Building a Culture of Sport on Campus

Culture of Sport Exhibit image


By 1860--ten years before women were admitted, there were 500 young men on campus, with all the potential energy that implied. They brought with them a variety of sporting traditions, from the rough-and-tumble wrestling matches and foot races of frontier communities to the newer games being introduced at Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Notions of physical culture and the German gymnasium system of education gave athletics on campus some credibility with the faculty, but it was the students themselves who organized cricket, baseball, rugby football, boating, and tennis associations to promote and manage athletic competition on campus and eventually intercollegiate games.

They engaged in sport for exercise, recreation, for the sake of competition, and for some at least, for the greater glory of their university. To them, Michigan would not be a great university until its teams could compete on an equal footing with the Harvards and Yales of the East. Not until, as one writer put it, "our colors, 'the azure-blue and maize,' shall never dip, e'en though the Red and Blue frown on us."

By the mid-1880s men's intramural and intercollegiate athletics had become an important part of student life. By the first decade of the next of the next century, women students would develop their own culture of sport as well.

The exhibit uses images, text, and artifacts to explore the beginnings of student organized sport on campus.

Regular Hours

M-F 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Saturday 9:00 a.m..- 1:00 p.m.


Exhibit runs from September 12 - December 30, 2014




Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
telephone: 734-764-3482


For further information, contact: Karen Jania, at: 734-764-3482.