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Minnesota Football: 100 Years Ago OTD 5 Players Banned #TBT

Getting ready to play their first game of the season, the 1916 Gophers faced playing without five of it's best players because of academic issues. 

Game action from 1916
U of M

September 22, 1916 the Gophers were coming off a National Championship 1915 season. Expectations were high as the team hadn’t lost a game since Halloween of 1914. Until the Minneapolis Tribune uncovered a major story that threatened that success.

Just a few days before Minnesota kicked off its 1916 season against the mighty Jackrabbits of South Dakota State five players faced being kicked off the team for their academic failings. Reading between the lines, it sounds like the players that were suspended had not taken the first few weeks of class very seriously and needed to make up course work, pass tests or argue results. Captain and All-American Bert Baston was one of the five and the one who had to appeal his test results to regain eligibility. Spoiler alert. All four of the five made their grades and were reinstated to the team. Sadly Bert Baston broke his collarbone in his first practice back and missed time. Despite all of that the squad beat South Dakota State 41-7, en route to an almost perfect season (6-1).

Yearbook collage from SDSU game 1916
U of M

Here is the story from September 22, 1916 in the Minneapolis Tribune, by Fred B. Coburn. Fun note that the author Coburn repeatedly refers to Gopher fans as “dopesters”, I guess we would call them rubes today.

Minneapolis Tribune September 21, 1916

Study “Con” Is Obstacle to Williams

Five Players Including Captain Baston Under Scholastic Ban

Competition Is Keen for Places on the Varsity Eleven

Those office coaches, who correspond to grandstand managers in baseball, are busily engaged in figuring out a first team lineup for the 1916 Gophers. Some of them have taken Doctor Williams' task upon their own shoulders, and already have the varsity squad satisfactorily and suitably picked.

Only four of last year's regulars are missing. Turnquist, left tackle Dunnigan, right guard; Quist, right end, and Bierman, left halfback, are the absentees, but there are certain and sundry others who have not yet passed the scholastic barriers, prominent among them being Ballentine, H. F. Hanson, Mayer, Townley and Captain Albert Baston.

What's a little Thing Like That

They are picking a team anyway, and guesses range all the way from the impossible to the very probable.

Baston, of course, will play left end. There are all sorts of candidates for Quist's place at right end, but it wouldn't surprise a lot of the wise­ acres, they say, if George Hauser, right tackle last year, was moved to that important post. They argue that Hauser is big, strong, aggressive, fast and "fighty." Buckley, Kingsley and some of the younger material are also considered for tho end position, and there have been some remarks passed that little Jimmy Ballentine wouldn't look bad on the right wing.

If Frank Mayer becomes eligible, and almost everybody thinks he will, he is the most promising candidate for left tackle, a position he filled with ex­treme credit in 1914. Gil Sinclair has left guard cinched as he is a veteran end at all times a strong factor in the Gopher line.

Hanson at Center

H. C. Hanson was last year's center and is again tho strongest candidate in sight for his position, although he will likely get some strenuous opposition. If it be decided to keep George Hauser at right tackle, then Jack Townlev will likely make a fight of it with Hanson for the center position. There are also Williams-(no relation of tho coach's), and Gray.

Dunnigan's place at right guard is open and promises to afford one of the finest scraps on the team. Ecklund, formerly a South High and Macalester player, is a likely aspirant. There are also Hartwig, Wilson, Gray, Lee and one or two others in the running. Hauser and Townley are the strongest candidates for right tackle, but Hartwig and Gray are also after that place.

Shorty Long will be the quarterback unless he breaks a leg, and only a mis­fortune can prevent Pudge Wyman from being fullback. Both are former Minneapolis high school players and veterans of last season.

Keen Competition for Half

For the other backfield .positions, the dopesters have figured that Sprafka and Haertel would make an acceptable pair, but anyone who wins a halfback job will needs [to] show exceptional ability. Bros, Carlson, Kleffman. Allendorfer, H. F. Hanson (if he makes the grade) and a few others, are aspirants.

The Gopher coach treated his men to lengthy sessions yesterday, both morning and afternoon. Players who have conditions were busy with their books for the most part.

Captain Baston took an examination in his one subject yesterday and expects to hear tho result early next week.