The Athletic Fields of ISC

Panoramic photo of State Field during the 1907 Iowa State-University of Iowa game. Both sidelines are lined by bleachers filled with fans, The endzones are also lined with fans. Campus buildings in the background are Morrill Hall, The Hub, Beardshear Hall, Alumni Hall, Engineering Hall (Marston Hall), and Marston Water tower.
ISC-Iowa Football Game 1907, University Photographs, RS 24/6/G.

Long before Jack Trice Stadium, Cap Trimm Field, Forker Tennis Courts, and the Cyclones Sports Complex, Iowa State hosted its inter-collegiate sports on what were known as the “Athletic Fields.” These fields were home to the baseball team, football team, track and field team, and tennis team.

Organized athletics on the Iowa Agricultural College campus started in Fall of 1882 with the creation of the Gymnasium Association in the hopes of establishing a regular exercise program for students. In May of 1884, a Base Ball Association was established to coordinate games between classes, town clubs, and rival colleges, and was championed to the young men of the campus for its “lusty and vigorous exercise.” By 1888 sports were becoming more of an interest at the college, and there was a call in the student newspaper Aurora for the development of an outdoor sports program with the thought that inter-collegiate games would foster even more interest. In the fall of 1889 a “field day” was arranged by Professor of Military Science Captain J. R. Lincoln and Professor of History and English Literature A. C. Burrows devoted to all matter of athletic sports.

The following April, the College joined fifteen other Iowa colleges to form the Iowa Inter-Collegiate Athletic Association with the purpose of an annual state field day. The increased interest in sports meant that a need for athletic grounds at the college was becoming evident. Land was set aside for “Athletic Grounds” to the west of the Main Building that would feature a circular track for distance events bisected by a straight line track for sprint and hurdle events. These grounds would be short lived as events in 1892 would lead to the call for more space.

Map of College grounds c. 1891. Just left of center is an area identified as Athletic Grounds. A circle identifies a track for distance running events while a straight line bisecting the circle is for sprints/hurdle events.
1891 Map of College Grounds, Iowa State University. Facilities, Planning, and Management records, [RS 4/8/0/7].

In March 1892 the College joined the State University (University of Iowa), Grinnell College, and Drake University to form the Iowa Intercollegiate Baseball Association, marking the beginning of varsity baseball at Iowa Agricultural College. The following fall saw the creation of the first varsity football team at IAC. Additional space was needed for these new varsity sports, and expansion of the Athletic Grounds was hampered by its location in proximity to a railroad spur. During the September 1892 Board of Trustees meeting the Board approved the assigning of “…a strip of ground north of the railroad as far as the orchard fence” to the Athletic Association for Athletic Grounds. This eight acres of land was north of the previous Athletic Grounds and to the west and northwest of Morrill Hall. The Board would also appropriate $200 in December 1892 to aid in the fitting up of the grounds, and in May 1893 authorized President Beardshear to use portions of the Public Ground Fund for improving the Athletic Grounds and to use the Farm and Horticulture teams for the same purpose when not interfering with the work of the departments. A house and barn was located on this tract of land and the College spent $643.30 to purchase, repair, and move both structures. Due to financial constraints, work on the track was delayed, and it wouldn’t be until May 1894 that it would be completed. That same spring the College joined eight other Iowa colleges in the formation of the Iowa Inter-Collegiate Tennis Association, formalizing tennis as a varsity sport after it had grown in popularity on campus.

This new Athletic Grounds would feature a baseball diamond, football field, 1/3 mile track, and 4 dirt tennis courts. The baseball diamond was located in the northwest corner of the grounds, the tennis courts at the southwest corner, the football field occupied the eastern portion, and the whole area was ringed by the track. Field sports like pole vault, shot put, and hammer throw were located on the southeastern portion of the grounds.

