Today's Tidbit... Two-Day Football Games
Football does not do weather cancellations. As they say, neither rain, nor snow, nor gloom of night stays these mighty ballcarriers from the swift completion of their appointed runs. However, football games are delayed occasionally due to scheduling conflicts, lightning, faulty lighting systems, or other issues that cause games to stretch across two days.
The idea for an article on two-day games came from a reader, Aaron Cromer, who read the story about St. Mary's of Kansas and the dispute resulting from ending the game at a set time to allow St. Mary's to catch the train home. The story reminded him of games that extended past or started after midnight for one reason or another, so he sent a note asking about the history of two-day games.
Amos Alonzo Stagg regularly shows up in stories about football firsts, and he was there for the first college game that stretched over two days. Stagg's Springfield YMCA Training School team took on a Yale aggregation at New York's Twenty-Second Regiment Armory in January 1891 in what is often called the first indoor football game. While at least one other indoor game preceded it, the Springfield-Yale game started late in the evening and did not finish before the clock struck midnight, so it was the first two-day game and likely the second indoor game.
Amazingly, it would be nearly ninety more years until the next two-day game. That contest involved Houston and Texas A&M in a game scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. at Houston's home stadium, the Astrodome. However, the Astrodome was also the home field for the Houston Astros, who had a playoff game scheduled the same day, slated to start at 3:15. The football game could have shifted to Rice Stadium. However, Houston did not want to give up its home-field advantage or upset its ticket holders by swapping seats. To help make up for the late start, Houston's publicity department gave away commemorative t-shirts to students.
As it turned out, the baseball game went ten innings, delaying the football game a bit longer. It then took the stadium crew three-and-one-half hours to cover the warning track, remove the pitcher's mound, and convert the field markings for football. By the time the teams warmed up, the football game did not start until 11:33 p.m. on Saturday. It ended at 2:43 a.m. on Sunday. Neither team scored on Saturday, but both scored on Sunday, with Houston winning the game 17-13.
Although it does not count as a two-day game unless you were there, the 2011 Oklahoma State-Tulsa game at Tulsa's H. P. Chapman Stadium was supposed to start at 9:10 p.m. on Saturday as part of Fox's late coverage, so it should have lasted until after midnight. However, thunderstorms and lightning rolled through the area before the game started, leading to a three-hour and five-minute delay. The game finally began at 12:15 a.m. on Sunday, so it was a one-day game that started after midnight. Due to other non-traditional scheduling that season, Tulsa played games in 2011 that started on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Games starting later due to television contracts, the NCAA's introduction of overtime in 1973, and longer running times mean games ending after midnight are no longer unusual. Still, most are well underway before the clock tolls midnight, finishing early enough for dedicated students to return to their dorm rooms to crack the books for a few hours before turning in for the evening.
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