Open main menu

1905 Washburn vs. Fairmount football game

The 1905 Washburn vs. Fairmount football game was a college football game between Fairmount College (now called Wichita State University) and the Washburn Ichabods played on December 25, 1905, in Wichita, Kansas. It marked the first experiment with the forward pass and with the ten-yard requirement for first downs. It is unclear if the game was considered "regular season", "post season", or "exhibition" in classification.

The Three Down Experiment
Fairmount vs. Washburn
1234 Total
Washburn 0000 0
Fairmount 0000 0
DateDecember 25, 1905
LocationWichita, Kansas

Game playEdit

Fairmount College was coached by Willis Bates. The head coach for Washburn that season was John H. Outland, but because he was officiating, it is likely that the coaching duties fell to assistant coach (and next year's head coach) Garfield Weede. The game ended in a 0–0 tie.[1]

The conditions for the game were excellent, but neither side was able to approach the other team's goal except by a punt. Only seven first downs were made the entire game—four by Washburn and three by Fairmount. Most of the game was played in the middle of the field, to the disappointment of the fans.[2]

New rule testEdit

Safer but not "conducive"Edit

Both teams had played a previous game that same season. What made this second game unique was that it was a test of a proposed rule of play. During the game, each team's offense was required to gain ten yards in three downs instead of four to earn a new first down.

The experiment was considered a failure. Football legend John H. Outland officiated the game and commented, "It seems to me that the distance required in three downs would almost eliminate touchdowns, except through fakes or flukes."[3] The Los Angeles Times reported that there was much kicking and that the game was considered much safer than regular play, but that the new rule was not "conducive to the sport."[4]


Three days later, 62 schools met in New York City to discuss rule changes to make the game safer. As a result of that meeting, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States, later named the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), was formed and several other rule changes were made to improve safety for players, including the addition of the forward pass.[5]

First forward passEdit

In his history of the sport of football, David M. Nelson concluded that "the first forward passes were thrown at the end of the 1905 season in a game between Fairmount and Washburn colleges in Kansas."[6] According to Nelson, Washburn completed three passes, and Fairmount completed two. Credit for the first pass goes to Fairmount's Bill Davis, who completed a pass to Art Solter.[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ College Football Data Warehouse Archived 2012-10-19 at the Wayback Machine Willis Bates 1905 results
  2. ^ "Football Reform Rules are No Good". St. John Daily Sun. December 28, 1905. Retrieved November 24, 2012.
  3. ^ "Ten Yard Rule a Failure" (PDF). The New York Times. December 26, 1905.
  4. ^ "New Football Rules Tested". Los Angeles Times. December 26, 1905.
  5. ^ "The History of the NCAA". National Collegiate Athletic Association. Archived from the original on 2007-04-30. Retrieved 2007-05-19.
  6. ^ Nelson, David M. (1994). The Anatomy of a Game: Football, the Rules, and the Men Who Made the Game. University of Delaware Press. ISBN 0-87413-455-2., p. 128
  7. ^ "ADDENDA TO "COLLEGE FOOTBALL IN KANSAS"". Kansas State Historical Society. Retrieved November 11, 2012.