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University Council on Athletics Records


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: University Archives and Records Center [Contact Us]3401 Market Street, Suite 210, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: University Archives and Records Center. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The University Council on Athletics was created by the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania in 1917 to oversee "the physical life of the students,... determine the athletic policy of the University,... control an mange all athletic sports, contests and exhibitions and determine the eligibility of participants ..., and receive and disburse all moneys arising there from" until its effective demise in 1931.

The Council was formed as a reaction to the poor financial state of the Athletic Association of the University of Pennsylvania which had managed intercollegiate athletic competitions since 1882. The Trustees took control from the Athletic Association, which was controlled by the University alumni, and gave it to the Council. The members of the Council were composed of three people appointed by the Provost from the faculty, six appointed by the Trustees of whom three had to be alumni, and three undergraduates members of the Athletic Association.

The University Council of Athletics presided over the one of the largest periods of growth in the University of Pennsylvania's athletic program. Through the work of several of its active alumni members, a new football stadium, Franklin Field, was built in 1922 and expanded in 1925 to have a seating capacity of 60,000 and a new gymnasium and basketball stadium were built in 1926. The extensive physical expansion of the athletic program reflected the general rise in popular interest in college sports, particularly football. By 1928 the Council on Athletics was realizing receipts of $1.1 million, of which $818,000 was from football and $75,000 from basketball. Penn's football team was in top rank of intercollegiate competition. The demands to sustain a team of that caliber and bring in the crowds to fill the stadium created an atmosphere in which football dominated athletics at the University. The football coach was paid a high salary and the players often received special scholarships and lived and dined apart from the general student body. Concerns were soon raised over this special status and the practices used to support the sports program. In spite of the mass appeal of the football program and the receipts it generated, the Council was operating in deficit that reached $383,000 in 1930.

The troubling state of athletics at the University of Pennsylvania became one of the first priorities of the University's first President Thomas Sovereign Gates. Immediately after Gates was elected president of the University in October 1930, he appointed University alumnus Gordon A. Hardwick and University professor Michail M. Dorizas to conduct of study of the University's current physical education, athletics and student health programs in comparison with those of other universities in the United States and Europe. From Hardwick's and Dorizas' report President Gates created what became known as the Gates Plan for athletics at the University of Pennsylvania which was approved by the Board of Trustees in February 1931. The key feature of the Gates Plan was that all competitive sports activities would be under the direct control of the Department of Physical Education, all coaches would hold faculty appointments with salaries commensurate with their rank, and football would no longer get special treatment or scholarships.

As a result of the Gates Plan, the role of the Council on Athletics was reduced to that of an advisory body under the name of the Advisory Council on Athletics beginning in February 1931. The Advisory Council served primarily as a means for alumni to express their concerns and interests in various sports at the University as well as assist in the establishment of rules regarding athletic honors and awards. It remained active until the Second World War and was later revived in 1953.

The University Council on Athletics Records document the management and expansion of organized competitive athletics at the University of Pennsylvania from 1918 to 1931 and the advisory role of alumni in the athletic programs from 1931 to 1950.

The documentation is in the form minute books covering the period of 1918 to 1950. The minutes for the University Council on Athletics cover the years 1918 to 1931. Those for the Advisory Council on Athletics cover the years 1932 to 1942. Minutes for the Awards Committee of the Advisory Council cover the years 1935 to 1950.

The minutes of the provide details on the management of the athletic grounds, the selection of team managers, the awarding of letters and numbers to student athletes, the finances of the Association.

The records are organized in two series: By-laws and charter; minutes; committees, reports and correspondence; programs. The By-laws and charter and minutes series are arranged chronologically and the remaining series alphabetically by subject matter.

Transfers from the Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics.

University of Pennsylvania: University Archives and Records Center
Finding Aid Author
J M Duffin
Finding Aid Date
February 2010
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Box 1 Folder 1
Box 1 Folder 2
Box 1 Folder 3
Box 1 Folder 4
Box 2 Folder 1

Minutes, May 1932 November 1942.
Box 2 Folder 2
Plan of Operation.
Box 2 Folder 3
Minutes, March 1935-May 1950.
Box 2 Folder 2
Rules and Regulations Governing the Awards of Athletic Letters, Sweaters and Emblems, 1934.
Box 2 Folder 4

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