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A HISTORY OF FOOTBALL AT McMASTER By Ian Speers Beginnings—1887 to 1914 McMaster University was established as an outgrowth of the older Toronto Baptist College, receiving a university charter in 1887 and opening its doors to undergraduate students in the fall of 1890. The university’s first home was in Toronto’s McMaster Hall, constructed in 1881 for the Baptist College. McMaster Hall is better known today as the home of the Royal Conservatory of Music, located immediately east of Varsity Stadium on Bloor Street. A small gymnasium was built in the west end of the Hall’s basement, though the facility was converted into laboratory space not long after Mac attained university status. Soccer was McMaster’s first major sport. In 1889, a group of alumni from the Toronto Baptist College played a challenge game against Woodstock College, a fellow Baptist institution, inaugurating an intercity rivalry that was carried on by McMaster students. A proper McMaster team played Woodstock for the first time on Nov. 7 1891, losing 2–1. The annual match between McMaster and Woodstock quickly became autumn’s prime athletic event and secured soccer’s importance at the young university. A hockey club organized in the winter of 1896–97 and a full-fledged athletic association followed in October 1897, bringing all sports and physical activities under a central executive committee. Football—or rugby, as it was still called at the time—took longer to attain a foothold in McMaster’s athletic culture. The earliest reference to the sport at Mac appears in the Nov. 30, 1898 minutes of the athletic association’s executive meeting where they reviewed a letter “expressing the desire of a good many members of the association to play [football] and asking that the association provide them with a ball.” The matter was resolved at a subsequent meeting two days later, where a consensus emerged that the lateness of the season made it pointless to start the sport that year, and the request was refused. Football evidently grew within the student ranks over the next year and in the fall of 1899; J.A. McDonald was elected as the first team captain. A team of third- and fourth-year students beat a squad of freshmen and sophomores 10–5 in an intramural game, documented on Dec. 6, 1900. By 1901, enough experience had been gained for McMaster to consider entering a team in an outside league. As Mac’s soccer and hockey teams were participating to some extent in the University of Toronto’s intramural leagues, the football 5

2012 McMaster Football Media Guide

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