Author Archives: Andrew McGregor

About Andrew McGregor

Historian of politics, race, and sports in 20th C. America. Digital & Public History. Founder/Coeditor Sport in American History blog. Fan of everything Kansas City.

The Sporting Middle Ground: Reflections on My Theory of Race and Sports

As a scholar of race and sports, I have been developing a conceptual framework or theory, which I call the “Sporting Middle Ground,” for nearly 10-years. I first introduced the idea in my 2011 master’s thesis: “Indianness and Expectation: Jim Thorpe and Billy Mills as Iconic Native American Athletes.” I later shared some progress in my thinking in a 2017 article I wrote for Public Seminar: “Agency, Order and Sport in the Age of Trump.” In simple terms, I posit that sports are a middle ground that provide partial acceptance, or conditional equality, to minority athletes. The Sporting Middle Ground is part of a constant renegotiation born out of late-nineteenth century notions of respectability tied to a white supremacist racial hierarchy endemic to Anglo-American culture that is baked into our social, political, and sporting institutions. It shapes access, agency, memory, economic standing, and many other areas within the lives of non-white athletes.

My thinking on this issue was initially inspired by Richard White’s, The Middle Ground, Philip Deloria’s exposition on discourse, ideology, and power as fundamental to expectation in his book Indians in Unexpected Places, as well as Antonio Gramsci’s framework of hegemony, where power (in this case white supremacy) is maintained through constant re-negotiation but disruption ultimately requires the development of a counter-hegemony to fully displace the formerly oppressive ideology.

Perhaps this is a simplistic theory, but it’s also extremely messy.

My critics often point to sports as a democratic space. A place of opportunity, and even acceptance. I am not so easily convince. To be sure, sports are democratic but even in democracy individuals are given limited power. It is only through coalition building, often tied to certain ideologies and distributed in popular discourses, that power is achieved, maintained, and social change brokered. Thus, in order for sports to function in a democratic way it must confront its ideological structure and the discourses that animate and preserve the power that is simultaneously consolidated in bureaucratic and economic leaders as well as diffused into mass culture. This power, which many freely ascribe to athletes, is only partially shared because it is bounded up in racial capitalism — a devastating intermixing of exploitative capitalist practices with the increasingly innovative bondages of white supremacy. In the sporting world, amateurism is an essential component of racial capitalism and a feature that has repeatedly denied fully equality by subverting democratic coalition building by informing a perverted version of respectability politics that revokes access through an opaque criminalization of behaviors otherwise normal outside the sporting world.

For me, the Sporting Middle Ground is an entry point and a framework. It forces us to  interrogate the structures that permit access so that we can dig deeper into the cracks of hegemony. It helps expose contingent moments where conditional equality coupled with increased agency forces renegotiation. Nostalgia and produced memory fit for hegemonic discourses often glosses over these instances in order to support tidy narratives of progress that sustain the racial capitalism of sport. The Sporting Middle Ground persists, however, not as a wall permanently removed but as a flexible and amorphous bubble that expands and contracts. Indeed, entry points change, agency waxes and wanes, and full equality remains elusive. On one hand, the Sporting Middle Ground is profoundly pessimistic because it reveals the hypocrisy and irregularity of racism in America. Yet, on the other, it is a tool to lay bare the organic nature of hegemony. With conditional equality always in flux, charting the adaptations of the Sporting Middle Ground offers the possibility of constructing a counter-hegemony to overthrow the white supremacy and racial capitalism currently inseparable from our sporting institutions.

This concept remains a work in progress, and as a historian, my work is largely descriptive rather than proscriptive. My initial research on this subject, which I hope to share as a book someday, explores the agency and access of Native American athletes to the Sporting Middle Ground by exploring how federal Indian policy frames their lives. I interrogate multiple entry points, including boarding schools and military service, as well as the discourses and ideologies bound up in the Anglo-American expectations of indigenous sporting bodies. Subsequent study has made clear that these experiences cannot be adequately told without the context of African American athletes. As I wrote in 2017, it is increasingly difficult to understand the life of Jim Thorpe without considering his contemporary, Jack Johnson. Similarly, Billy Mills’ difficulties at the 1968 Olympic trials, which ultimately denied him a spot on the team, require a closer look at racial differences within the Sporting Middle Ground.

