Albert Aldinger and Football at the
Bloomsburg State Normal School


Robert Dunkelberger
Bloomsburg University Archivist and Historian

Coach Albert Aldinger in 1894

What is now Bloomsburg University began as an academy in 1839 and became a normal school in 1869, but it was in 1892 when football made its initial appearance. The first coach was Warren H. Detwiler, who came to the Bloomsburg State Normal School in the spring of 1892 after having graduated from Haverford College where he earned honors in history and political science, and most importantly, was captain of the football team. Upon graduation he was hired in May of 1892 to teach history and civics.

When it was decided to organize a football team during the fall term of 1892 Prof. Detwiler was the man for the job. He had more playing experience than anyone else and the only uniform. After six weeks of practice the first game in school history was finally played on October 22 at the Bloomsburg town Athletic Park against the Wilkes-Barre Academy. The Normal team played hard but was inexperienced, and lost 26-0 with Detwiler starting at right halfback. It was on November 5 that the first victory in school history was achieved, a 24-0 triumph over a town team from Nanticoke, once again at home. Interest in the game gradually grew and more people continued to turn out as the team completed its inaugural season with a record of 2-1-1.

In 1893 Bloomsburg was only 2-4, but late in 1893 one of the most important developments in the history of athletics at the school occurred with the hiring of Albert Kurwin Aldinger as Director of Physical Education. He was born on the 4th of July in 1873 in York, Pennsylvania and headed YMCAs in West Philadelphia and Oil City before coming to Bloomsburg. In addition to his general duties in teaching physical education, Aldinger coached and played football and baseball, and started the school's basketball program.

Professors Aldinger and Detwiler both played and coached the team at the beginning of the 1894 season, but by the last half of the year Aldinger was in charge as coach and captain while contributing at left halfback.

Normal won five of the eight games played, outscoring the opposition by over 100 points. Two of the three losses were to a prep school in Kingston, Pennsylvania, the Wyoming Seminary. It became Bloomsburg's greatest rival and the two schools fought in many fierce contests over a 36-year period. Unfortunately the Normal team won only six of the 32 games that would be played between them.

 The first touchdown scored in the 1895 season
Left tackle E.H. Harrar was rushed over the goal line

The 1895 football team opened the season on September 28 with a 14-0 victory at the Athletic Park over a team from Berwick. The newness of football as a sport in the area was reflected by the fact that a rematch with Berwick was scheduled to be played on October 12 as just another event at the Bloomsburg Fair. The game was to have been held on the track in the Fairgrounds, but it was canceled the day before when it was decided that the narrowness of the track would have limited what could be done only to smashes straight into the line. As the Bloomsburg Daily newspaper said, play like that merely 'shows up the rougher side of football and fails to show the beauty of it.'

Normal won its first three games, but the rest of the season the team did not fare as well, losing three of the final four, including two more to the Wyoming Seminary. The roughness of this early version of football spared no one from injury, not even the coach. Prof. Aldinger started at quarterback, halfback, and fullback in 1895, and was forced out of two games due to injury, and in 1894 suffered a broken nose.

In 1896 the season started a week later than had been intended when the opening opponent, the Wilkes-Barre YMCA, decided not to show up. This did not occur very often, but demonstrated the unreliability of football in the early years. When the YMCA finally did appear a month later it lost 30-0. The first game was actually played on October 3 versus Susquehanna University on the Normal Field, and the advertisement in the local paper practically guaranteed the team from Selinsgrove would show up. They probably wish they hadn't as Bloomsburg won 22-0.

Two games were again played this season with the Wyoming Seminary, but neither was completed. In the first contest Normal's star back William Worthington was hurt late in the game and Bloomsburg left the field, so it ended in a 0-0 tie in Kingston. In the return match two weeks later in Bloomsburg only nine minutes were played before the Seminary team quit the game.

