Flashback Friday: 1st intercollegiate basketball game was played in Minnesota this week in 1895

What is believed to be the 1895 Hamline basketball team. Photo: Courtesy of Hamline University
What is believed to be the 1895 Hamline basketball team.

February 08, 2019 02:58 PM

It may not have been the first basketball game involving a college team.

However, on Feb. 9, 1895, the Minnesota State School of Agriculture and Hamline University met in what is considered to be the first intercollegiate basketball matchup. That is, a game pitting two college teams against one another.

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The matchup, which the School of Agriculture won by a whopping 9-3 margin, took place in the basement of Hamline's old Hall of Science in what had previously been used as a mess hall.

The ceilings above the makeshift court were only nine feet high. The two teams were not shooting the ball into hoops but rather into peach baskets with no backboards.

Each team played with nine players, as opposed to the five we know today. That included a goalie on each side whose job it was to protect the basket.

"It was a different game back then, that's for sure," said current Hamline men's basketball coach Jim Hayes. "It wasn't anything like the game we know today.

"But it's a pretty cool piece of history to be a part of. It's something we talk about in the recruiting process and with our players. There's really a long tradition here to celebrate."

The game was organized by Hamline's athletic director at the time, Raymond Kaighn, who was said to have been present at the creation of the sport.

He played under the direction of the game's inventor Dr. James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts, playing in what is believed to have been the first basketball game in history.

"Only one basket was scored," he told Sports Illustrated as a 91-year-old in 1961. "But we had a wonderful time."

Kaighn organized basketball as an intramural sport at Hamline in 1894, and a woman's team was started in 1896 - the year after that first intercollegiate matchup.

The school celebrated the 100th anniversary of that first game in 1995, an event that drew basketball luminaries like legendary former UCLA coach John Wooden and former NBA great George Mikan to campus.

It also featured a recreation of the 1895 game. Hayes, then an assistant coach for the Pipers, served as referee.

"I'm not sure how accurately we replicated the original game, but everybody had a lot of fun," he said. "We simulated the peach baskets and having to climb a ladder to get the ball out when someone shot it in there.

"The rules were so much different back then. Playing nine-on-nine is just an entirely different game."

Of course, other schools also lay claim to being the birthplace of college basketball. An article on NCAA.com states Geneva College of Pennsylvania played a game against the Brighton YMCA on April 8, 1893.

Another article stated Vanderbilt played a game against a local Nashville YMCA team a few months earlier - on Feb. 7, 1893.

The first intercollegiate game matching two teams using five-player lineups came on Jan. 18, 1896 when Iowa defeated the University of Chicago 15-12 in Iowa City.

The matchup between the School of Agriculture, which was a separate school then but was later absorbed into the University of Minnesota, and Hamline stands on its own as a historical milestone.

"It's a really cool thing for our school," Hayes said. "We can say the first intercollegiate basketball game was played right here. That's a big deal."

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