While I present this idea as my own, I must acknowledge that my thinking has been influenced by numerous colleagues and conversations. Originality doesn’t truly exist because we are products a constant collaborative struggle to understand and articulate the world. I’m deeply thankful for this and  am heartened by my colleagues in sport studies doing similar work.


The A&M administration asked that we attend a rally this afternoon that celebrates the launch of the AR-TX Regional Economic Development Inc. — a new non-profit organization aimed at bringing jobs and such to the region (which is rather poor). They wanted to get a good sized crowd since Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and Texas Governor Greg Abbott both came to speak as well as the Grand Poobah of the A&M system, John Sharp. That classic sort of civic boosterism mentality.

After I finished teaching, I grabbed Brutus from home and we headed downtown to check out the event. I was excited to check it out because quite a bit of my research relates to civic boosterism. I wrote an entire chapter in my dissertation on Oklahoma’s 50th birthday celebration, showing how image, economics, and politics worked alongside college football to build a new Oklahoma. So witnessing this event was like watching one of my primary sources in real life — I am sure other political and Sunbelt historians can relate!

There was a lot of energy and a decent crowd, including at least three local high school bands. You can’t see most of the crowd in this picture because Brutus and I stood in the shade since we haven’t fully adapted to the 90*+ heat. It was fun hearing the rhetoric. There were familiar platitudes about economic development mixed with calls for unity and lessons from a shared history (including a reference to Stephen F. Austin). There was also overt symbolism, including knocking over the famous sign where people take their photo straddling the stateline, to denote the new unified of economic development. There were sports references too, of course. Hutchinson noted the last time the region was this unified was when Texas, Arkansas, and Texas A&M tied for the Southwest Conference title in 1975. Who knows how this will all workout or how long I will be around to see the development, but it is fun to witness the optimism.

So Long Lafayette

This afternoon I taught my last class as an instructor at Purdue University. It is a bittersweet ending. Purdue has been a wonderful and nurturing intellectual home for the past 7 years. I am thankful for all of the opportunities the Department of History and the African American Studies and Research Center gave me. During my time here, I taught 16 of my own courses, presented over a dozen conferences papers, published book reviews, chapters and articles, started the sports blog, appeared on ESPN. Met and networked a host of incredible scholars as well as Olympians Billy Mills and John Carlos. Purdue is a program that thinks about the little things and takes the task of professional development and personal mentoring very seriously. Thank you to everyone who helped me to find my scholarly identity and encouraged me to keep going. I am blessed to have had so many wonderful mentors and colleagues, and I am excited to see what they do in the future.

Beyond the university, I have developed an incredible network of friends who are kind, generous, and supportive. I would never have survived my time in Indiana without such wonderful people. I am really going to miss all of you.

After a few weeks in transition, I am finally moving this weekend. I’ll be heading to Texas, where I will be a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Texas A&M University-Texarkana. I am excited about this next step in my career and eager to get down there and settle in.

Genealogy Rabbit Hole

I went down a random online genealogy rabbit hole last night. While I already knew all of the names of these ancestors because a distant cousin of mine traced this lineage in the late-1990s when the Internet first started to get going, it was fun to piece it together. I also knew based on that my Great Great Grandfather was born in Indiana.  This is what got me going. I was curious about where in Indiana he was from and thought maybe I would try to visit that part of the state before I move (especially if I could find any relatives buried there).

This map shows Gibson County in red.

A couple of quick Google searches answered that question and led me to some pretty cool information about my ancestors. Like I said, I already knew that we came to the U.S. during the late 1700s, and that one who emigrated was also named Andrew. I’m not named after him though, because my parent’s did not know that when they named me. Anyways, it seems like after he finally ended up in Gibson County, Indiana, (he was in PA, VA, and OH before that) he had a good-sized family (8 kids from 2 marriages).

Through Google Books, I found a history of Gibson County, Indiana (linked below) that shares some information about Andrew and his family (the sections focus more on his grandsons Andrew (son of George) and John Kell (son of John). One of the passages about George’s son Andrew, mentions the extend family. It notes that his brother “Hamilton, who many years ago went to Missouri and has never since been heard from.” I assume this refers to George Hamilton, and my branch of the family. It seems as if maybe we were the black sheep!