Photo showing the layout of the Athletic Grounds. Tennis courts are on the left side of image with people playing tennis, baseball diamond is at the top of photo with a game being played and fans in the bleachers, the track ringing the grounds with people running in the distance, while you can also see the pole fault stand toward the bottom right of the image.  Also visible are a set of goal posts for football toward the center of the image.
Athletic Fields c. 1910, University Photographs, [RS 4/8/I], Box 223.

Additional improvements were not made to the grounds until 1900. At this time the grounds were fenced in and bleachers were added. This allowed the the Athletic Association to begin producing revenue at sporting events. The grounds would eventually become to be known as State Field.

Within a few years relocating the field was already being discussed as recorded in the Biennial Report of the College for 1903-1905:

“The development of the College has been such as to necessitate the early removal of the athletic grounds from their present location near Engineering Hall to the Southwest corner of the campus. Quite extensive grading will be necessary to put the grounds in shape.”

The athletic fields wouldn’t be moved until 1914, a year after the completion of State Gymnasium. Baseball, football and track would have a new home just south of State Gymnasium at “New State Field,” and eventually talking the name “State Field.” The football field would be named in honor of its from head coach (1906-1919) and athletic director, Clyde Williams, in 1938. Tennis courts would be created just across West Street (now Union Drive) to the north of State Gymnasium.

Information for this post was gleaned from a number of sources including: maps from Facilities, Planning and Management records [RS 4/8/0/7], Iowa Board of Regents Minutes [RS 1/8], University Photograph Collection, Aurora [LD2541.8 A97x], Biennial Report of the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts [LD2531 Io9r], and The Iowa State University Campus and its Building [LD2543 I6 D39x].

In Celebration of 2018 World Day for Audiovisual Heritage “Your Story is Moving” #AudiovisualHeritage #WAVHD

Iowa State University Special Collections and University Archives brings you a compilation of ISU Athletics from our Audiovisual (AV) Collection, in observance of UNESCO’s World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. Enjoy! #AudiovisualHeritage #WAVHD


This year the theme of the World Day  for Audiovisual Heritage is “Your Story is Moving”. Here is the CCAAA Board’s official statement about this year’s theme:

Every year millions of people record stories of all varieties on audiovisual media, ranging from narratives of everyday life to historic events. These moments are chronicled and stored each day on multiple formats and media, whether they are digital or analogue. How do we ensure that this ever-growing corpus that is our cultural history today is preserved and exists in the future? And how do we guarantee that this rapidly accumulating, collective moving story of ours is not lost, as much of our history on these fragile media has been over the past 150 years?

Reliably, thousands of archivists, librarians and preservationists around the world strive to make our world’s cultural heritage accessible and safeguard it for the future. In addition to their daily efforts to provide access to historic collections housed in established archives, archivists actively rescue collections in danger of loss or destruction due to poor climates, less than ideal storage conditions, political unrest or the economic challenges that many countries are confronted with daily.

Our stories are moving in many ways. First, they move through the very act of playing this unique material on the original equipment that transports the object as part of viewing or hearing it, whether it is motion picture film, a vinyl record, an audio cassette or a videotape.

Second, as physical objects, made of organic material, these items are constantly and naturally moving through an ongoing state of decay, are deteriorating, and moving towards inaccessibility as they travel through their own timeline. This constant deterioration serves as an even stronger argument for supporting the ongoing efforts of the world’s archivists to preserve our audio-visual heritage.

Third, in countries and institutions with resources available to digitize collections, the rate at which our stories can now quickly move around the globe, thanks to the newest digital communication technologies now allows us to share our stories faster and ever more widely to more locations around the world than ever before.

Lastly, of course, stories move us emotionally. We see this every year on Home Movie Day, an event that provides a moment for publics around the world to bring their visual cultural heritage to archives and libraries, to view, sometimes for the first time in decades.  As they see lost family members, loved ones and ancestors long gone come to life on the screen, tears flow, emotions are high, and these moments of our captured history transport us to new heights as our histories unfold before our eyes. History too comes to life through the power of the moving image and in  sound recordings which connect us personally with those events and moments in time which have shaped our memories and who we are.

