Calisthenics even became an actual class to prepare students for athletic competition.

Team sports on the Trinity campus at this time consisted mostly of recreational baseball games, foot races, and occasional football contests with local residents. In September 1898, a pick-up Trinity team played a game of football with the "Tehuacana Town Boys." According to a participant, "The game was very good at first, but the University boys 'played out' before the game was ended, and, therefore, lost the game." Music Director William Campbell entered the fray and won the admiration of his students for a stellar performance.

But the University's first true foray into intercollegiate sports came with its football team. Trinity faculty member B. Eugene Looney had observed the prominent role given to athletics at the University of Chicago, and became especially interested in football, organizing a similar squad on Trinity’s campus and serving as faculty manager of the first University football team in 1900.

At the time—believe it or not!—football was not a popular sport in Texas, and few students knew much about its rules. Before practice could begin, Looney and a group of students carved a playing field out of the rocky Tehuacana campus. Using borrowed crowbars, hammers, and shovels, they dug up stones and filled holes with dirt. Rocks too big to move were simply crushed to ground level, while those that could be moved became reserved seats on the sidelines Other spectators sat on the ground.

On November 17, 1900, the self-styled Trinity “Warriors” participated in their first intercollegiate match, traveling to Waco to scrimmage the Baylor University team. The Trinity uniforms consisted of white pants, white jerseys with maroon stripes, and "old shoes with strips of leather nailed on the soles for cleats." The most important part of the uniform, however, was the nose guard, a hard rubber contraption narrow enough at the top to fit between the eyes and wide enough below to encompass the nose, with a piece of rubber extending into the mouth to protect the teeth.

Team Captain George Stoker, class of 1901, recalled that the inexperienced Trinity players suffered from stage fright and were unable to remember their field positions. After being directed into place by Stoker, one of the players said, "Now what do you want me to do?" Stoker yelled back, "Catch the ball and run like hell!" Despite individual efforts by Warrior players during the bruising encounter, Baylor shut out the visiting Trinity team 17-0.

Football wasn’t the only sport making a mark at Trinity. Other sports such as tennis, basketball, and baseball also attracted students. Considered a "gentleman's game," tennis meshed well with Trinity standards of decorum. Under Looney's supervision, a 13-member male tennis team was organized in 1898. (One team member, Frank Wear, later became president of Trinity University at Waxahachie.) Baseball, which enjoyed a wide following among Trinity students, became a popular spring sport. In 1901 the Trinitonian reported that Trinity had "one of the best baseball teams to be found anywhere. Manager McCain is arranging for inter-college games and our boys expect to do honor for themselves and school."

Trinity is also reputed to have been the site of one of the first indoor basketball games in Texas. During recent renovations in the old Tehuacana classroom building, workers uncovered a basketball backboard mounted on the attic wall. Structural beams had been moved in order to accommodate the new sport.

Trinity baseball, tennis, and track and field teams from 1903

Throughout the Waxahachie era, intercollegiate athletics played a primary role in fostering school spirit. Although baseball, basketball, track, and tennis attracted student interest, football was the premier sport, as it was on many college campuses. While only a recreational sport in Tehuacana, football assumed increasing significance in Waxahachie, a town filled with sports-minded enthusiasts who wanted winning teams. Wary of unregulated collegiate athletic programs, Trinity joined the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1902 and fielded teams in football, basketball, and track. At the same time, University trustees established an Athletic Board, composed of three faculty members appointed by the president and managers of the various athletic teams selected by the students, which established eligibility criteria for participation in intercollegiate sports.

Thus, Trinity was one of the first schools in the country to find a way to balance intercollegiate athletics with academics: Student-athletes had to carry a full academic load of fifteen hours and receive passing grades in all their classes, while those who were under discipline for missing classes or who had received financial remuneration from any previous collegiate or professional team were barred from competition.

“We of Texas A&M schedule annual games with your Trinity football teams because, regardless of the heavy odds which may be against them, the little devils never give up and never quit fighting.” - Texas A&M coach Walter Moran, after a 1902 football game

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