Below I have mapped out my branch of the McGregor Family tree.

Andrew McGregor — b. 1775 in either Argyllshire, Scotland or  Derry, Ireland (emigrated in 1781)
d. 1873 buried in McGregor Cemetery, Mackey, IN (more info)

George McGregor — b. 11-25-1807 in Virginia
d. 12-1876 buried in McGregor Cemetery, Mackey, IN (more info)

George Hamilton McGregor — b. 12-1-1840 in Princeton, IN
d. 6-15-1913 buried in Index Cemetery, Garden City, MO

Elmer Logan McGregor — b. 11-1866 in Princeton, IN
d. 3-16-1923 buried in Lincoln Cemetery, Lebo, KS

Alfred Dean McGregor — b. 11-1-1903 in Kingsville, MO
d. 9-27-1978 buried in Lincoln Cemetery, Lebo, KS

Gary Alan McGregor — b. 2-15-1935 in Morris, KS

James Dean McGregor — b. 4-18-1957 in Emporia, KS

Andrew Duncan McGregor — b. 9-5-1985 in Kansas City, KS

Information about the Indiana McGregors found in: Gil R. Stormont, History of Gibson County, Indiana: Her People, Industries and Institutions, with Biographical Sketches of Representative Citizens and Genealogical Records of Many of the Old Families, (B.F. Bowen, 1914). Access in Google Books. I also found useful information relative to the Indiana McGregor’s at the site of Clair Juenell Williams Owens.

**Interestingly, when I went and dug out my copy of the family genealogy, I found a copy of the relevant pages from Gil. R. Stormont’s book.**

Ideas for my 5-week Summer Start Course

I’ve mentioned this on Twitter a couple of times lately, but I am scheduled to teach a section of U.S. History since 1877 during Purdue’s 5-week Summer Start program. Although the program is now open to all students, it was originally created three years ago to help borderline students gain full admission. During the 5-week program, students take two 7 credit hours that consists of two regular academic courses plus a 1 hour transition to college class where they meet with a success coach, learn study skills, and get help adjusting to college level work. Last summer I had the chance to serves as a Teaching Assistant for my advisor so I know first hand that It’s a really great program.

This summer, now that I have my PhD in hand, I get to teach my own Summer Start class. Because I taught online during the past academic year, it will be my in-person (not counting TAing) class since Spring 2017. I am really looking forward to getting back into the classroom. There’s just something about the energy and excitement of the classroom that I haven’t been able to replicate online. I’ve missed it.

Preparing for the class has been fun, but, as you might expect, a bit challenging. I already know that I can’t cover everything, but deciding what to leave out is tough. Usually I try to cover roughly a decade per week in my full-semester course, giving me time to mix up my lecture topics by talking about politics, culture, race, foreign relations, etc. on different days. The class meets 5-days a week for day for 90 minutes, so I can still do that to an extent but either in less depth or by skipping some time periods. My advisor already suggested starting at 1900 and thinking of each week as a period rather than a decade. Something like Progressive American and World War I for the first week, the 1920s and Great Depression for the second, World War II for the third, and then diving postwar American into a 1950s and 1960s week and a modern American week for everything after that. It’s not perfect, but it allows me to highlight major events and themes that shaped the United States.

Still, I’m trying to find ways to break up the time and give students something more than straight lecture. I don’t have the exact numbers, but I was told to expect between 45 and 55 students, and absolutely no more than 60. So it’ll be a fairly large section, which in some ways limits what I can do. Last summer we incorporated discussions on Fridays about the readings (since there was two of us, we broke them into groups) and also showed period-specific films to give students something to analyze. We augmented the discussion with an online forum as well so students had a chance to get used to Blackboard and think through questions ahead of time.

