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Minnesota Football: #TBT Greater Northrop Field Dedication

Saturday will be the 112 years since the dedication and opening game at Greater Northrop Field. Even President Teddy Roosevelt was invited to attend the big day. The local papers heavily encouraged the president to visit. He didn't. So the Gophers took their anger out on the Twin Cities Central High School 107-0.

Entrance to Greater Northrop Field
Entrance to Greater Northrop Field

Co-eds at the game in 1903. The dedication was attended by all of Minneapolis 'society'. Via MNHS.

September 19, 1903 the Gopher football team took the field for the first time on its 'modern' football field. Five-thousand spectators crammed into Greater Northrop Field. The band played, Minnesota Governor Sam R. Van Sant gave a warm speech about the modernization of athletics, and then the guest of honor and stadium's namesake, Cyrus Northrop took the stage, and dedicated it to the many "honorable victories" to come.

The Minneapolis Tribune does a great job summing up the history of Gopher football fields up to this moment.

With the beginning of football at the university it was seen that a suitable field was a necessity. The games during the early nineties were played on the open campus In front of Pillsbury hall. This was of course open to the public and entirely inadequate for the need of growing university like Minnesota.

Then came the games at the old athletic park in the rear of the West hotel, where for years the Maroon and Gold players met victory and defeat amidst the cheers of the assembled multitude. But the accommodations for the crowds did not prove large enough at the big games and the players were put to great inconvenience in coming over town to the game and then going back to the armory wet and tired with the exertions of the play.

In 1899 the Gophers moved back to campus and Northrop Field was first established. Built in front of (the still standing) Pillsbury Hall. This was the early days of college football but even first Northrop Field with little more than an open field with temporary bleachers was considered one of the best stadiums in the country. With the financial help of John S. Pillsbury (who basically saved the University from bankruptcy, twice) and Gopher football legend Alf Pillsbury the old Northrop Field was transformed into Greater Northrop Field. Again the description is from the Mpls. Tribune (9/12/1903)

With Its capacity of 8,000 people, with its excellent gridiron and cinder running track and baseball diamond, the field is way ahead of anything In the West, but still was not good enough the Gophers. The desire for more room and better accommodations again began to press the board of control. Professor Frederick S. Jones, one of the faculty members of the board, set himself remedying the wants and securing the proper amount of land.

Game action at Greater Northrop Field, 1903. Via U of M.

The first victory at Greater Northrop Field was against a combination of Minneapolis' and St. Paul's Central High Schools. Captain Ed Rogers was "invincible" leading to the teams second largest victory in school history (the 1904 squad beat Grinnell 146-0). The beating was so bad that the University only played High School teams two more times before mutually deciding to quit scheduling each other.

Featured in the game was Captain Edward Rogers, best Ojibwa Gopher player and college hall of famer. Also reported at the game was lineman Walton Willard Thorp's dog. The animal named Sig roamed the sideline and became a player and fan favorite.