Although the University of Buffalo was a bit late to the game of football, by 1898 it was well established having completed two very successful seasons in 1896 and 1897. But with success came jealousy, closer scrutiny, and charges of professionalism.
In fact, the “professionalism” allegations had started late in 1897 when the University of Buffalo was about to play the Buffalo Athletic Club’s “All-Buffalo” football team for a third time on November 23, 1897. (The teams had split their first two games and the build up to the last match was intense.) A week before the game, a Buffalo newspaper printed a letter University of Buffalo player James “Turk” Gordon had written to Frank S. Porter, Secretary of the University of Buffalo team. Sent before the season started, in the letter Gordon demanded payment for his services at “fifteen dollars per week and expenses including board and lodging.” The fact that Gordon was on the varsity team called into question the “amateur” standing of Buffalo and upon the manner the University procured players. (see “Buffalo Football Teams in an Argument” Elmira Daily Gazette and Free Press,, 17 November 1897) Gordon never denied writing the letter but claimed it was sent to Frank S. Porter, who at the time the letter was written was the manager of the All-Buffalo team, and the offer of his services contained therein was to the All-Buffalo team, and not to the University of Buffalo team. Apparently, Mr. Frank S. Porter had changed jobs during the year. The odd Gordon controversy, and other allegations, tainted the University of Buffalo athletics program for some time.
In February of 1898, the University of Buffalo made a formal application for admission into the New York State Intercollegiate Athletic Association. At the time, the Association members were Rochester, Syracuse, Hamilton, Hobart, Colgate and Union. Initially it was thought that Buffalo would easily gain entrance. But over the next few weeks, several anti-University of Buffalo articles appeared in Rochester and Syracuse newspapers. One article in a Rochester newspaper claimed that “Buffalo’s football team is considered generally to be as much of an out-and-out professional team as any in the country representing an educational institution.” In April of 1898, Buffalo was formally denied Association membership for not adhering to strict amateur athletics. Oddly, Hamilton, Hobart, Colgate and Union made the exact same complaint against Syracuse and left the Association. They started their own league, the New York State Intercollegiate Union, a “professors” league organized under loud cries for pure athletics. Buffalo, with its good name dragged through the mud, would remain independent for the 1898 season.
Before the 1898 season started, Syracuse, sticking to its principles, canceled two scheduled games with Buffalo again claiming that the amateur standing of U.B. was not sufficiently well defined. Undeterred, Buffalo would go on to have another wonderful season. They lost just once, an away game to a powerful Cornell team at Ithaca, NY.
By early November, with Thanksgiving coming, Buffalo had still not booked an opponent for its annual Thanksgiving Day game. This well-attended match came with a nice payout to the visitor. So the Buffalo newspapers mocked Syracuse when word came out that Syracuse was very much interested in playing Buffalo on Thanksgiving. With money on the line, charges of U.B. “professionalism” were seemingly forgotten by Syracuse. But Buffalo didn’t forget, and ignored Syracuse’s request. Buffalo played Bucknell University on Thanksgiving Day easily winning 36-5.
1898 Buffalo Football Season
|Date||Home Team||Score||Visiting Team||W-L-T||Location|
|Sat, 10/1/18981||Buffalo||29 – 0||Company C, Tonawanda, NY||W||Buffalo, NY|
|Sat, 10/8/18982||Buffalo||12 – 5||Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY)||W||Buffalo, NY|
|Sat, 10/15/18983||Cornell (Ithaca, NY)||27 – 0||Buffalo||L||Ithaca, NY|
|Sat, 10/22/18984||Company C, Bradford, PA||0 – 23||Buffalo||W||Bradford, PA|
|Sat, 10/29/18985||Buffalo||29 – 0||Case (Cleveland, OH)||W||Buffalo, NY|
|Tues, 11/8/18986||Buffalo||23 – 0||Colgate University (Hamilton, NY)||W||Buffalo, NY|
|Sat, 11/12/18987||Buffalo||28 – 0||Company C, Bradford, PA||W||Buffalo, NY|
|Sat, 11/19/18988||Buffalo||34 – 0||Cornell, 2nd Team (Ithaca, NY)||W||Buffalo, NY|
|Thurs, 11/24/18989||Buffalo||36 – 5||Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA)||W||Buffalo, NY|
FINAL RECORD: 8-1-0
Home: Olympic Park, East Ferry & Michigan Avenue
Total Points: Visiting Clubs: 37
Total Points: University of Buffalo: 214
- 1 – “After the Battle” Buffalo Express, Buffalo, NY, 2 October 1898.