We used Margaret O’Mara’s Pivotal Tuesdays: Four Elections That Shaped the Twentieth Century as our course text last summer, which worked pretty well. Because the book focuses on four elections (1912, 1932, 1968, & 1992), it made it easy to talk about one each Friday, and leave one Friday ‘off’ for the midterm or Final. I’m planning to use the same book and structure the discussion in a similar (both an online forum and small groups in class). I also want to show films that serve as a historical text for the students to analyze too. Last summer we showed a pretty wide range from the 1918 silent film Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley to the 1964 Cold War thriller Fail Safe. Each movie gave us a chance to talk about how popular culture portrayed issue of that era. I’d certainly show Fail Safe again, but I’m not sure I’d do another silent film. I’m already fairly certain I am going to The Grapes of Wrath (1940), given my research on Oklahoma and the Okie image. I like the idea of using The Wizard of Oz (1939) for the earlier period because it helps explain Populism and some of Progressivism, but there might be something better from that era. I’d love to hear people’s suggestions for films that roughly fit in with the weekly breakdown.

So far I am more or less recycling most of the elements of the class my advisor and I taught last summer, but I want to add something new. I explained a little bit of what I want to do on Twitter. Basically, it’s a sort of campus history scavenger hunt activity. One of the themes I always try to emphasize in my survey is that history is personal and that it happens all-around you. In the past I have assigned a book on the history of swimming pools to challenge students to think about how their history reflects complex changes in U.S. history and themes like race, class, gender, sexuality, public works, technology, and so on. Instead of using that book, I want these assignment to force students to go out and explore campus and local community with an eye toward history. My hope is that the assignment with accomplish two things. First, since these are all newly admitted first years, it will encourage them to explore and become more familiar with the campus. Second, it will help them see that there is a lot of history at Purdue and in the surrounding area.

I’m still trying to decide exactly how to structure the assignment. I kind of want to leave it open-ended, and simply have each student take a photo of something historical each week and write a paragraph about the item that explains what it is, a little bit of its history, and connects it to something they’ve learned in class. The connecting it to class requirement will be the most challenging, but I’m often surprised by the connections students make on their own.

I already have a few ideas of things they might photograph. We’ve got a handful of old buildings and New Deal projects, several statues, and some plaques strewn across campus. These include people like our namesake John Purdue, Neil Armstrong, John Wooden, and Amelia Earhart. There is also a Louis Sullivan jewel box bank a couple of block from campus and other areas of campus that have markers, such as Freedom Square outside of our Armory and the Memorial Union. I don’t expect too many students to venture out to the Tippecanoe Battlefield or across the Wabash River to Lafayette.

The trick will be getting students to search for history beyond some of these obvious items. I am thinking of giving a bonus point for the most creative or unique items each week because I am worried that I might get 45 submissions of the same thing. I may also require that their weekly photo roughly correspond with the time frame we are covering that week. Hopefully, this will ensure that they are thinking historically and can make a class connection. I’ve never done an assignment quite like this before, but I think the Summer Start program offers the perfect opportunity and that it helps aid the adjustment to college mission. I’m hoping that by learning about the campus will help them connect with Purdue and feel more welcome here.

There you have it — the basic overview of what I plan to do in my 5-week Summer Start course and a few of the assignments I’m planning to try out. I’ll post the syllabus on my Teaching page when I have it down. Until then, if you have suggestions of films to show or how to improve my campus history activity, I would love to hear them! 

The President’s Council for Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition: Some History and Context

OK, so Trump finally named people to be on his President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. This is something I sort of study and I don’t really understand why people are making a big deal out of his choices (we can talk about policy when we see it). I swear that some people just want to complain to complain. In this post I want to add some history and context to his choices to show how they are fairly normal.

Nearly all of the Council’s past chairs have been famous athletes or coaches. The Council has long used celebrities as ambassadors of fitness. To my knowledge, few since Bud Wilkinson have played a major role in policy development.

For education sake, here is a list of all of the chair/co-chairs in the council’s history. Note the council has changed names a few times. I’ve put notes in parentheses to identify the person’s career, which I think highlights just how normal’s Trump’s picks are. These might be among the most normal thing he’s done while in office.

