Historic Context of the Eric Cantor Primary Loss: The 1899 College Football Season


Eric Cantor (R-Va.) became the first and only sitting House Majority Leader to lose in his party’s primary since 1899. Since this is a college football blog and not political (thankfully), here’s some context on just how monumental Cantor’s defeat is, through a gridiron lens:

• In 1899, Ivy League members Harvard and Princeton split the national championship. No word on if the SEC is concocting a plan to somehow split a national title between two members in the modern era.

• Brandon Weeden was in his freshman season at Oklahoma State.

• Chicago went 16-0-2. That’s not a typo; under legendary head coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, the Maroons played 18 games, including a stretch of four in eight days from Sept. 15 to Sept. 23. All four were high schools. However, Chicago’s most lopsided win didn’t come against a team of preps. It blasted Northwestern in a crosstown matchup 76-0.

No word on if Northwestern students laked the posts.

• Illinois finished in last place of the Western Conference, forerunner to the Big Ten.

…OK, bad example for providing historic context.

• Michigan did not give up a single point until its eighth game, an 11-10 loss to Penn. Wolverine fans blame the loss on Rich Rodriguez.

• Wisconsin also saw its perfect start blemished against an Ivy League opponent, as head coach Philip King’s Badgers lost to Yale, 6-0. Shortly after the final whistle, the wife of former Wisconsin head coach Hiram O. Stickney, who was then at Oregon Agricultural (Oregon State), telegraphed: “HASHTAG STOP KARMA STOP”

• Jim Thorpe would not suit up for Carlisle Indian Industrial School for another decade, but his predecessor, Isaac Seneca, earned All-American honors. Seneca helped Carlisle defeat Cal in a game played in San Francisco, 2-0.

Sally Jenkins wrote an incredible piece on Carlisle’s program for Sports Illustrated in 2007 that is well worth your time. No bad punch line here, just read the article.

• Since 1899, 115 college football championships have been awarded to 58 programs. Alabama claims 97 of those 115.

Indeed, Eric Cantor suffered a defeat of truly historic magnitude. But in the former House Majority Leader’s defense, it could have been–he wasn’t facing Appalachian State.