Football at UMB: HS/HSL Historical Highlight

1896 Football Team from the Bones, Molars, and Briefs yearbook.

As we count down the days the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams will face off in Super Bowl 53; what better time to visit the history of football at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB)?   While no longer a club or University sport today, football, as well as other team sports, such as Hockey, were once supported at UMB.

Football at UMB was first organized by Dr. Norfleet Mann Gibbs, UM School of Medicine, class of 1896.  Gibbs was called, “the father of athletics at the University of Maryland,” by the 1896 Bones, Molar, and Briefs Yearbook. The first team was fielded mid-season 1895, playing two games against St. Johns College of Annapolis and City College of Baltimore.  The following year, the Athletic Association of UMB was formed among faculty and students at the school.  The Association elected team managers and coaches for football, baseball, and hockey.  Teams had no practice fields, no financial support, and at times little enthusiasm or backing from students or faculty; yet they played an average seven games a year with some success.

As time went by, football grew in popularity, yet the financial strain and lack of facilities continued to cause problems.  The football team enjoyed a strong rivalry with Johns Hopkins University and occasionally played the Maryland Agricultural College (today’s University of Maryland, College Park).

The demands of course work and labs worked to the detriment of UMB football teams who suffered from a low turnout of talented players.  To put this into numerical perspective, only two percent of available students participated in athletics at UMB, while at other schools ten to twenty-five percent of students joined teams. By 1908, only twelve years after its founding, the Athletic Association of UMB was disbanded.  Football had a small resurgence in 1912 but was again disbanded in 1914.  In 1920, when the University of Maryland and the Maryland Agricultural College merged, students at the Baltimore campus could once again participate in athletics through the College Park campus.  At that time the Football team was under coach Harry Clifton “Curley” Byrd. Perhaps while watching Super Bowl 53 on Sunday, February 3, 2019, or at the next sporting event try out some of these Maryland Cheers and Yells.

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