For decades, Antiochians held the mistaken belief that, despite their school’s abysmal track record in football, not to mention its general lack of interest in intercollegiate athletics, Antioch College had once beaten mighty Ohio State University in a football game. The score 7-6 was frequently cited, as was the earliest known printed source for it, an article written by Waldemar “Wally” Argow, class of 1938, for the Nov 1937 Antiochian, “Our Glorious Past.” As Wally put it: “The saga of varsity football at Antioch began somewhere in the 1880s. And it began with a resounding bang. For during one of those nascent years, Antioch met Ohio State on the field of honor and embarrassed the enemy to the tune of 7 to 6. Now to appreciate that statement, it is necessary to realize that today Ohio State University has…a football team that has smeared everybody but the U.S. Marines.” The story found its way into print again and again, such as in 1971 graduate John Fleischman’s Ohio Magazine article from Aug 1984, “God, Country and Antioch: Unbeaten and Untried for Sixty Years,” in which John writes: “Antioch tradition reports an undated football victory over the Buckeyes 7-6, but the Ohio State Sports Information Department can find no such record.”
Give Fleischman credit: his article at least mentioned the one Antioch College game that OSU did have on record: a 32-0 wipeout in 1894, which is also the only one that Antiochiana has on record. It doesn’t take much Internet legwork to find the coverage of the game in the 10 Oct 1894 issue of The Lantern, OSU’s campus newspaper. Under the unambiguous headline “ANTIOCH ANNIHILATED,” this unattributed article reads: “The football team of Antioch bubbled up from Yellow Springs last Saturday afternoon, after a short spasmodic effort to run up hill, dried up and went back into its hole. From the fountain head of Yellow Springs, OSU dipped up seven touch downs and two goals and left the fountain dry, broken in spirit and in truth. Not many people at OSU had ever heard of Antioch, and nobody who was at Saturday’s game seemed to find out much more concerning it.” Scornful of dear old Antioch though it is, the article is an embryonic example of an attitude we tend to think of as a fairly recent trend in higher education: that a university’s greatness is measured first by its prowess in athletics, and particularly in football. And lest there be any doubt of this be-all-or-end-all outlook regarding the sport, The Lantern article asked rhetorically: “Why is Harvard, Yale and Princeton greater than O.S.U.? Because they have a better football team. What we want to do is to get a great football team and we shall then be a great University.” While it’s tempting to say “the more things change…” in regard to this abject comparison of Ohio State to the Ivies, we should at least take into account that the Buckeye football program was but four years old at the time, and not a juggernaut by any means, especially given the fact that they lost their next game to Wittenberg. Most amazing is that anyone would put so much stock in a game that, without the as-yet invented forward pass, is a profoundly boring one.
The Antiochian’s response to such unbridled arrogance follows, along with its own description of the game. Sandwiched in between in most unchronological fashion is mention of the OSU-Wittenberg game where several Antiochians were in attendance. After taking The Lantern contributor to task and making note of the “fights and fouls” in Springfield, we finally get to the game itself. Note the superlatives for Wills, clearly regarded as the College’s best player, who is probably J. Walter Wills, class of 1899 and the second African American graduate of Antioch College. It’s hard to tell from the badly faded photo of the 1892 team in Antiochiana’s collection, but the second player from the right in the front row just might be him. Even casual football fans will note that a 4-0 halftime score is not possible as a touchdown and missed extra point adds up to six, but until 1897, a touchdown was only worth four points.
From The Antiochian, vol. XX, no. 2, Oct 1894
We were very much surprised at the article in the Lantern on the foot ball game between O.S.U. and Antioch. We are certain that such an article does not properly represent the feelings of the majority of Columbus boys towards our team. Antioch never received better treatment than she did at the hands of the foot ball team and manager. We found all of them gentlemen. We would not be rash in making the same statement of the little man with the big head who wrote that article. We have heard some few things about the little fellow, and from these are able to judge his motives in writing as he does. He did not do it for elevation of his college in the eyes of the world; he did not do it for Antioch’s good; but simply for the basest of purposes—to give his own insignificant self a little notoriety. He makes a beautiful display of his knowledge when he says that no one had ever heard of Antioch before. O, you poor, ignorant creature! Ask ten O.S.U. students who within the past few years have been students here; ask one member of O.S.U.’s base ball team, one member of the foot ball team, both of whom formerly played on Antioch’s team, if they know of Antioch. Finally let him ask some boy bigger than himself—his pa or schoolteacher; let him ask any of the world’s educators if they have ever heard of Horace Mann; of the college he founded at Yellow Springs; of the great principle for which Antioch was founded, and he will learn more in a short time than he ever knew before.
A crowd of Antioch boys went to Springfield last Saturday and saw the foot ball game between O.S.U. and Wittenberg. The game was full of fight and fouls and resulted in a score of 18 to 6 in favor of Springfield. The O.S.U. boys say that in the matter of fouls this game was in marked contrast to the game with Antioch. Wittenberg surely plays to win.
The O.S.U. foot ball team out-classed our eleven both in endurance and in team play. Their interference was of a high order and resulted in some few touchdowns which amounted to a total of 32 points. On our team, left halfback Wills was the star player of the day and his work was very favorably commented upon by the Columbus press. The only time the O.S.U. goal was in danger of invasion was when Wills was sent across the field by the revolving wedge. Marshall played his usual good game at tackle and Allen played well at guard. Jenkins was hard-pressed by a 220-pounder but stood up to him like a man. The first half of the game was very interesting, neither side scoring until just before time was called, when O.S.U. secured the first touch down but failed to kick the goal. The score stood 4 to 0 when time was called. In the second half, ****** points, making a total of 32 against our 0.
“Songs From the Stacks” is a regular selection from Antiochiana: the Antioch College archives by College Archivist Scott Sanders.