Professor Sampson sponsored a meeting to organize Iowa's first varsity team. He was unanimously elected both captain and coach of the first varsity eleven.
The following invitation appeared in the Vidette-Reporter, Iowa's student newspaper: "The SUI team hereby challenges any college or other team in the state of Iowa to a game of football." Iowa College (now Grinnell) was the only team to rise to the challenge, but they did so, according to a Grinnell paper, "with considerable fear and trembling!"
HERE COME THE YELLOW CANARIES!
Iowa met Iowa College in Grinnell for the first championship football game to be played west of the Mississippi.
A boastful Iowa team, confident of victory, had dressed for the occasion. Wearing canvas pants and SUI jackets with Old Gold ribbons on the shoulders—uniforms that team members had secured on credit from Max Mayer's Iowa City clothing store—the men were greeted by shouts of "Here come the Yellow Canaries!" and "Ain't they sweet?"
The Iowa College Pioneers showed no such uniformity in their dress that day. They wore bicycling trousers, bib overalls, gym jersies, and even shorts, but the ragtag team played aggressive football, compiling 24 points against the scoreless Hawkeyes.
Edwin Sabin, 1900BA, who suited up to play Grinnell in 1889, later remembered the game. "My own immediate opponent was gentlemanly but firm," he said. "We butted heads and shoulders in fashion amicable, with no damage done."
But, even then, football could be a rough game. Rule 13 of the 1889 handbook ordered that "no tripping, hacking, pushing, or retaining with the hands, striking with the fists, or unnecessary roughness shall be allowed. Projecting nail and iron plates on shoes are prohibited."
A week after the Hawkeyes returned to Iowa City from their first intercollegiate football game, the Vidette-Reporter explained Iowa's loss this way: "The home players have an immense advantage over their opponents, for the encouraging shouts and hurrahs of friends must necessarily inspire them to an almost reckless audacity.
"Again, our worthy Grinnell opponents were larger and heavier men, and played a better team game. Weight, activity, and headwork play an important part in a football game.
"Furthermore, there was some misunderstanding between the opposing teams as to the rules, which worked against the SUI players."
Iowa students were loyal to their team!