Ticket booths were constructed around Iowa Field and a four-foot wire fence was put up to keep out all "illegal spectators." Nor were all legitimate spectators treated equally during these early days of Iowa football. While chairs were provided for the women, the men were required to stand.
Iowa went undefeated in 1899, ending the season with an 8-0-1 record, plus money in the bank! As it was reported in the Hawkeye: "Profit from games, $1,678; from the Mikado benefit [starring Coach Knipe], $361; and from alumni, $95; total profits $2,134. Out of this was taken $953 as current expenses for keeping the team in the field; leaving a balance of $1,181, of which over $800 is clear gain. Universities of our grade laugh at the idea of a team running on less than a thousand dollars for current expenses, but Mr. McCutchen [the football manager] supplied them well for less."
In his memoirs about football in the Gay Nineties, W.C. Edson, 01LLB, recalled that white canvas painter's pants cost 75 cents a pair and a football cost $5. "For headgear," he wrote, we let our hair grow." Another Iowa player, Michael McKinsley, 1895LLB, described the 1894 football uniform this way: "Each player was provided with a pair of mole-skin trousers, a plain jersey, shoes, and a sweater.... A football player in those days, especially in the Big Nine Conference, did not know what head-gears were. Shoulder and neck protectors were also unknown, and a tight-fitting jersey, with thinly padded moleskin, was his only armor."
Iowa Field was located on the east side of the Iowa River, just below and to the south of Old Capitol.
CLASH OF THE TITANS
Though 19th century football equipment lacked sophistication, the battle on the field provided thrills any true fan can appreciate. Writing for a 1912 edition of The Iowa Alumnus, W.C. Edson remembered Iowa's 1899 game with Nebraska:
"It was in the season of '99. Iowa had won all its games before meeting Nebraska. No team had yet crossed the Iowa goal. The members of the Iowa 'varsity' had formerly agreed between themselves that so long as they played together on the team, they would never let an opponent cross the last white line.
"The game was at Omaha, and the teams were about evenly matched in both weight and experience. In speed and rapidity of play, Iowa was superior. Shortly after the game commenced, Iowa made her first score. Nebraska came right back, and before Iowa realized what had happened, Nebraska had the ball within our five yard line, and it was first down.
"The grandstand and bleachers were wild with excitement. Was Iowa going to lose? Was Nebraska going to beat the team that the Chicago champion team could not make a touchdown against? Crandall, Nebraska's quarterback, was calling quick, sharp signals. Benedict, Williams, and Gordon, the Nebraska backs, plunged into the line. 'Second down, three yards to gain,' called the referee.
"Again the Nebraskans attempted to break through the line. John Griffith was defending just behind the Iowa center, and at the call of the signal, John plunged through and over the line between the center and guard just as the ball was passed and landed squarely upon Quarterback Crandall as he received the ball. The referee called the play 'offside' and gave Nebraska one-half the distance to the goal, one and a half yards, and it was Nebraska's ball, first down.
"The excitement had grown intense; the entire crowd stood up in their places in the grandstands, tense and silent to watch the final struggle. Crandall's voice again rang out clear and distinct, and again Nebraska charged the line desperately. When the referee got down to the ball, he called 'second down, no gain.' Again they charged hard and low and all together. 'Third down, one yard to gain.' The crowd still stood in dead silence; Nebraska, hopeful, Iowa, dreading what seemed to be the inevitable.
"The ground where they play was, was dry and bare, and when the opposing teams sprang to their places for the last desperate charge, the soil about the spot seemed to have been dug up and torn by the contending forces.
"Nebraska's attack in the last play was directed at Iowa's left guard. Opposed to him was the giant Ringer, one of the best guards who ever played on the Nebraska team. The Nebraska back field again charged hard and low, straight at the guard position. Twenty-two men seemed to meet at the same time, and no one could tell at first whether or not the distance had been gained. The referee blew his whistle when the play was stopped and removed man after man from the pile.
"The goal line had been entirely obliterated.
"Gordon was at the bottom on the pile clasping the ball. The crowd still stood in intense silence awaiting the verdict. The referee rose, glanced along the goal line, marked the location of the ball and shouted, 'Iowa's ball, first down,'
"It was some minutes before play could be resumed or any signals heard because of the demonstration made by the Iowa supporters. Slight further delay was caused, I am told, on account of the Iowa quarterback and field captain taking time at this point to telegraph the news to Shelby. When Nebraska failed to score, they apparently lost heart and the final score was, Iowa, thirty; Nebraska, nothing."
Iowa and Indiana joined the Western Intercollegiate Conference, later to be known as the Big Ten. Member schools included the two newcomers, plus Chicago, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Purdue, and Northwestern.