1904 Olympic Football Champions

It is well known that Carlisle Indian School shellacked Haskell Institute at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. What isn’t widely known is that the St. Louis University team was deemed the Olympic Champions that year by virtue of playing, and winning, all their home games at the fair site which doubled as the location of the 1904 Olympics. The 1905 Spalding’s Guide includes a photo of the team titled “St. Louis University, Olympic World’s Champions.” While the pre-Billiken St. Louis U. footballers went undefeated, untied, and unscored upon through their eleven-game schedule, they were probably not even the second or third best team to play in front of an Olympic audience that year. The only major schools played were Kentucky, Arkansas and Missouri.

The Haskell Institute Fighting Indians were also undefeated in regular season play that year but gave up six points each to Nebraska and Kansas. They had also beaten Texas and Missouri. At that time, comparative scores were considered but Haskell and St. Louis had only one common opponent: Missouri. St. Louis shut them out 17-0 where Haskell humiliated them 38-0. Additionally, Haskell played a much tougher schedule, mostly on the road. Martin A. Delaney, Coach of St. Louis University’s football team, wrote about the World’s Fair/Olympics impact on football in the region:

During the season of 1904 football in the Southwest received a stimulus which did more to develop the game in this section than ten years of independent effort on the part of the various teams could possibly have done. This stimulus was given by the Physical Culture Department of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. The department took charge of the schedules of St. Louis’ principal teams—those of Washington and St. Louis Universities—furnished them grounds, and brought the best teams in the section to meet them. As a consequence, these teams and the teams who played them had a season of unexampled success and development.

 

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