- 2 – “Other Football Results” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester, NY, 9 October 1898.
- 3 – “Cornell Is Dubious” New York Press, New York, NY, 17 October 1898.
- 4 – “Varsity Did Well” Buffalo Express, Buffalo, NY, 23 October 1898.
- 5 – “Another For Buffalo” Buffalo Express, Buffalo, NY, 30 October 1898.
- 6 – “Another For Buffalo” Buffalo Express, Buffalo, NY, 9 November 1898.
- 7 – “Easy For Varsity“ Buffalo Express, Buffalo, NY, 13 November 1898.
- 8 – “Was Too Easy” Buffalo Express, Buffalo, NY, 20 November 1898.
- 9 – “Last Game Won” Buffalo Express, Buffalo, NY, 25 November 1898.
Tags: Buffalo Bulls Football History
Buffalo Football Teams in an Argument
Gordon, the Well-Known Elmiran, Wanted Railroad Fare, Salary and Medical Attendance in Case of Injury – Wrote From Kansas City, Mo.
The University of Buffalo and the All-Buffalo football teams have succeeded in getting into a controversy, and each now charges the other with professionalism. The Buffalo Athletic Club won from the University eleven earlier in the season and ever since negotiations have been pending, for another game to decide the question of supremacy. Dates have been offered on both sides and refused and an effort was made to play on Saturday of this week. Challenges also went back and forth.
Buffalo has a game with Erie on next Saturday and refused to play with the Varsity. Two earlier dates suggested by the University were also declined on the ground that they wished other games first, and that having won the last game with the Varsity, they had the right to name the date for the next game.
In the University challenge, asking for a game on next Saturday was a line to the effect, that the University “does not desire a reputation among athletic clubs but among colleges.” This, coupled with the statement made some time ago by Dr. Meyer, the manager of the University team, that he did not see the difference between a professional and an amateur football team, has given rise to some unique discoveries in the “amateur” standing of the Varsity team.
Now an Elmira player, “Turk” Gordon, has come into prominence, owing to an alleged transaction of his with the U. of B. eleven. “Turk” was in the city Monday. He has been playing a great game at full back for the college team. Gordon formerly played with the Elmira Athletic Club team.
A Buffalo paper says: The following letter may throw light upon the management of the University eleven players:
Kansas City, Mo.
Frank S. Porter. Sec’y,
Buffalo University Football Club:
I make your club the following proposition – I will play with you this coming season for fifteen dollars ($15) per week and expenses including board and lodging. In addition to the above the club is to pay my car fare from here to Buffalo which with the cost of a sleeper is twenty-six dollars. ($26) Season to begin at the beginning of the third week of September, unless you play games earlier. I will come on for preliminary practice as soon as I hear from you if you accept my terms.
I reserve one privilege – that of leaving the service of your club to accept a position in the N. Y. State Reformatory, if it be offered. However there isn’t much chance of it being offered this year. I have waited two years for this and of course would not want to miss it for what I would get for playing football.
If I be disabled by injuries it is understood that my salary is to continue while disabled or until the season ends.
Medical attendance to be furnished at the expense of the club.
J. B. Gordon
P. S. —My Dear Porter —
I will you on this side. See? I want to get back to Buffalo. Please rush this matter through without delay and as soon as possible send me a P. O. order for the amount of my fare. If the club will advance part of or whole week’s salary in addition it would come very convenient. I will come light through and take hold of any green men you may have and break them in unless your coach is already at them. This will cost you nothing but my board.
Another thing—Send remittance in the form of a P.O. order and cancel the necessity of identification. I don’t know a soul in this town and I am afraid a draft or a money order wouldn’t do me much good if I had to be identified. You will find a blank on the back of the order which you can fill out to avoid the necessity of identification.
Hoping to hear from you this week, I remain,
Yours in haste,
Kansas City, Mo.
Gordon has been playing with the University of Buffalo ever since the season opened.
Buffalo will play the strong Erie team on Saturday at Olympic park. The team is a good one containing crack players and the contest ought to be interesting and close. Buffalo Varsity will play Oberlin, at Athletic Field at the same time.
—Elmira Daily Gazette and Free Press, 17 November 1897