President’s Council on Youth Fitness
Eisenhower’s Chair: Richard M. Nixon, 1956-1961 (sitting Vice President)

President’s Council on Physical Fitness
Charles (Bud) Wilkinson, 1961 – 1963 (active college football Coach)

President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
Johnson’s Chair: Stan Musial, 1964 – 1967 (Retired MLB Player)
Johnson’s Chair: Hubert H. Humphrey, 1967 (sitting Vice President)
Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter’s Chair: James A. Lovell, 1967 – 1977 (Astronaut)
Carter’s Chair: Jerry Apodaca, 1978 – 1980 (Governor of NM)
Carter’s Chair: Al McGuire, 1980 – 1981 (Retired college basketball Coach)
Reagan’s Chair: George Allen, 1981 – 1988 (Retired NFL Coach)
Reagan’s Chair: Richard Kazmaier, 1988 – 1989 (former college football player, 1951 Heisman)
Bush’s Chair: Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1990 – 1992 (former body builder and actor)
Clinton’s Co-Chair: Florence Griffith Joyner, 1993 – 1998 (former Olympian)
Clinton’s Co-Chair: Tom McMillen, 1993 – 1997 (former college basketball and NBA Player, retired Congressman from MD)
Clinton and Bush’s Chair: Lee Haney,1999 – 2002 (former body builder)
Bush’s Chair: Lynn C. Swann, 2002 – 2005 (former college football and NFL player)
Bush’s Chair: John P. Burke, 2005 – 2009 (CEO of Trek)

President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition
Obama’s Co-chair: Drew Brees, September 2010 – January 2017 (active NFL Player)
Obama’s Co-chair: Dominique Dawes, September 2010 – January 2017 (former Olympian)

President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition
Trump’s Co-chair: Mariano Rivera, 2018-present (retired MLB player)
Trump’s Co-chair: Misty May-Treanor, 2018-present (former Olympian)
Trump’s Co-chair: Herschel Walker, 2018-present (1980 Heisman, retired NFL player)

I think Trump’s renaming of the council is interesting. The only change is a reordering of the words Obama used. While it may be a simple error in transcribing the old name, it could also signal a shift in priorities that emphasizes sports and competition over general fitness. Trump has clearly wanted to put is own stamp on things a president. Subtle as it may be, there are implicit ideological battles at play in a covert culture war over the proper ratio of masculinity, toughness, and discipline in sport versus fitness in our present discourse. Football and yoga are not on the same plane.

I’m working on a more in-depth piece that looks at the history and use of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. While I do think Trump is largely following tradition in appointing celebrity athletes and coaches, there are certainly some questionable figures. Deadspin has a nice break down identifying who’s who on the new council.

By my count there are 7 former athletes and an NFL coach. At least four people have connections to The Apprentice, including an NBC ad buyer. A couple are executives of weight loss, supplement, or fitness products. There a few doctors too, including renown TV quack Dr. Oz. There is also a handful of folks with political connections to Trump or the GOP. One hosted a fundraiser for him at his health club, another served as Romney’s finance director in 2008, and there’s also a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Most previous councils had a mix of celebrity athletes, doctors, politicians, and people from the fitness industry. This document lists the members of each council from Eisenhower through George W. Bush. Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson’s councils relied more on other cabinet members and political figures. Starting with Nixon, the Council took on a different look. He included people such as ABC Sports Executive Roone Arledge, Purdue University President Frederick Hovde, former Olympic Diver Sammy Lee, former Yankee Bobby Richardson, and former Miss America, Judi Ford. Presidents Ford and Carter kept astronaut James Lovell as their council chair as well as some of the same members (Sammy Lee served under all three). Carter also added diversity to his President’s Council, including Hank Aaron, Billy Mills, and Dorothy Hamill. Like Trump, Carter also included business executives, doctors, and TV hosts — but it is unclear if they had the same sort of crony personal connections. 

Sports celebrities, whether former coaches, TV announcers, or retired professional or Olympic athletes remained a mainstay of each council and many council members served for multiple presidents. Sports figures dominated appointments, though Bill Clinton did include Tae Bo spokesman Billy Blanks on his council. Obama further broadened his council, including the addition of nutrition to its name. Among the people he appointed in 2014 were ballerina Misty Copeland, TV cooking show host Rachel Ray, and openly gay former basketball player Jason Collins. His council coordinated with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and efforts to improve the quality of school lunches.

