West Virginia Cries Foul
Three events occurred on Saturday, November 22, the week after Centre disposed of Kentucky so handily. The first was cosmic. An eclipse of the sun, which in Kentucky was to take a crescent shape, began at 6:23 in the morning.
The second was that Centre was going to play DePauw in the afternoon in Louisville.
The third event was the fact that people back in West Virginia just couldn’t, and wouldn’t, accept that their touted, mighty football team, their team that had routed Princeton, could have lost, at least fairly, to a little unknown school named Centre College.
Major Earl Smith, a West Virginia alumnus, was the editor of the Fairmont Times. Editor Smith conducted an “investigation” and came up with some accusations against Centre which he sent to the West Virginia college publication, The Athenaeum. He claimed that he and the college paper had "exposed" Centre and he published this in his Times.
Headline in the Fairmont ( WVa ) "Times"
Later, the story was picked up by the Morgantown New Dominion, which repeated the accusations after the end of Centre's football season, after the college had received an invitation to play Harvard, which we'll discuss later. The claim was made that "The recent charges against the Center ( sic ) College football team.......may mean that Harvard will cancel its game with the Kentucky institution....."
Story published by the Morgantown "New Dominion." Someone had forwarded this clipping to Uncle Charlie as indicated in the inked- "Send to C B. Moran"
The "New Dominion" story stated that Centre’s team made up mostly of professional players and wasn't even a college team at all.
The "investigation" had determined that a group of "ineligible players" had been brought to Centre in 1918 in order to defeat Camp Taylor and "it was decided to keep the team intact for 1919."
It claimed that, "Nesser, one of the best fullbacks ever developed in Ohio, was playing his position under the name of Roberts, the Texas youth."
Fred Nesser, a 6'5" lineman and fullback who weighed in at 250 lbs. and played professionally for the Columbus "Panhandlers," was falsely claimed to be part of Centre's lineup against West Virginia.
Major Smith sent the results of his “detective work” to Walter Camp who was on the NCAA rules committee. Of course, his accusations were easily refuted. Four hundred Kentuckians, many prominent citizens from not only Danville but Lexington and Louisville, had been in Charleston at the game.
They knew the two Reds. They knew Bo. They knew every one of the 12 young men who played against West Virginia and immediately stated that Smith’s “findings” were “pure fantasy.”
After being confronted with the facts, the two West Virginia papers printed retractions and Major Smith sent a letter of apology to Dr. Ganfield, to Chief Myers and Uncle Charlie, and to Bo as team captain, along with the team as a whole.
The problem was that numerous newspapers across the country had picked up the story and printed it. For many people, it had been one of those “ahah!” moments.
“So that’s how they beat Indiana and Virginia. That’s how they humbled West Virginia. They cheated!”
Scandalous news makes the front page. Retractions are usually buried deep in the paper if they are carried at all. There were those who even decades later felt that Centre had "cheated" its way to the eminence of the football world. A story as late as August 30, 2021 was printed in the "Northern Kentucky Tribune" repeating that exact false accusation.
( The author refuted it in a September 13, 2021 "letter-to-the editor." )
It simply wasn’t true back in 1919, and it has remained terribly unfair for Centre to this day.
The "Minton" mentioned in this story published in 1919 was Roscoe "Cow" Minton, a teammate of the Fort Worth North Side High School young men who went to Centre. Chief Myers had tried to get Minton to attend Centre also, but he decided at the last minute to enroll at the University of Indiana which his older brother, future Supreme Court Justice Sherman Minton, had attended and played football. "Cow" Minton was on the Hoosier team which Bo and his fellow North Side teammates had beaten 12-3 on October 4 in Bloomington, and after the false accusations were made against Centre, he attested that the Colonels he played against "were real and not men playing under assumed names."