The Way Back: Pushball

The freshman-sophomore rivalry at UT back in the teens and ’20s was no laughing matter. Those boys meant business, and the unusual sport of pushball was how they settled the score.

Pushball originated at Harvard University in the 1890s, but it appeared for the first time on the Forty Acres in 1912. The game involved a 6-foot-tall inflated leather ball that students pushed across a goal line on the field. Players usually ended the game covered in dirt and blood and wearing less clothing than when they started—or none at all in at least one case documented by the Daily Texan. In the 1924 recap of the game, the Texan wrote, “The climax was reached when an overzealous sophomore made a last desperate plunge into the ranks of freshmen. When the smoke of the battle blew over, he was seen seated on the ground in the pose of ‘The Thinker.’ Only the belt remained, and a sympathetic upperclassman gave him a raincoat.”

The game was part of annual rivalry festivities until inter-class shenanigans and hazing started getting out of hand in the 1920s. In 1925, a mob of freshmen stormed Brackenridge Hall with a firehose and caused more than $1,000 in damage to the first floor. That same year, in what must have been an especially intense freshman-sophomore match-up, the pushball burst and was never replaced, consigning it to the annals of UT history.

Photo courtesy the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

 

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