While this hastily assembled post offers only a brief discussion and overview of the council’s membership and history (I hope to offer a bit more depth at another time and perhaps in another venue), I think it shows that Trump’s council doesn’t differ that drastically from previous iterations. As I said at the beginning of this post, there’s not too many reasons to be up-in-arms about the appointments when we look at them in context.

Of course, composition is only a minor thing, especially since most appointments are only for two years at a time. The policies and programming that Trump’s council pursues will certainly provide fodder for deeper analysis. Will Trump push the council to emphasis sports and competition imbued with masculine overtones that drown out and downplay previous efforts that focus on fitness, wellness, and nutrition as too universal and weak? Or will the questionable science and practices of figures like Dr. Oz, Matthew Hesse’s Ab-Cuts, and Chris Tisi’s SlimFast come to characterize the council and steer it towards promoting suspect health and wellness practices?

These are certainly causes for concern. And while I agree with historian Natalia Mehlman Petrzela that presidential health matters because it signals the importance of wellness to the American people, my somewhat rudimentary reading of the President’s Council’s history suggests that it generally focuses more on marketing-type advocacy rather than dictating policy. The Obamas changed that a bit, and so much of their advocacy likely will be reversed as Trump continues to create a stark contrast between him and his predecessor, but my gut says his pushback isn’t as drastic as it has been in other areas. In short, I don’t think these choices will make American any less healthy than the terrible policies Trump has already enacted. What they might do is effect the culture of health and fitness. Only time will tell, but certainly we are seeing how sports and fitness continue to be a central (and often overlooked) part of the culture wars.

My 2017 in Pictures

Things I did in 2017

Here is a list of things I did in 2017 in no particular order:


The Window Has Closed

Congrats to the Cleveland base ballers for their MLB record 22nd consecutive win. I’m enjoying the streak and the attention it is bringing baseball, showcasing how fun a sport it is. Yet, it was a bit disheartening that tonight’s win came against my Royals. Recall that the 2002 Oakland A’s won their 20th consecutive game against Kansas City, which is the last time I team has compiled a streak this long.

Cleveland’s late-inning rally was a sad reminder of how quickly things change. Our once unhittable bullpen, clutch hitting, and fleet and slick fielding defense has vanished. Tonights loss was reminiscent of those early 2000s teams, where the clutch hits never came, balls seemed to always jump out of our fielders’ gloves, and you could never rely on the bullpen. The window has closed.

To be sure, it was a spectacular ride. The Royals played in 2 World Series, winning won while losing the other in seven games. We redefined bullpen play with our Cyborgs, and brought back highlight reel defense and speed, energizing a new generation of baseball fans. You can’t win every year — and the Cubs have recently proven that you can’t lose every year either — but competitive windows are fleeting. Ours is close.

Rebuilding is a precarious project. You have to Trust the Process, hold on to hope, and believe that eventually it will pay off. The Royals brief window and incredible success the past few years has shown me that it does. Let’s hope I won’t have to wait so long this time because I’m not sure if I will be as patient.


Note: Today I successfully defended my dissertation. Because few people will ever see or read the acknowledgements section of my dissertation, I am posting it here. Thank you to everyone for your support and friendship during this process. I could not have done it without you.

I never felt more alone than while writing this dissertation. It was the single most challenging thing that I have ever done. It tested my patience, focus, endurance, and commitment on a daily basis. I would not have survived this process without the invaluable help, encouragement, and assistance of dozens of people. Thank god it is over.

Crucial to this project’s completion was my advisor, Randy Roberts, who is the reason I chose to attend Purdue University. He inspired me with his work ethic and compassion, making me a better teacher and writer while setting an example impossible to match. Randy helped me navigate Purdue, providing unwavering support, challenging me when I needed it, giving me time and space to struggle, and shaping me into the scholar I am today. Being one of his students means joining an impressive fraternity of scholars and sport historians, who support each other. I never realized the extent of this network until I attended the North American Society for Sport History convention in 2016. There I heard firsthand the reverence for Randy and the work of his students in shaping the field of sport history. This is an intimidating legacy; one that I am embarrassed that I let scare me for so long. I accept that this dissertation would have been better had I followed more of his advice.

