Tuesday, April 9, 2013

First Night Football Game at Rice!

Ethel was not a big sports fan as far as I can recall, but my sons will be pleased to discover that she did know a bit about college football. She may have never set foot at the newly remodeled football stadium, on campus, but here is an article she wrote about Rice's promising 1939 team and their upcoming schedule.

Eyes of Nation Football Fans Will Turn to RiceSept. 30 for First Night Game

September 12th, 1939

The eyes of football fans all over the nation will turn toward Houston on September 30, where one of the major early season games will be played between Rice Institute and Vanderbilt University.
The game will also initiate night football at Rice Stadium. Lights have been installed at the new stadium, which has been put in readiness for the 1939 schedule. The Owls opened training last week.

Outstanding Team.

Owls have been touted by sports writers throughout the Southwest inference as one of outstanding teams s of the conference. Besides a wealth of material held over from last year's squad, including Ernie Lain and Olie Cordell, the varsity is enlarged by a great freshman squad of last year.
1938 returning Rice Football stars
Ernie Lain and Olie Cordill
Source:U.S.School Yearbooks>Texas>Houston>Rice>1938>p.216.
Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com
Operations, Inc., 2010.p.216 

The four games of the season three of them at Rice Stadium will be played at night. After Vanderbilt, the Owls on October 7 played Centenary at Houston then on October 14 play Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge and return home to meet Sam Houston State Teachers College on October 21. All night games start at 8 o'clock.

Conference  Action.

The Owls will then go to Austin to swing into action action in conference competition, meeting the University of Texas on October 28. This, and the remainder of  games on the schedule, will be afternoon game, starting at 2:30 p.m.

On November 4 the Owls will travel to New York to meet Fordham University Rams in the last intersectional game on the schedule. They then resume Southwest Conference play, meeting the University of Arkansas Razorbacks here on November 11 and then Teas Aggies here on November 18. 

Rice will play Texas Christian University Horned Frogs in Fort Worth on November 25, will return home to meet Baylor University’’s Bears on December 2 and will close the season in Dallas, playing Southern Methodist University on December 9. 

Rice's Winning Football Team from 1938
Campanile Yearbook 1938
Source:U.S.School Yearbooks>Texas>Houston>Rice>1938>p.210
Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com 
Operations, Inc., 2010. 
The 1938 squad Ethel mentioned, indeed had a great year. They were the first Rice team to reach the Cotton Bowl where they defeated Colorado 28-14 (Rice Historical Society Timeline). This championship team surely benefited from a newly remodeled stadium.  On September 23rd, 1938, the Thresher reported that the construction cost of $160,000 was raised by Rice fans in exchange for ticket options. Clearly, Texas was pulling out of the Great Depression! In 1939, the lights were turned on for the returning championship team, who were to hold the first game of the season at night!

Do you venture to guess when the first ever college football game was played under the lights? I did a little research and the answer surprised me. September 28th 1892! The game was held in Mansfield, Pennsylvania between Mansfield State Normal and Wyoming Seminary. Professional football did not hold a night game until twenty years later in 1902!

I can not help but conjure the popular TV series Friday Night Lights which aired a few years ago, based on a Texas high school football team. Today, the popularity of college football, has soared to unimaginable heights, and even high school football is played under the lights, in almost American towns. As reflected in Ethel's article, the Texan football tradition is deeply rooted. I bet she would have related to this highly acclaimed football tv drama. 

If you are a football fan and want to read more about the old stadium, here are several links to great posts, photos of the stadium and it's construction from the Rice History Corner Blog by Melissa Kean:
Following the 1939 Football season promises to be an exciting! Let's hope the Owls won their first night game against Vanderbilt University! I hope the scrapbook has more articles about the game!


  1. Only college football team I heard of were the Boilermakers.

  2. Clearly, Ethel could write about any subject she chose, even football. And obviously, so can you! Probably you inherit all that talent from your ancestors! I never knew people had night-lighted football fields as early as 1892!

    From your photos, those were the days when people played football without so much armor because football was more civilized and not so terribly violent and dangerous! Today the players are suing the NFL for not warning them enough about the increasing dangers of bad concussions!


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