College football and its Civil War symbols 

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College football and its Civil War symbols 

The first season of college football ever played took place 1869 -- four years after the end of the Civil War.

Former football coach  Vince Dooley -- a Civil War buff himself -- speaks (video, above) about how one Confederate Cavalry Commander, John Mosby, though college football was a brutal game and worked to abolish the game. Dooley leads the Georgia Historical Society and is a member of the The Civil War Trust, a nonprofit that works to preserve Civil War battlefields.

Some of college football’s names and traditions date back to the era. Some have changed and still some remain.

Their histories intertwined. 

The Dixie Redcoat Marching Band became simply the Redcoat Marching Band. The song “Dixie” disappeared from its repertoire.

Ole Miss Rebels are named after students who fought in the Civil War. In 2003, the school sidelined the mascot Colonel Reb. Six years earlier it banned Confederate battle flags from games. It, too, no longer plays renditions of “Dixie” at games.

History in names

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LSU’s Mike the Tiger is personified by the animal, but the Tigers name comes from several of the state’s military outfits during the Civil War.

LSU began as a military school.

 “According to LSU football tradition, the name came from a Civil War regiment known as the Louisiana Tigers, which distinguished itself with its fighting spirit in the battle of the Shenandoah Valley, where it was said they ‘fought like tigers,’ ” Dan Hardesty wrote in “LSU: The Louisiana Tigers.” 

Louisiana National Guard regiments today still use the nickname Tigers.

Like their Southeastern Conference division foes, Missiouri adopted its Tiger nickname from a group of civilians in Columbia, Mo., who during the Civil War called themselves the Missouri Tigers, scaring off the would-be attackers.

Other college football nicknames with Civil War ties:

• Indiana Hoosiers. Named after Indiana troops in the Civil War.• Kansas Jawyhawks. The Jayhawker bands of free-staters battled the pro-slavery movement during the Civil War.• Michigan Wolverines. The name pre-dates the Civil War, but it was adopted by Michigan troops serving under Union Gen. George Custer in the Civil War and later the university.

Playing fields

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Madison, Wis., was home to the state’s largest Civil War training camp of Union soldiers and a Confederate prison camp. 

After the war, Camp Randall became the state fairgrounds. In 1917, it became the home of the Badgers’ football team. More than 80,000 fans now cheer where more than 70,000 troops trained before heading off to fight. 

An arch, dedicated in 1912, marks the historical significance of the location. It includes plaques commemorating Wisconsin regiments that trained there and another with the reminder “Lest We Forget.”

Other college football stadium with Civil War ties:

• Lane Stadium, Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ home is named for Brigadier Gen. James H. Lane, a Confederate officer who lead the first Commandant of the Corps of Cadets at the school.

Songs and tributes

Paul Vernon/AP

Ohio State honored the undefeated 1916 Buckeyes team and College Football Hall of Famer Chic Harley with throwback uniforms in the 2016 season. 

A uniforms included an inscription that read, “music and cannon fire,” paying homage to Harley’s running style.

The matte black helmets’ grainy texture was intended to resemble cannonball dust, as tribute to the Buckeyes troops in the Civil War.

Other tributes:

• Dixie: Originated in blackface minstrel shows of the 1850s, the tune was played predominently during games, dating back to the 1940s.
• On, Wisconsin: Wisconsin’s fight song originated in the Battle of Chattanooga of 1863, where Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant defeated Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg.
• Gettysburgh Address: In 2013, Ohio State’s marching band marked the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburgh Address with a halftime performance:

 

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