My committee members also helped prod me along. Kathryn Cramer Brownell challenged me to think big and encouraged me to make this project about more than football. Her suggestions were pivotal in refining many of my ideas and helping me broaden my analysis. Katie bought into my vision, read drafts of several chapters, and pushed me to explicitly engage with historiographic conversations. Beyond the dissertation, she introduced me to dozens of scholars and helped me locate myself within the profession. Michael Morrison, who sadly passed away before my defense, was always supportive. He offered me feedback and advised me that I did not need to include every detail of every peripheral story in each chapter (sometimes I did anyways). Mike also indulged my love of baseball and sent me thoughtful and encouraging notes during the Royals spectacular 2014 and 2015 postseasons. This dissertation would have been about college football during the Great Depression, if not for Johnny Smith. He is a testament to the fraternity of sport historians trained by Randy. Johnny took interest in my work and generously redirected my research, suggesting that I explore Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma dynasty. Although I am certain that the end result is not what he had in mind, I would not have undertaken this project without him. He badgered me to keep writing (and warned me not to jinx his Spartans on Twitter), knowing all too well that there are distractions everywhere. David Atkinson agreed to join the committee at the end, unsure of what he might contribute. I thank him for his advice about how to analyze Cold War puns, and warmness as a faculty member, who showed interest in my work before being required to.

My master’s advisor, Dick Davies, never stopped advising me. Early on during my time at Nevada, he targeted Randy and Purdue as the next step for my career. He taught me to think strategically about my career and provided me countless opportunities to develop professionally. Once I started writing, he instinctually sent me encouraging emails and offered feedback on the bits and pieces of chapters I published as blog posts. I would not be the scholar I am today without Dick Davies. I’m so fortunate to have him as a mentor and a friend.

Beyond my committee, I have had the pleasure of learning from remarkably talented faculty members at every institution I have attended. At Purdue, I am thankful for the personal conversations and insightful courses with Tithi Battacharya, Cornelius Bynum, Jim Farr, Nancy Gabin, Kim Gallon, Will Gray, Doug Hurt, Caroline Janney, Wendy Kline, John Larson, Venetria Patton, Yvonne Pitts, and Ronald Stephens. I also want to thank Fay Chan, Rebecca Gwin, and Julie Knoeller for all of their help navigating the red tape. At Nevada, Greta de Jong, Hugh Shapiro and Barbara Walker introduced me to ideas that have stuck with me. Even though we have all moved on to other places, Scott Casper, Eleanor Nevins, Bill Rowley, and Tom Smith were also important mentors during my time at Nevada. The influence of Alicia Barber in this work is impossible to miss. She inspired me with her work and continues to be a role model as I develop as a public and digital historian. My undergraduate training and my first foray into graduate work occurred at Baker University, where I also coached track and worked in the archives. It was truly a transformational experience that prepared me for success as a professional historian. Karen Exon spearheaded it all. John Richards helped. Bruce Anderson offered important mentoring and friendship. Anne Daugherty and Gwyn Mellinger taught me how to take the next step as an academic. The late Brenda Day and Harold Kolling offered countless hours of mentoring and encouragement while I worked in the Baker archives. Without Brenda’s faith in my ability and my future, I would never have chosen to pursue graduate school. She knew I could do it before I did.

Several members of the graduate community at Purdue made my life less miserable. They were there to chat, drink, and indulge my sporting obsessions. They best of them did all three. I especially want to acknowledge, A.W. Bell, Wes Bishop, Trevor Burrows, David Cambron, Mauricio Castro, Suparna Chakraborty, Alex Dessens, David Graham, Ed Gray, Padraig Lawlor, Dane Lawson, Tim Lombardo, Mark Otto, Jeff Perry, Max Rieger, Keenan Shimko, Andrew Smith, Erika Smith, Beca Venter, and Brandon Ward. Thanks for keeping me sane.

