War bound to bowl bound

January 10, 2012

As LSU and Alabama square off for the national college football championship, even the most rabid Tiger or Tide fan might not realize the influence that the US military had in the widespread appeal of football. According to a new study in the journal Armed Forces & Society (AFS), published by SAGE, college football can credit the military for bringing the sport to the masses. Additionally, the study explores how the impact of World Wars helped bring about issues such as payment of college athletes, which are still being debated.

In the article "America and the Garrison Stadium: How the US Shaped College Football," researcher Joseph Paul Vasquez, University of Central Florida, looked at the effects of the on football and came up with many relationships that helped shape the sport over the years.

"Having evolved from roots on the campuses of several elite Northeastern institutions, college football was not always big business or a broadly appreciated pastime, nor was its origin accidental," wrote Vasquez.

Taking the sport from those elite college roots to the most popular sport in America took the impact of the military and most notably the First World War. Troops were in need not only of recreation, but also physical activity that would help them in their military training. Football became a favorite activity to meet both of these needs and thereby exposed more Americans to the sport than ever before. Competitions between military camps were widely followed and helped perpetuate the popularity of the sport.

"Military institutions and their advocates promoted football around the dawn of the twentieth century by incorporating the game into life with the college game—its most prominent manifestation at the time—being the major beneficiary," wrote Vasquez. "Thus, surging, broad-based interest in football resulted from the effect of militaries as total institutions and authoritative innovator."

World War II also served its own role in the popularity of . As with the First World War, troops were using the sport as recreation and physical activity which meant more men were playing football in some form than had played the sport before. After World War II, the establishment of the GI bill pushed these athletes to flood the universities and some were heavily recruited by football programs.

"One former collegiate star in the Navy was courted by twenty-five schools before going back to his alma mater, where he was reportedly paid as much as $5,000 a year," wrote Vasquez. The case and more like it prompted the NCAA to set up regulations on scholarships and restrictions of payment of athletes.

Explore further: Probing Question: Does baseball still reflect America?

More information: The article entitled "America and the Garrison Stadium: How the US Armed Forces Shaped College Football" from Armed Forces & Society (AFS) is available free for a limited time at: afs.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/11/19/0095327X11426255.full.pdf+html

Related Stories

Probing Question: Does baseball still reflect America?

April 12, 2007

Ah, the pleasures of spring. Blooming tulips and singing robins herald the rebirth of nature -- and baseball. Across the country, the season's first official pitches are thrown and the crack of ball against bat is heard. ...

Study asks how safe is high school football?

August 15, 2007

Football, one of the most popular sports in the United States, is also the leading cause of sports-related injuries. During the 2005-06 season, high school football players sustained more than half a million injuries nationally. ...

Recommended for you

From a very old skeleton, new insights on ancient migrations

October 9, 2015

Three years ago, a group of researchers found a cave in Ethiopia with a secret: it held the 4,500-year-old remains of a man, with his head resting on a rock pillow, his hands folded under his face, and stone flake tools surrounding ...

Mexican site yields new details of sacrifice of Spaniards

October 9, 2015

It was one of the worst defeats in one of history's most dramatic conquests: Only a year after Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico, hundreds of people in a Spanish-led convey were captured, sacrificed and apparently eaten.

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.