College Football ’90
LEBANON, Tenn. (AP) _ By halftime, it was 126-0.
By the time the game ended, it was 222-0.
Georgia Tech scored 32 times. Cumberland, well ... Grantland Rice said its most successful play came when a Bulldog fullback circled right end for a 6- yard loss.
That defeat, the most lopsided in college football history, was 75 years ago. Oct. 7, 1916.
Cumberland played sporadically after that, and in 1949 dropped football altogether. On Sept. 15, it will try to play it again.
And even though its name will probably always be linked to loss, Cumberland says some good has come from that beating in Atlanta.
″We have gotten some name recognition from something that happened years ago,″ said coach Nick Coutras, whose team will compete in the NAIA Division II. ″We certainly don’t want to break the record ... but we feel our approach is unique and it certainly has created interest in our program.″
Before committing to football again, officials of the 680-student school considered how to to deal with questions it would invariably be asked about the loss.
″It’s a fact that it happened, and the biggest mistake we could have made would have been to ignore it,″ said Coutras, a successful high school coach from nearby Nashville who left private business for this challenge.
″People from all over the nation have called us. Instead of being defensive about it, we’ve enjoyed the publicity,″ he said. ″We’re able to show that Cumberland is a nice school with good educational opportunities that offers the student-athlete the chance to play college football.″
Back in 1916, though, football apparently wasn’t a big selling point.
Cumberland officials decided to suspend the program that year and tried to get out of a contract for a game with Georgia Tech.
That’s when the trouble began.
Coach John Heisman declined and threatened to sue Cumberland for the projected gate receipts if the Bulldogs didn’t make the trip to Georgia.
At a time when the national champion was determined by the simple system of adding up the number of points a team scored, the Bulldogs should have known they were being set up for a kill.
Enticed by a $500 guarantee from Heisman, Cumberland made the trip.
Georgia Tech halfback Everett Stupper scored the first Yellow Jacket TD in the opening minute. He added five more TDs before the game ended and gained 165 yards on eight carries.
Cumberland, down by 18 touchdowns at halftime, allowed Tech, which did not throw a forward pass, to gain 501 yards on the ground and score 14 more times before the game ended.
The Bulldog offense was so ineffective that Cumberland took to punting on first down after receiving kickoffs from Tech.
It was said that Heisman, who doubled as Tech’s baseball coach, had an added incentive for the thrashing. Cumberland had defeated Heisman’s baseball team 22-0 that spring with a lineup that was rumored to have included several professional players.
Whatever the reason, football’s back.
Coutras welcomed about 80 non-scholarship prospects to his program earlier this month, with candidates coming from as far away as Buffalo, N.Y.
He said there are several reasons why president Thomas Mills reinstated the game.
″One thing he wanted to do was increase the enrollment of Cumberland University by drawing the true student-athlete,″ Coutras said.
There are benefits to attracting this type of student.
″A girlfriend or a buddy might also decide to attend the same school. Football also gives the small university a major attraction for the fall instead of having to wait until the opening of basketball season,″ Coutras said.
Since January, Cumberland and the local community have worked together to make their ″Field of Dreams″ project a reality.
What once was an intramural lot has been retooled into a football stadium that will seat more than 2,000 fans for the Bulldogs’ Sept. 15 opener with Campbellsville College.
Finishing touches also are being put on a 6,600-square-foot field house that will accommodate the football dressing room, weight room, offices and the men’s and women’s soccer teams.
During a walking tour of the campus, Coutras stopped in front of the school’s administration building. He pointed up to the clock tower and explained how the building had been almost totally destroyed during the Civil War.
″But it was restored,″ he said.
Just like football.
End Adv Weekend Editions Aug 25-26