Prairie Post column for Oct. 6, 2009
The Blue Jays were looking to repeat as the unofficial champions of High School football back in 1934. The team had beat Fargo, in a game played at Moorhead State, the fall before for the crown. In an article written for the Jamestown Sun in October of 1934 Coach Ernest Gates referred to the previous season as the first championship for Jamestown.
But he had some concerns for the season underway at that time.
It seems that the equipment rules for high school football pads had changed.
“All pads must be covered with one to four inches padding,” Gates wrote. “This is very interesting because of a limited amount of equipment we can only use a very small number of men because equipment that was acquired before last year is illegal.”
Of course, during the depths of the depression schools weren’t able to afford much in the way of equipment for sports.
Gates estimated he owned about 70 percent of the equipment used by the football team. He claimed to have about $400 invested in football pads and cleats. Adjusted for inflation that is the equivalent of about $6,100 now.
Some of the equipment was rented to players. Gates said he got 75 cents per season for the use of the limited number of football shoes with removable cleats he owned. The cleats in those shoes could be taken out and replaced with different sized cleats depending on the field conditions. The shoes without the removable cleats had short, or dry field, cleats permanently attached to the soles.
In fact it was the cleats that concerned Coach Gates the most, and gave him a chance to take a jab at the football fans in Jamestown.
“If we run into a mud day this year we will have to watch our team scramble around in dry field cleats as before,” Gates wrote. “That privilege of wearing mud cleats is only for those teams which make gold at the gate.”
Things have changed a lot in the world of high school sports. I don’t think coaches purchase and own the equipment anymore and most teams have enough uniforms and pads to put as many players as they wish on the field.
And, certainly, the level of equipment used by the team isn’t usually determined by the attendance at the games.
But some things haven’t changed. Coaches still try to lower expectations. To set the stage so the success of the team is considered an exciting event rather than an anticipated outcome.
But most modern coaches don’t blame it on their inability to afford to purchase the team new shoes.