Hoosier Dusty Files - February 8, 1901 - Indiana University Plays Its First Basketball Game

A Year of Indiana History - 2016
A Year of Indiana History - 2016

February 8, 1901 - Indiana University Plays Its First Basketball Game
The new sport of basketball was gaining in popularity from its beginnings in a Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA where Canadian physical education instructor James Naismith introduced his new game to his eighteen students. Indiana University officials decided they wanted to field a team to compete against other colleges that were playing the upstart game.
James Naismith (November 6, 1861 – November 28, 1939)
A native of Mississippi Mills in Ontario, Canada, Naismith was orphaned at an early age and was raised by an aunt and uncle. He attended elementary school at Bennies Corners, and then graduated from Almonte High School, in 1883. He attended McGill University in Montreal where he played Canadian football, lacrosse, rugby, soccer and gymnastics. He earned a BA in Physical Education in 1888 and then attended Presbyterian College in Montreal, graduating in 1890. He left Canada to become the athletic director at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Duck on a Rock
Many feel that the origins of basketball come from a medieval game Naismith played as a child, duck on a rock. In this game players place a stone, called a duck, on top of a larger rock, tree stump or post. One player guards the rock while other players try to knock the stone off by throwing stones at it. When someone knocks it off, all the players must retrieve their stone before the guard tags them. The first player tagged becomes the guard. The guard must replace the duck on the rock before he can chase and tag anyone.
Cold Weather Sport
Naismith, as athletic instructor, needed an indoor game that his players could play to keep his players in condition during the winter. The original game used two peach baskets and a ball somewhat like a soccer ball. He devised thirteen rules. He divided his class of eighteen players and played the first game on January 20, 1892 in the Albany, New York YMCA gym. At first each time someone scored a basket, the players had to wait for the janitor to remove the ball from the basket with the stepladder. After a while, someone poked a small hole in the bottom of the basket so someone could knock the ball out with a pole. At some point, players removed the bottom of the basket so it would fall through. No one replaced the basket with a metal rim and net until 1906.
Growth of the Sport
The sport gained in popularity from the time Naismith invented it in 1891. More YMCA centers picked up the sport and by 1895, several women's high schools picked up the game. By 1898, there were college teams, professional teams and amateur sports club teams. The National Basketball League formed in 1898 as the first professional league. Naismith went on to found the basketball program at University of Kansas.
Indiana University Basketball
After the Christmas break in 1901 IU athletic director James H. Horne advertised around the campus for players. He chose six players from the respondents. He served as the coach of the team. The first game IU played was at the Indianapolis YMCA gymnasium. They faced off against Butler University in a game that Butler won 20 -17. The basketball season that year included four games, not including one "disputed" game at Purdue. The first meeting in the Indiana/Purdue rivalry was on March 2, 1901.
Indiana possesses a rich history that is fun to read and learn. This Hoosier Dusty Files is in an easy to read “this day in history format” and includes articles from the author's A Year in Indiana History series. Visitors may read the articles as they appear or purchase the book:
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning