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College Yearbook Football Art
This article was previously published on September 24, 2022, on UniWatch. Read it at whichever site makes you happiest!
The typical fan that hears the term “football art” likely thinks first of program covers from the 1930s through the 1950s. Other categories of art or design that may come to mind include magazine covers, various forms of advertising, and team logos. Each has produced iconic designs that cross the boundaries of space and time. However, an underappreciated category of football art is the student-created illustrations in college yearbooks.
Few college yearbooks of the late 1800s and early 1900s included color images. Over the next several decades, yearbooks increasingly used color illustrations on section title pages for the athletics section or individual sports such as football. Part of the attraction of these illustrations is that students created them who were peers of the athletes playing in the games. Most illustrations were as run-of-the-mill as the teams they represented, while others were exceptional, standing out in the otherwise black-and-white yearbooks.
The images shown below were found in yearbooks published between 1907 and 1931. Their primary themes include ball carriers, cheering fans, and battered heroes soaking in the thrill of victory often draped in a blanket. Would other themes matter?
The first image shows a beautiful UNC coed attired in Carolina Blue and waving a pennant. Gorgeous!
The Tar Heels’ primary rival back then was Virginia. Here we see the Cavalier hero carried from the field after a big victory.
A grittier image represents the Hokies of Virginia Tech struggling to escape his opponent’s grip and an apparent tornado.
Moving north to Big Ten country, a Badger punter sends one into the clouds while his teammates on the sidelines rest and keep warm.
Football is a key social event for Texas fans who wisely sit in the grandstands to avoid the noonday sun.
The University of Denver dropped football after the 1960 season. Perhaps they were overshadowed by the folks in the Art Department.
Another lovely fan bedecked in a fur-lined coat cheers on the Quakers of UPenn.
A Boston College player escapes from the day’s rumble, hoping to end the day in the rumble seat with his soon-to-be best gal.
Little Coe College plows through the green-jerseyed opponent, surely on the way to a touchdown and victory.
The men on the bench and the throng of fans cheer Kansas State onto victory, a common occurrence in the 1920s.
Southern Cal was a bit player in the football world until the 1920s when players like this guy carried them to national prominence, including their first two Rose Bowl victories.
Virginia Tech reappears, this time in a massive stadium in a big city, so the Hokies are clearly the visiting team. Oddly, they play on an eighty-yard field.
Although color illustrations saw occasional use after WWII, color photographs replaced illustrations, and the golden age of football artwork in college yearbooks ended. Still, other beauties from the golden age of graphic arts are waiting to be discovered. We’ll provide updates when we find them.
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