One of the best and worst decisions I made while writing my dissertation was to launch the “Sport in American History” group blog. Most of the chapters in this dissertation began as blog posts there, where I felt shame for not writing or meeting my commitments more than anywhere else. In time, the blog became a burden and an escape, a catalyst of ideas, friendships, and productivity. Cat Ariail, Russ Crawford, Josh Howard, Andy Linden, and Lindsay Pieper helped ease that burden and have become supportive colleagues and friends. So too have dozens of my other fellow bloggers, particularly those at the “U.S. Intellectual History” blog. I am grateful for Twitter conversations and friendships with Robert Greene II, Devin Hunter, Paul Putz, and many others. Thank you for being there.

Librarians are wizards. Interlibrary Loan at Purdue University did an excellent job of acquiring far off treasures for me. The Western History Collection at the University of Oklahoma fueled most of this project, and the folks there were friendly and helpful. The same is true of the people at the Carl Albert Congressional Research Center. Early in my research, Randy and I took a trip to the Joyce Sports Research Collection at the University of Notre Dame, where George Rugg treated us like VIPs. The NCAA was the least helpful of my research trips. They failed to return my emails, and when I showed up, barely let me in. They must be hiding something.

I also want to thank the Department of History and the African American Studies and Research Center at Purdue University for paying me. Being a teaching assistant and instructor was by far the most enjoyable part of my time at Purdue. I loved my students and hope they learned something in my classes. Besides my stipend, I am thankful to the Department of History for the Harold Woodman Research Award that teamed with a Purdue Graduate School Summer Research Grant funded a summer in Norman, OK to complete the bulk of my research. I want to thank Geri and Linda who provided me with an affordable and convenient AirBnB accommodation in Norman. I am particularly thankful for their interest in my research and sharing with me their knowledge as Sooners fans. I also received two College of Liberal Arts PROMISE Awards to present research related to my dissertation and engage in fruitful conversations with colleagues at conferences.

Countless friends and family members have supported me and listened to me talk about the 1950s, Oklahoma, and college football. I am lucky that sport history makes for good bar conversation or this would have been an even lonelier existence. Thanks to Eric Brady, Rhett Buwalda, Jesse Corbett, Drew Davis, Joe Wenig, and Mike Zelaznik. I also want to thank Paul Boone, Peter Kopp, Travis Lacy, Amy O’Brien, Ethan Opdahl, Sarah Roberts, Travis Ross, Marysa Stevens, and Edan Strekal, who have remained friends long after I left Reno. I am grateful to several friends back in Kansas, which I still consider home, Matt and Emily Baysinger, Paul Hefferon, Tom Niermann, Torre Norton, and Zac Towns. There are many others across the country, especially Billy and Patricia Mills and Sagar Sane, who have had a hand in helping me on this journey. I am blessed to have such great friends.

I come from a long line of teachers and scholars, though none were historians. My Great Grandmother earned a master’s degree. So too did both of my grandfathers. Several of my aunts and uncles have graduate degrees as well. This lineage has provided me with an immense amount of privilege as well as social support. Spending over a decade in college is not normal to most people nor is it cheap. I’m lucky to have a family that somewhat understands my career path. I especially want to thank my Grandmother, Donna Swank, for always offering me a place to stay in Kansas City whenever I travel. My aunt and uncle, Laura and Todd Harper offered guidance as people who have gone through the PhD process and landed on the other side. My parents have also been patient and generous during my education.

More than anyone else my brother, Malcolm, has been an unceasing advocate, soundboard, and counselor throughout my time at Purdue. I could not have conceived of nor executed this project without his advice and willingness to not just listen but offer substantial suggestions and critiques that have improved my work. This started during his time at the University of Virginia, where I helped him matriculate into the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. We shared books and reading lists, and then had long phone conversations fleshing out arguments and conceptualizing our own work. More than anyone else, Malcolm has been instrumental in helping me craft this dissertation. He has also been pivotal in helping me stay sane. My time at Purdue has been the most physically and emotionally unhealthy experience of my life. I relied on Malcolm to help me get through these past six years. He listened to my rants, counseled me through the periods when I debated quitting, and never thought less of me.

Finally, I must acknowledge my best friend, Brutus. Living with a graduate student cannot be easy, especially one who finds it nearly impossible to stick to a normal sleep schedule. Dogs intuitively perceive and react to their people, and he has improved my life immeasurably with his well-timed nurturing. He has been an incredibly loving, sweet, and tolerant companion. I hope I have been as good to him as he has to me.