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Camp, Walter (1859-1925)

Walter Camp (1859-1925)

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Football coach

Father of American Football. Walter Camp, who was associated with football at Yale University from 1876 to 1910, first as a player and then four years as an undergraduate and the final two as a medical student. As the team captain, from 1877 to 1880, Camp developed rule changes that cast the foundation of modern American football; among his innovations were the scrimmage and the downs system. He also served as secretary of the intercollegiate football rules convention from 1877 to 1906.

Unofficial Coach. Although Camp started working for the Manhattan Watch Company in New Haven, Connecticut, in i 1882, he served as Yales unofficial advisory coach until 1910. Since he could not attend the teams daily practice sessions, he analyzed the teams progress from detailed notes taken by his wife. In the evenings Camp met with the team captain and other key players, suggesting improvements and formulating game-winning strategy. During Camps association with the team, as a player and coach from 1876 to 1910, Yale established an astonishing record, losing only fourteen games. Camp vigorously promoted the commercialization of college football through the application of marketing techniques to boost spectator interest and promote the game to the public. His most successful device in generating broad spectator appeal was the selection of the All-American Team, which he first instituted in 1889. Camp developed a mass audience for college football by editing the annual Spaldings Official Intercollegiate Football Guide and writing hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles.

Response to Brutality. In the 1890s Camp led a crusade to reform the brutal and, at times, deadly play of college football. In 1891 he spearheaded an investigation of the brutality in college football. In 1894 he published his findings in Football Facts and Figures, maintaining that despite the games hazards, football both physically and mentally benefited the men who had played it. The Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee in 1894, under Camps direction, eliminated many of the dangerous mass plays, including the flying wedge, which resulted in injury and death. Further reform of college football, which led to the organization of the National Collegiate Athletic Association in 1906, marked the decline of Camps influence over college football. He reluctantly withdrew from most aspects of Yales athletic program in 1910. Campdied of a heart attack at the rules committee meeting that year.

Source

Ronald A. Smith, Sports and Freedom: The Rise of Big-Time College Athletics (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).

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Camp, Walter Chauncey

Walter Chauncey Camp, 1859–1925, American athlete, football coach, administrator, b. New Britain, Conn. In his three years as captain at Yale Univ. in the 1880s, Camp shaped the rules that transformed rugby football into American football, including playing with 11 men, using a line of scrimmage, a system of downs, and the present point system. Until 1910 Camp continued at Yale as an unpaid advisory coach. Often called the father of American football, he was a prolific writer and promoter for the sport and from 1889 until 1925 selected its All-American teams. He wrote more than 30 books on football and physical fitness.

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