Teddy Roosevelt, College Football, & Civil Service Reform
“If there is any one thing which I believe in even more than in football, it is civil service reform, and I am delighted to find that you are so actively connected with both.”
- Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt to E.E. Garrison, Esq. of the Yale Foot Ball Association
With football season well underway, the National Law Enforcement Museum thought it would be fun to share this gem from our collection. Written during Theodore Roosevelt’s time as Police Commissioner (1895-1897), this letter reveals a bit about his personality and interests. It is one of a series of correspondence between Roosevelt and E.E. Garrison, Esq. of the Yale University Foot Ball Association.
Before becoming the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt served as the President of the New York City Board of Police Commissioners. A strong proponent of civil service reform at a time when corruption in the NYPD ran deep, Roosevelt worked to clean up the department and the city.
Another subject which Roosevelt was passionate about, was the game of football. So much so, that in 1905, as President, he invited coaches and athletic advisers from Harvard University (his alma mater), Yale University (Harvard’s biggest rival), and Princeton University to the White House to discuss improving the game to make it safer and ensure its longevity. At the time, there were no professional football leagues, and eighteen players died from football injuries that same year. One outcome of the White House meetings was the formation of an intercollegiate committee in 1906 (a precursor to the NCAA) which began changing the rules. This resulted in a sport that more closely resembles football as we know it today.
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