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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 81

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This is the grave of Walter Camp.

2016-05-07 11.45.00

The so-called “Father of College Football,” Camp was born in 1859 in New Britain, Connecticut. Even at a very young age, Camp became interested in the new game of football. At the age of 14, he attended the founding meeting of the sport and then played for Yale from 1876 and 1882, playing both as an undergraduate and while at Yale Medical School. He worked for a few years at the New Haven Clock Company, which his family owned, and in 1888 became head coach of Yale. He did not coach for long. He stayed at Yale until 1892 and then moved to Stanford, where he coached briefly in late 1892 and then in 1894 and 1895. Despite being only 36 years old, he retired with a record of 79-5-3 and went back to the clock company. But he continued staying in the game, creating many of the basic rules of the sport, writing books on the topic, and becoming the sport’s foundational figure. As early as 1880, he fought for the creation of the line of scrimmage, helping to separate the game from rugby. He created or co-created the snap, the four-down offensive system, the standard lineup of offensive players, the 2 point safety, the number of players as 11, and the yard marker. He would be on the college football rules committee for 48 years.

Camp also cheated up a storm. He had a slush fund of $10,000 for whatever he wanted, including hiring ringers for key games and bringing in players who were not students and were feted like grandees. He was involved in the creation of the NCAA, which happened after Theodore Roosevelt became concerned that the deadly violence associated with the sport could lead to its eradication. Camp promised to be involved in getting rid of the most violence parts of the sport, but he did nothing. 26 players died in 1909 alone. And of course we know the legacy of the NCAA on college sports to the present, with its refusal to compensate players while teams make millions, something Camp also certainly would collude with were he alive today.

Camp later worked as an athletic advisor to the U.S. military during World War I and wrote many books on the virtue of exercise. He died in 1925 at the age of 65.

To the best that I can tell, Camp has never been portrayed in the movies, which seems a little surprising. I kind of figured he would end up in some silent film about college football, but I guess it never happened, at least according to IMDB.

Walter Camp is buried in Grove Street Cemetery, New Haven, Connecticut.

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