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Thanksgiving Day football game, 1917

Around 20,000 soldiers and officers gathered on Thanksgiving Day, November 29, 1917, at Camp Funston at Fort Riley. The Funston fighters, who were undefeated, played the University of Illinois, on a mild November day with temperatures in the 40s.

Camp Funston, Fort RileyThe Illinois team arrived late Wednesday afternoon in time for Coach Zuppke to speak to reporters to share his confidence about winning the game. Coach Paul Withington of the Funston fighters said he expected his players to keep up their unscarred record. Adrian Lindsay, a former University of Kansas star, started at right half. Coach Withington depended on him as one of his best ground workers. 

The game kicked off at 2 p.m. Thursday between the 89th Division team and the Illinois players. People from surrounding towns and cities also attended the event. The Topeka Daily Capital reported that the powerful Illinois football machine went “over the top” this afternoon and by the end of the day had defeated the Funston team 28 to 0. They were “outplayed at every stage of the game by Quarterback Nicholls and his teammates.” The Funston team’s first defeat was a “bitter dose” for Captain Withington, his players, and the 20,000 enlisted men and officers who cheered them on.

The event was captured in a panoramic photograph that shows the crowd of soldiers at the game at Camp Funston.

Entry: Thanksgiving Day football game, 1917

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: November 2014

Date Modified: November 2018

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.