While the 1896 season was the most successful one thus far for Bloomsburg with a record of 4-2-1, 1897 was something of a disappointment as Normal lost four of the seven games played. The main reason was an extremely difficult schedule, as Bloomsburg played and lost games to Lafayette, the Carlisle Indians, Bucknell, and Penn State. The quarterback this year was Harry Aldinger, who came to Bloomsburg to play for his brother. The game with Bucknell was a close 6-0 loss, and the defeat by Penn State was by a 10-0 count. This marked a trend that Bloomsburg was to follow in these early years. They could defeat almost every team at or below their level with the general exception of the Wyoming Seminary, but could not extend this success to the college teams they played. Most of those teams were given a run for their money in some very tight contests, but Normal was never able to come out on top.

The 1898 season was one that started with promise, but did not turn out the way that Bloomsburg fans had hoped. The season began with two losses, and then after a number of cancellations only one further game was played until a November 19 contest versus the Wyoming Seminary. It was played in a drizzling rain, and Bloomsburg scored the only touchdown in a 6-0 victory. This would be the first of only two wins that Normal would ever have over Wyoming on the enemy's gridiron, and proved to be Bloomsburg's last official football contest for nearly three years. 
The 1897 team from the Carlisle Indian School

The manager of the team, mathematics professor William B. Sutliff, had become frustrated with trying to schedule games, and the B.S.N.S. Quarterly speculated in December 1898, that there would be no team in 1899. This was confirmed in a letter dated October 14, 1899, to Principal Judson P. Welsh from Sutliff.  He stated that due to the cancellation of a number of games the previous season, and the fact that colleges would not schedule them at all or wanted to wait until after the season had started to see how good a team Bloomsburg had, there was no point in trying to create a schedule or field a team.  Sutliff basically felt that colleges did not want to play a school as good as Bloomsburg for fear of losing. Because of this reluctance there would be no more official football at B.S.N.S. until 1901.

In the interim Prof. Aldinger coached basketball and baseball, and earned a medical degree from the University of Vermont in 1899 to become Dr. Aldinger. A number of former players competed on football teams at other institutions, including Dickinson, Haverford, Lehigh, Ursinus, and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as several YMCA squads.

When football did resume in the fall of 1901 close to 30 men came out for the team. They were determined and enthusiastic, but mostly inexperienced. It did not take Aldinger long to whip the players into shape, however, as Bloomsburg won seven of the ten games played, with the only losses being on the road versus Susquehanna University and, of course, the Wyoming Seminary.

Illustration from the BSNS Alumni Quarterly
October 1901

Several games were canceled this year as well, including one on November 2 with the Hazleton Athletic Club at Hazleton. The newspaper there speculated that the school principal had confined the Normal team to campus as punishment for acts committed on Halloween. The Bloomsburg newspaper reported a very quiet evening in terms of vandalism, but the Normal School faculty minutes of November 12, 1901, reveal a different story. They said that a communication signed by 15 students who were engaged in the 'fracas' of October 31 was received, petitioning for the reinstatement of three students who had been suspended on November 2, one of whom, Albert Newton, was on the football team. A motion tabled from the previous meeting on November 6 to allow them back by December 1 was amended, and all three were reinstated at once. No further information has currently been found to reveal what actually happened, but it was not the last time that games would be canceled because of student misbehavior. Principal David Waller called off the final two games of the 1909 season. Although this type of punishment seems severe today, it was in an era when male and female students were reprimanded simply for talking together anywhere other than the school grounds.

In 1902 close to 40 men came out for football, giving Dr. Aldinger a surplus of talent to work with. This season saw the introduction of several modern innovations in football to Bloomsburg's method of operation. The first of these was in early October when the manager announced that a training table would be started to feed the team, an announcement that was met with great joy among the squad members. In anticipation of the food they would receive on Monday, they went out two days beforehand and buried St. Thomas College, now the University of Scranton, 58-0.  Bloomsburg won three of the next five games before it once again prepared to face the dreaded rivals from the Wyoming Seminary. For this game Dr. Aldinger did everything possible to win, even instituting secret practices for the purpose of developing new plays.
This season and this game in particular seemed to mark a defining moment in the maturation of the football program, and the introduction of many aspects of the game of football that have since been taken for granted. In anticipation of the game with Wyoming, students were elected to use megaphones to lead the crowd in songs and yells. The main cheer consisted primarily of "Ra! Ra! Ra! Tiger Normal!" This year was also the first time that school colors were mentioned at Bloomsburg football games, although writers at the time couldn't decide what they actually were. The B.S.N.S. Quarterly mentioned lemon and garnet, while earlier in the season for the Pennsylvania game the newspaper called them yellow and maroon. But regardless of the shade, the Normal team was determined to win, and scored a touchdown in each half for a 12-0 victory, the first time Bloomsburg had ever beaten the Seminary on Normal Field. Neither team used a substitute as every player played the full 50 minutes. A huge bonfire celebrated the victory, another tradition that went on for many years.

