Introduction and Overview
1917-1924 was a golden era for college football. During that time, Centre College of Kentucky fielded one of the most dominant programs in football. Now you can experience the whole story through contemporary stories, over 1000 photos, firsthand accounts, and little-known insider details.
I am now making my previously published 2008 hardcopy book, The Wonder Team, available online at www.CentreWonderTeam.com because I feel that the events from 1917-1924 about Centre College and its football team make it the most fascinating story in the history of sports, bar none.
Here are some of the reasons why I feel comfortable about making that claim.
- Centre College, at the time being virtually unknown, was determined to be the number one team in the country in 1919 by Walter Camp, the "Father of College Football."
- Centre College, with some 200 students, beat Harvard in 1921, at the time on the pinnacle of the college football world. The New York Times has described Centre College's victory over the highly favored Harvard team as "arguably the upset of the century in college football."
- Centre College produced the first Walter Camp All-Americans ever from a small college in the South with selections in 1919, 1920, and 1921.
- Centre College played in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th post-season Bowl Games in college football history, preceded only by the Rose Bowl.
- Centre College beat Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, 4 flagship universities with much larger enrollments, all in November, 1924, by a combined score of 70-7.
- Centre College was so dominant against the University of Kentucky that UK's storied "On, On, U of K" fight song was originally written in an attempt to fire up its team and student body in the hope of winning against Centre.
- Centre College played football all over the United States during an eight year period with games in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Birmingham, Atlanta, Chattanooga, Memphis, Richmond, Indianapolis, Bloomington, IN, Cincinnati, Fort Worth, Dallas, New Orleans, Louisville, Knoxville, Clemson, SC, Charlottesville, VA, Athens, GA, San Diego, Charleston, WVA, Lexington, KY, and others.
- Little Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, was determined to be the nation's top-ranked college team in the nation during the 1919- 1924 years by James Howell from Baltimore, recognized as the preeminent statistician in the country producing retrospective college football rankings. Notre Dame was 2nd .
It was an amazing 8 years, those days from 1917- 1924, and I’m going to tell you the story from the start.
I must also let you know that even though I am telling the story, much credit must be given to my father, Robert Wintersmith "Red" Robertson, M.D. ( 1903-1988 ), who was there at Centre from the fall of 1921 until graduating in 1925 and to whom this book is dedicated.
Robert Wintersmith Robertson, M.D. - Centre 1925
Dad left me old programs, newspaper clippings, photographs, and most importantly, memories from constantly telling me stories about his days at Centre which certainly were highlights of a wonderfully full life.
His love of Centre College extended from the days of his entrance in the fall of 1921 throughout his life, culminated by being designated a Distinguished Alumni in 1981 and serving as a member of Centre's Board of Trustees from 1962-74, later serving as an emeritus until his death in 1988.
Photograph taken in the 1980's in Paducah, Kentucky, home of Centre emeritus board member, Robert Wintersmith "Red" Robertson, M.D. James Evans, Centre '43, and David Grissom, Centre '60, were members of the Board at Centre when this photo was taken and Grissom remains as a Life Member. Richard Morrill was Centre's president from 1982-1988. The portrait in the background is of Mary Eyre Wintersmith Robertson, "Red" Robertson's mother, and was painted in 1901 by Katherine Helm, the niece of Abraham Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. The portrait now hangs in the author's home in Paducah.
From time to time you will find recollections interfaced from my father in bold face which are stories he told me and which I have reconstructed as closely as I remember them.
The many photographs which you will see came from contemporary sources, my personal collection, and from those who were so generously given to me by Ann and Jim McCurry. Ann, “Uncle Charlie” Moran’s granddaughter, helped me understand her grandfather’s role in helping build Centre’s team, and Jim reproduced so many of the photographs which had been preserved in Coach Moran’s scrapbooks.
My hardcopy book, "The Wonder Team," was enhanced in a major way by the research of Tony Gaier of Versailles, Ohio, and to him I continue to owe a huge amount of gratitude as much of the material in this online edition was first published in the original 2008 book. Also, I will always be appreciative of the efforts and interest of Bill Butler of Butler Books in Louisville who was the publisher of the book.
Beth Morgan, who heads up the archival collection at Centre's Grace Doherty Library, is another person who was very generous in providing information from the scrapbooks which were donated by individuals who lived during the era of Centre's prominence in the college football world.
The 2022 online edition was also made possible by the diligent and skillful work of another person to whom I owe an immense amount of thanks, Alan Jackson, a professor at Paducah's College of Art and Design, who helped enormously in converting and expanding my hardcopy book onto the web. Without Alan, you wouldn't be reading this.
Robert Wintersmith Robertson, Jr., M.D. Centre ‘63