Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Father of Alabama Football: William G. Little

William G. Little -- or "Bill," as he was invariably known throughout his life -- was born on August 29, 1873 in Sumter County, Alabama near Livingston. He entered the University of Alabama in 1888 but moved to Andover, Massachusetts to attend Phillips Academy in 1891 in anticipation of attending Yale. The death of his brother curtailed those plans and he came back to the Yellowhammer State and enrolled in the UA law school.

Little returned to Tuscaloosa with a passion for new sport of football which he had learned while in the Northeast. He brought his uniform and equipment for playing the game and quickly formed a team of 19 fellow students -- many who had never even seen a football before much less played the game. Little played guard and at 220 pounds he was easily the largest player on Alabama's inaugural squad.

The University of Alabama's 1892 football team.
With Little as captain and E. B. Beaumont as head coach the team played its first game in Birmingham on Friday afternoon, Nov. 11, 1892, at Lakeview Park.

The Alabama students faced off against a picked team from Birmingham high schools, with Alabama winning, 56-0. Alabama would go on to earn a 2-2 record that first season.

After graduating with the class of 1893, Little returned to Livingston where he operated a large farm and owned a retail store. He was active in politics, serving as Sumter County treasurer, tax collector and probate judge. He remained a staunch supporter of Alabama football throughout his life and often invited teams to his Sumter County farm.

Little died on April 11, 1938 in Selma following a short illness.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Champ Pickens' 1925 Book "Alabama"

In 1925, the ever entrepreneurial Champ Pickens struck upon a brilliant idea to promote Alabama football and, in the process, inadvertently created a publishing phenomena. Following the conclusion of the 1924 season, Pickens created an eight-page photo pamphlet titled "Alabama" believed to be the first publication devoted to Crimson Tide football ever produced.

Pickens' book, which appeared sometime after the 1925 spring practices, proclaimed 1924 "the greatest in the history of athletics at the University of Alabama" and boasted of the golf squad's conference championship as well as the baseball and basketball team's second-place finishes. Yet the heart of the book was the series of photographs of the various football games played by the Alabama gridders.

Under second-year head coach Wallace Wade, Alabama had rolled to an 8-1 record earned the Pickens' cup -- the trophy awarded to the champion of the Southern Conference donated by none other than Pickens himself. The Tide had completely dominated the schedule earning seven shutouts and outscoring opponents 290 to 24.

The only defeat Alabama suffered during the 1924 season was a 17-0 drubbing at the hands of the Prayin' Colonels of Centre College -- an unlikely powerhouse that had humbled the vaunted Harvard squad in Cambridge, Massachusetts just three years prior.

Pickens wrote that the varsity prospects for the 1925 season were "very bright" and "it is hoped the 'Crimson Tide' will roll to another championship." His words proved prescient. Not only did Alabama follow up with another Southern Conference Championship, the Tide claimed its first National Championship as well after defeating Washington in the 1926 Rose Bowl.

To commemorate the achievements of the 1925 team, Pickens promptly produced a follow-up book "The Will To Win."