Not only was this a great win for Bloomsburg, it marked the beginning of the possibly greatest stretch of football in school history. From that victory through the first contest of the 1905 season the team played 21 games, during which time its record was 18-2-1 with 19 shutouts. The only team to score on and defeat Bloomsburg during this time was Lafayette College, which won 29-0 in 1903 and 33-0 in 1904. No one else could cross the Normal goal line. In 1903 Bloomsburg went 6-1-1, and ran up victories of 55-0 over the Dickinson Seminary of Williamsport, now Lycoming College, and 35-0 over Lebanon Valley College on Thanksgiving. The only other blemish on the record was a 0-0 tie with the Wyoming Seminary in Kingston.

Dr. Aldinger once again tried using secret practices to prepare for games, even posting guards to keep spies away. He also decided to practice indoors when the weather was bad, utilizing the gym for limited workouts and individualized instruction. A large pep rally was held in the school auditorium the night before the Wyoming game, and 125 students took the train up to Kingston to root on Normal.

The most exciting moment in that 0-0 tie was when the coach of Wyoming put himself into the game to replace an injured player, and Dr. Aldinger came in to play quarterback for Bloomsburg. It was the first time in five years he had played in a game, and would mark the last time he would ever play football for Normal. He did, however, continue to play baseball. The crowd cheered wildly when the coaches came in, and the police had trouble keeping back everyone who wanted a better view. It was an exciting moment in an intense but otherwise uneventful game.

The 1904 team continued the success of the previous year. Bloomsburg won eight of the nine games played, and shut out every opponent with the exception of Lafayette. A school record was set in a 67-0 win over a team from Shickshinny, a score that would not be surpassed until a 92-0 thrashing of Northumberland High School in 1912. But the most impressive victory of all was a 28-0 triumph over the Wyoming Seminary, the most points and biggest margin of victory Bloomsburg would ever have over Wyoming, even though they continued to play them for 25 more years. The excitement leading up to that game was something that had never been seen before in Bloomsburg. New songs and cheers were devised, both schools brought along bands, and 200 fans came from Kingston on a special train.

The 28-0 win was truly a high point for Bloomsburg and one it would take them many years to equal. The football team would not reach eight victories again for 44 years, not until Robert Redman's second year and the first undefeated team in school history in 1948 when the Huskies went 9-0. The 1904 season was the crowning achievement of Albert Aldinger's tenure as head coach, and guaranteed his status as one of Bloomsburg's best and most successful coaches.

The 1905 season opened well with a 22-0 victory over Wilkes-Barre High School, but this was not the same Bloomsburg team. The extraordinary 21 game streak came to an end on October 7 in a 6-5 loss to Williamsport High School, and Normal split the remaining six games to finish at 4-4. The final game of the year was an 8-0 loss to Wyoming, and proved to be Dr. Aldinger's finale as head football coach at Bloomsburg. He resigned his position on January 15, 1906, to teach physical education in the New York City school system, and he ended his career as football coach with an overall record of 50-25-3. He held the record for most victories in school history for over 90 years until he was passed by Danny Hale in 1999.

There was no team in the fall of 1906, and when football did return in 1907 it was not quite the same. Bloomsburg's teams would not be able to match the consistent level of success of the early years until Robert Redman's post-World War II triumphs when he went 38-4 from 1947 to 1951. But the early days of football at Bloomsburg were ones of great excitement, and no one had more to do with it than Albert Aldinger. In 1952 Dr. Aldinger, who received a degree from Bloomsburg in 1904, was presented with the Meritorious Service Award from the Alumni Association for all of his accomplishments. Even though he died over 40 years ago in 1957 he should always be remembered as the founder of modern athletics at Bloomsburg, and one of the greatest coaches in its long and memorable football history.

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Updated 1/23/07