In the 140 years of college football, nothing else comes close to this team and its season. But most Americans don’t know this story. Even most Sewanee devotees only vaguely and partially grasp its drama and significance. This documentary tells the compelling, historically- accurate, and riveting story of the team, the season, and the rare convergence of talent, personalities, and drive that made Sewanee’s 1899 season truly legendary.
Three Key Points of the History
The glue of the team was the manager, Luke Lea. He was an undergraduate student who hired the football coach, recruited players, scheduled games, arranged travel, and managed the team and the equipment. He was essentially the athletic director in the days before athletic directors existed.
His achievements in 1899 foreshadowed a fascinating life—owner of the Nashville Tennessean, youngest U.S. Senator, and World War I soldier who plotted to kidnap the Kaiser.
Trickling out of a cave on the domain of the University of the South in Sewanee is a small spring called Tremlett Springs. On the daring train trip that included stops in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, the team took two barrels of spring water to ensure their health. As the victories mounted, the water took on a mythic aura of being “magical” water. Tremlett Springs still flows quietly in Abbo’s Alley.
The University of the South
Founded in 1857 by Episcopal clergy and lay people on top of a mountain on the Cumberland Plateau, Sewanee, as it is known, was part of a grand vision for a large, first-rate, southern university. That vision was shattered by the Civil War, which left the cornerstone destroyed by Union soldiers and Sewanee’s finances depleted. Undaunted, the surviving founders reformed Sewanee on July 4, 1868.
Team of 1899
Undefeated and Untied
WON 5 GAMES IN 6 DAYS ON A 2,500 MILE TRAIN TRIP
What’s Been Said…
“Anytime that anything is written about the history of college football, Sewanee will be mentioned.”
Former Sewanee player and Head Coach
“It’s more than lore – it’s true.”
Dr. John McCardell
Vice Chancellor, Retired
“Really in athletics it is the ultimate David and Goliath story… It’s unparalleled in the annals of college football.”
Sewanee Athletic Director, Retired
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