Title

Exhibit - History of the 1943 Football Season

Covid-19 might have affected the 2020 football season, but it’s not the first time athletics were interrupted on this campus. According to the Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes from May 20, 1943, the college was planning to hold the regular football season since the 1943 football program was presented to the Board. But during World War II, the U.S. War Department created the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), a military training program to meet the wartime demands of needing soldiers with technical skills and junior officers. Announced in December 1942, the Army selected universities that already had an established ROTC program for ASTP to be attached. Michigan State College was selected as one of the institutions. In the summer of 1943, an ASTP unit for veterinary and engineering students was established on campus. At one point, more than 50 percent of the college’s total enrollment was made up of military students.

Unfortunately, the War Department stated that anybody enrolled in the ASTP was not allowed to participate in intercollegiate athletics. This put the university in a tight spot. In the fall of 1942, there were 135 men participating in varsity or freshman football. In 1943, of those 135 men, 134 were in the Armed Forces and one still in college. The expected total enrollment of civilian men that fall would not exceed 400 made up of engineers, pre-medical, and veterinary students deferred by Selective Service and carrying on accelerated programs of studies; boys under 18 years of age, and men unfit for military service and classified in 4-F. These civilians were required to take a minimum of six hours each week of military drill and physical education in addition to their classroom schedules.

The question of whether the college would hold the football season must have been discussed at length and finally came to a head when a State News article from August 4, 1943 entitled, “Rumor Unheeded: Practice Begins” ran stating that football practice was moving forward. The next day at the Board of Trustees meeting, August 5, 1943, the members discussed continuing intercollegiate athletics for the year. On August 11, 1943, MSC President John Hannah issued a statement that the intercollegiate athletics for the year were cancelled.

In place of intercollegiate football, campus football leagues were formed. Every Saturday the fall of 1943, the campus leagues played in the stadium and were open to the students and public at no cost. The campus league teams consisted of: Off Campus Engineers, Veterinarians, ROTC, Civilian, and On Campus Engineers.

On November 6, 1943, two football games and a military parade were held on Macklin field. Before the game, the ASTP and ROTC army units staged a joint military parade that was reviewed by Colonel Grover Egger, Major Johnson, and President Hannah. All of the campus football leagues were also able to participate in the parade and be recognized on the field.

On April 7, 1944, President Hannah announced that Michigan State College would return to intercollegiate athletic competition on July 1, 1944.

Sources
Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes, May 20, 1943, Board of Trustees Records, UA 1, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes, August 5, 1943, Board of Trustees Records, UA 1, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

"Campus Athletic League Organized," M.A.C. Record, December 1943, Vol. 49 No. 01, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Hoffman, Ken (1996). Spartan football: 100 seasons of gridiron glory. Champaign, Illinois: Sagamore Publishing.

"Rumor Unheeded: Practice Begins," Michigan State News, Vol. 33Z.333 No. 13, August 4, 1943.

Termination of all Intercollegiate Athletic Competition for the duration - Newspaper Clippings, 1944, Volume SB 107, Madison Kuhn Collection, UA 17.107, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Exhibit written by Jennie Russell, September 2020

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