Countdown to 2019 IUFB Kickoff: 50 Days (IUFB 1901-1920)


Written by T.J. Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)

2019 Countdown - #50



The decade began with Indiana University joining the newly-formed Western Conference. This group of universities was the first collegiate athletic conference in the United States and it was founded in 1896 with Purdue, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin and the University of Chicago gathering to set policies designed to regulate college athletics. Indiana joined the Western Conference in 1900 and went 1-2-1 in conference play in their inaugural season. James H. Horne was coach for the Hoosiers at the time and the 1901 was a good one as IU posted a 6-3 record. Horne was unable to keep that momentum going though and Indiana floundered for the next few years before posting a 6-4 record in 1904 before Horne moved on. IU hired James M. Sheldon, a native of LaPorte, prior to the 1905 season. He had played halfback at Chicago and was an assistant coach there in 1903 and 1904 before being hired in Bloomington. His first year was a rousing success as IU went 8-1-1. He was the football coach for nine seasons, compiling a 35-26-3 record. In 1910, Sheldon led IU to a 6-1 record, including a 3-1 record in the Western Conference. Indiana would not reach three conference wins again until 1920. Sheldon’s era lost steam and IU hired Clarence C. Childs in 1914. The graduate of Yale only last two seasons in Bloomington before serving in France during World War I. He only went 6-7-1 before IU turned to the delightfully named Ewald “Jumbo” Stiehm prior to 1916. Stiehm had been a center for the University of Wisconsin and then had been the head coach for Nebraska from 1911 to 1915. His first season was not great (2-4-1) but he was able to post five win seasons in both 1917 and 1920. 

Best Coach – James M. Sheldon Jr. (1905-1913)

IU hired Sheldon away from the University of Chicago where he was an assistant. At the time, Chicago was the premier team in the league. He was the head football coach from 1905-1913 and posted a 35-26-3 record. He also coached basketball at IU from 1906-1907 and was the athletic director for the Hoosiers from 1907-1910. Sheldon led the Hoosiers to their two best seasons of this time period (1905 and 1910). He was born in LaPorte, Indiana and passed away at the age of 85 in 1965.

Best Team – 1905

The Indiana Hoosiers went 8-1-1 in 1905. The eight wins was the highest in school history and it would remain so until the 1945 Hoosiers went 9-0-1. IU beat the Indiana Alumni in the opener and then began to pound opponents, beating Butler 31-0, Kentucky 29-0, Washington (Missouri) 39-0, Cincinnati 47-6, Notre Dame 22-5, Wabash 40-0 and concluding with an 11-0 win over Ohio State. The lone blemish on the season was a 16-5 defeat at powerhouse Chicago on October 14. The Hoosiers tied rival Purdue at 11.

Best Player – Zora Clevenger

The first Hall of Fame athlete in Indiana University history, Zora Clevenger played halfback for the Hoosiers from 1900 to 1903 and helped legitimize the sport in Bloomington. He was only 5’7” and 145 pounds but that did not stop him from doing a little bit of everything on the field. He was the captain of the baseball, basketball and football teams during his time at IU. During his senior season, he led IU to a shocking upset of the powerful University of Illinois by kicking a field goal, returning a punt for a touchdown and leading the team in rushing. Clevenger would go on to coach at Nebraska Wesleyan, the University of Tennessee and Kansas State University.

Best Game – 11-11 tie against Purdue in 1905

The Purdue Boilermakers had won the previous two meetings 39-0 and 27-0 and had firm control of the rivalry. They had a strong team in 1905, eventually finishing 6-1-1 on the season. The squads played at Washington Park in Indianapolis, a rare neutral site contest in this rivalry and battled to an 11-11 tie. It was the first tie in the series and it gave the Hoosiers momentum for the remainder of the season as they rattled off four straight wins to close the campaign with eight victories. It would also prove to be a temporary turning point in the rivalry as IU would win the next three contests.

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