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Throwback: The First U.S. College Basketball Game Involved Iowa and University of Chicago

Ever wonder where, when, and who played in the first college basketball game? Let's throw it back to the late 1800s to find out.
First College Basketball Game Iowa University of Chicago

Edit: Jonnie Nonnie/On Tap Sports Net

Randomly, I stumbled upon some information regarding the history of college basketball. That's what happens when you're scouring the internet looking for anything interesting about your favorite topics. And everyone knows you can always find something interesting or entertaining online. In fitting Throwback Thursday fashion, this one runs deep. Let's take it back to the root of basketball.

Basketball's Origin Story and Pioneers

Flashback to 1891. As many are aware, James Naismith invented the game of basketball. He was a graduate student and instructor at Springfield College in Massachusetts. A classmate of his, Dr. Henry Kallenberg, was a physical education instructor at the University of Iowa. After creating the game, Naismith sent Kallenberg a copy of the rules and asked him to play it.

Dr. Kallenberg then reached out to Amos Alonzo Stagg, the athletic director at the University of Chicago. Stagg's name might sound familiar because there's a bowl game named after him -- the NCAA Division III Football Championship is the Stagg Bowl. The first Stagg Bowl took place in 1973. This past year, Canton, Ohio, hosted it for the first time. Canton was supposed to host the game in 2020, but the COVID-19 complications got in the way.

Stagg entered the College Football Hall of Fame as both a player and coach in 1951. He played football at Yale University, finishing in 1889. During his career, Yale went 53-2-1, including a 37-game winning streak at one point. Stagg coached for over 50 seasons between Springfield College, the University of Chicago, and College of the Pacific.

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Springfield College is a common denominator between Naismith, Kallenberg, and Stagg. However, it wasn't the only one. All three of these men were innovators and played pivotal roles in changing the landscape of sports forever. Also, Stagg had some inventions of his own pertaining to baseball and football, which I'll talk about in a future article.

The First 5-on-5 College Basketball Game

When Kallenberg reached out to Stagg, he welcomed the University of Chicago out to Iowa to experiment with Naismith's new game. Being the innovator Stagg was, he agreed, and the two teams met on Jan. 18, 1896, in what is now known as the first unofficial college basketball game with five players on each side. Purportedly, Dr. Kallenberg was the one who reduced the teams to five players on each side. Other colleges claim to have played basketball first, but this is widely known as the first game played in the United States using modern-day five-man lineups.

The game took place at Close Hall on the University of Iowa campus. The University of Chicago defeated the Hawkeyes by a score of 15-12. As a gambling man, the Under was never a doubt! You'll never see that low scoring of a game in this day and age.

Iowa has played 2,907 games with a .588 winning percentage and three Final Four appearances. Led by the nation's leading scorer in points per game, Keegan Murray, the Hawkeyes are a staple in the Big Ten Conference and currently rank just outside the AP Top 25.

The University of Chicago, commonly referred to as the Chicago Maroons, plays in Division III. The University of Chicago was one of the seven founding members of the Big Ten. Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Purdue were the others. Iowa and Indiana joined only three years later, in 1899. The league was known as the Western Conference until 1917 when it became the Big Ten.

As an Iowa Hawkeyes supporter, I can proudly say I'm a fan of a team that played a part in changing the landscape of basketball forever.