On October 27, please join us in celebrating our audio-visual heritage, and help us acknowledge the  work done every day to preserve our stories so that they will endure for future generations.

CyPix: Cyclones Men’s Basketball

Men's Basketball team, 1975-1976. University Photographs, RS 24/5/D
Men’s Basketball team, 1975-1976. University Photographs, RS 24/5/D

This month, the Big 12 Conference basketball season began. In celebration, here’s a look back at the 1975-1976 Cyclones posing outside of Hilton Coliseum. More photos as well as information about the history of Iowa State Men’s Basketball can be found here in the Special Collections and University Archives, in RS 24/5. Stop in sometime!

CyPix: Basketball Season

The weather has turned cold, and you know what that means! It means that it’s almost winter, you say? Well, yes. But also, basketball season has arrived! To celebrate, here are a couple of photos from the early 20th century, one of our men’s team and one of a women’s intramural team (unfortunately we didn’t have a collegiate women’s team in those days).

24-5-D_mens basketball1922_b1815
Men’s basketball at Iowa State in 1922. The stitching of the basketball is visible in this photo. (RS 24/5/D,G, Box 1815)

Women's basketball ca 1908
Women playing intramural basketball in the grass at Iowa State, circa 1908. Things have changed a lot in women’s basketball in the last 100 years! (RS 22/7)

The men’s team played it’s first game in 1908. In the early days, the official collegiate men’s team often went by “Ames” rather than Iowa State, as you can see referenced on their uniforms in the top photo. The official collegiate women’s team was formed in the 1973-1974 season, but women had been playing basketball at Iowa State long before that, as evidenced by the intramural game being played in the early 1900s photo above. As you can see, women’s basketball uniforms have changed quite a bit since then. Can you imagine playing basketball in those outfits?

More information can be found in the Men’s Basketball collections, RS 24/5, the Women’s Basketball collections, RS 24/18, the Recreation Services Administrative Records, RS 7/8/3, and in the Student Organizations Records, RS 22/7/0/1. Additional basketball photos can be found on our Flickr site as well. Here’s to a great upcoming season of Cyclone basketball!

Coach Johnny Orr


Johnny Orr, who passed away on New Year’s Eve, is a Cyclone legend in every sense of the word.  It can be said that many would argue that he is the best loved and most respected figure in Iowa State University history.  Orr came to Iowa State from the University of Michigan in 1980 and resurrected a basketball program that had not been invited to play in the postseason since the 1940s.  His Cyclone teams slowly improved until, in his fourth season, Iowa State finished with a 16-13 record and an invitation to play in the NIT, reaching the quarterfinals.  By 1986, Iowa State had competed in its second consecutive NCAA tournament, reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time in modern history.  Orr led Iowa State to six NCAA tournament appearances and five 20+ win seasons during his tenure.

“Hilton Magic” is a phrase that was coined during Johnny Orr’s coaching days.  The game atmosphere in Hilton Coliseum became known far and wide as one of the most intimidating in the country.  The Hilton crowds became an effective “sixth man” on the court.  Opponents that were highly ranked often left Hilton with a loss after dealing with noise from fans cheering so loudly that the hoop rims and floor would vibrate.  Hilton Magic simply would not exist today without Johnny Orr.  Every shred of success and every high expectation was set because of how he built his program and fan base.

The Special Collections Department has materials that will allow you to revisit the career of Johnny Orr as Iowa State’s head men’s basketball coach.  The University Archives has a collection of news clippings about Johnny Orr ( RS 24/3/13), and there are also media guides, game-day programs, photographs, and newspaper articles in the men’s basketball records series (RS 24/5).   All of these are available for viewing in the Special Collections Department’s Reading Room.  We also have a selection of images of Johnny Orr available on Flickr under the set “Athletics – Coaches.”

Post written by:  Matt Schuler, Library Assistant

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