Identifier

etd-04072015-231330

Degree

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

By illuminating the complexities of 1920s American society, college football serves as a remarkably insightful cultural device. At the commencement of the decade, a national business community – one that had been developing since the late nineteenth century – appeared to have come to fruition. The more connected nature of the country served to homogenize the United States economically, politically, and even socially. Citizens who had once lived autonomously found themselves more interconnected with neighboring regions of the country, and thus increasingly defined by national characteristics. This served as an internal crisis of sorts because regional identity operated as a unique and crucial component of individual Americans’ personal identities. In this atmosphere, it makes sense that when college football nationalized in the 1920s the sport would follow the same pattern – a diminishment of regionalism as the sport expanded. However, the opposite occurred as supporters’ ties with their regional football communities strengthened when encountered with competition from outside teams. This study utilizes the Walter Camp All-American football team, the Southern Methodist University football team, and the 1929 Carnegie Report on college athletics to explore the growth and nationalization of the game during the decade. This thesis concludes that, by the end of the 1920s, changes in college football and American society allowed for a more connected national football community as opposed to the regional disassociation that existed prior to the decade, while at the same time reinforcing and even strengthening regional identity by placing it within a competitive national context. What the growth of college football illustrates is not just a simple transition from isolated communities to a homogenous nation, but rather, how regions became more important as the nation unified. This study complicates the traditional notion that diverse localities easily eroded in the face of a more structured and nationalized 1920s American society. Furthermore, by examining a variety of crucial personal actions associated with 1920s college football, this study demonstrates that individual supporters, not an uncontrollable environment or institutions connected to the game, made regional football communities an integral component of the sport.  

Date

2015

Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Shindo, Charles

Included in

History Commons

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