Wabash Little Giants
First season 1884
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Location Crawfordsville, Indiana
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The Wabash Little Giants football team represents Wabash College in the sport of college football at the NCAA Division III level.


In 1884, Wabash played its first game of intercollegiate football when it defeated a team from Butler University on October 25, 4–0.[1] The first intercollegiate game in the state took place on May 31, between Butler and DePauw University.[2] From the 1890s to the 1910s, the Wabash football team played schedules against many much larger colleges, such as Illinois, Indiana and Purdue, against whom the Little Giants occasionally won impressive upsets. For instance Wabash won all five games against Purdue between 1906 and 1911.[3]

In 1903, the Wabash football team fielded its first black player, Samuel S. Gordon, and the following season added another, Walter M. Cantrell. Many opposing teams threatened boycotts, but school president William Patterson Kane insisted the men be allowed to play. Some opponents did cancel their games, but Gordon and Cantrell continued to play for Wabash. The 1904 football team adopted the nickname the "Little Giants", which was the first time that moniker was used by the school. That season, Wabash won decisive victories over Hanover, 81–0, Butler, 51–0, and Earlham, 35–0, and they lost close contests to Illinois, Notre Dame, Purdue, and Michigan State.[4]

The Little Giants' most prominent football game came against Notre Dame at South Bend, Indiana on October 21, 1905. Wabash took a first-half lead, 5–0, through a dominating performance by their backfield and linemen. In the second half, Notre Dame advanced inside the Wabash five-yard line three times, but was repelled on each occasion. The Little Giants won, 5–0,[3] and it proved the only Notre Dame home-field loss in 125 games between 1899 and 1928.[5][6] The Little Giants and Fighting Irish played several more times after that, and the last game took place in 1924.[3] Incidentally, both head coaches that season, Pete Vaughan of Wabash and Knute Rockne of Notre Dame, had played college football together for the Fighting Irish.[7][8] A further connection between the schools was College Football Hall of Fame inductee Jesse Harper, who coached Wabash from 1909 to 1912, and then Notre Dame from 1913 to 1917.[6][9] Century Milstead played for the 1921 team.


  1. Edwin R. Taber, Ancestry Web, retrieved June 29, 2009.
  2. Bodenhamer, David J.; Barrows, Robert G. (1994-11-22) (in en). The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0253112494.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 The Little Giants (PDF), College Football Historical Society Newsletter, vol. 19, no. 4, p. 5, August 2006.
  4. The Originals of 1904, Wabash College, October 31, 2008.
  5. Notre Dame Game-by-Game Results, College Football Data Warehouse, retrieved June 30, 2009.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Sideline Chatter (PDF), College Football Historical Society Newsletter, vol. 20, no. 1, p. 1, November 2006.
  7. Wabash Yearly Results: 1920, College Football Data Warehouse, retrieved June 30, 2009.
  8. Little Giants, Dear Old Wabash, Wabash College, December 19, 2008.
  9. Jesse Harper, College Football Hall of Fame, National Football Foundation, retrieved June 30, 2009.

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