By Ryan Sprayberry
In the year of 1899, The University of the South completed the greatest six day stretch of college football history. It was a feat so great it will never be matched. Even if modern scheduling would allow a single team to play this many games in such a short stretch, it is highly unlikely that any team could run of the string of victories. This is one of those truly unattainable records.
Coached by Princeton-alumnus Herman Suter, the Purple Tigers went on an epic, 2,500-mile trip to play some of the South’s best teams, including UT, Texas A&M, Tulane, LSU and Ole Miss. The journey saw the five games played in six days. Rather than travel as modern teams would (by plane or bus), the team made the road trip by wood-burning train. On the tight schedule with little to no rest, Sewanee proceeded to win all five games by a combined score of 91-0. To top it all off, Coach Suter only used 15 players from his 21-man team.
Before playing those five games, Sewanee started off the season defeating Georgia, 12-0, Georgia Tech, 32-0, Tennessee, 46-0, and Southwestern, 54-0. After the absurd five day bonanza, Sewanee dispatched Cumberland, 71-0, Auburn, 11-10, and North Carolina, 5-0 for a final season record of 12-0. That final game should most appropriately be remembered as a bowl game, as UNC claimed the “Dixie Championship,” so Sewanee challenged them to winner-take-all match. However, still two years ahead of the first Rose Bowl, history doesn’t record UNC-Sewanee as such.
In detail, the Purple Tigers road trip looked like this:
· Thursday, Sewanee faces UT in Austin. The quick-starting Longhorns opened the game by marching to the Tiger 15. Legend has it, an undaunted Sewanee supporter pulled out a handful of cash to bet that the Longhorns wouldn’t score then or for the rest of the game. After having many people take the bet, the Tigers proceeded to stop the Longhorns and shut them out the rest of the game, 12-0. After the game, the Texas players hosted a dance with the Sewanee players their honored guests.
· Friday, following a late night train ride to Houston, Sewanee defeated the Longhorns’ nemesis Texas A&M, 10-0. With another dance scheduled after the game, the Tigers were forced to skip so they could make the 400-mile trip to New Orleans.
· Saturday, Sewanee trounces Tulane, 23-0. After the game, the Tigers players are treated to a play on the school’s campus.
· Sunday, a day of rest. The Sewanee squad takes a detour to visit a sugar plantation.
· Monday, in Baton Rouge the Purple Tigers defeat the other Purple Tigers (LSU), 34-0.
· Tuesday, Sewanee completes the trip as it began with a 12-0 victory. This time the Tigers took down Ole Miss in Memphis.
The final 300-mile train ride from Memphis to Sewanee was uneventful, but as soon as the train arrived a celebration began. With the entire student body on hand, a parade from the train station up the mountain to campus ensued, followed. Six days, five games, history made.
What did the Tigers do on the seventh day?
To borrow from a rather famous book, on the seventh day they rested.
Ryan Sprayberry is the Director of Content and Community Engagement at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame