The Early Years

Robert Dunkelberger
Bloomsburg University Archivist

The First Football Team, 1892

The story of football at Bloomsburg begins with the organization of the first team in 1892 by Prof. Warren H. Detwiler. He had been captain of the Haverford College team for two years and wanted to continue his playing days at Bloomsburg. Prof. Detwiler came from Montgomery County, PA, and graduated from the West Chester State Normal School in 1887 and Haverford in 1892. In May of that year he was hired at the Bloomsburg State Normal School as head of the Department of History and Political Economy. But the one thing he will be remembered for is as founder of the football team.

The first team was organized to begin practice at the start of the fall term in September, 1892. Uniforms were ordered, and twenty-two players began practicing at the town Athletic Park. The first game in Bloomsburg history was played on October 22, 1892, at home against a team from the city of Wilkes-Barre. They were much more experienced, and this showed in the final score of 26-0 in their favor. Prof. Detwiler started for Bloomsburg as the right halfback, which was legal in those days as there were no rules on player eligibility.

It took two weeks, but after a tie with the Bucknell Academy Bloomsburg earned the first victory in school history at home on November 5 against a team from Nanticoke by a score of 24-0. The season concluded on Thanksgiving Day with a second victory, this time 14-2 over a Northumberland team. Prof. Detwiler and his players finished their inaugural campaign with a winning record of 2-1-1.

Although his second season as a coach was not as successful, Bloomsburg did begin one longtime rivalry. In the opening game on October 7, 1893, they journeyed to Kingston for the first road contest in school history against the Wyoming Seminary, a Methodist school. They might as well of stayed home since they were routed 52-0, but it did begin a fierce rivalry that lasted until 1929. This was the most anticipated game every year by both schools, even though it eventually became very one-sided. From 1898-1915 the teams divided the games 6-6-1, but overall Wyoming held a decided 23-6-3 advantage.

Prof. Warren H. Detwiler
Football coach, 1892-1893

Bloomsburg also played the Missionary Institute (now Susquehanna University), the Bucknell Academy, and the Pioneer Football Club of Hazleton, but could only win two of the six games, even with Prof. Detwiler at fullback. It was in 1894, however, that Bloomsburg athletics received its biggest boost with the hiring of Albert K. Aldinger as Director of Gymnasium.

During the 1894 season he and Prof. Detwiler shared coaching duties and time as captain, although Dr. Aldinger finished the year in control of the team. Prof. Detwiler resigned as captain midway through the season and did not play again for Bloomsburg. He was the team's manager in 1896 and 1897, and also worked games as a referee, umpire, and linesman before leaving the school in August, 1901. Before his departure from Bloomsburg Prof. Detwiler also served as the school's librarian, a different sort of occupation from that of most head football coaches.

Dr. Aldinger, as he would be called after receiving a medical degree from the University of Vermont in 1899, was born on the 4th of July, 1873, in York, PA. He attended the York Collegiate Institute and worked at Y.M.C.A.s in Philadelphia and Oil City, PA, before coming here to teach physical education. He held the football coaching record at Bloomsburg for the most seasons coached at ten and the most victories with 50, but both records have long since been broken by Danny Hale.

The 1897 Bloomsburg State Normal School team
Dr. Aldinger is in the top row, far right


Dr. Aldinger enjoyed immediate success at Bloomsburg, directing the football program to winning seasons his first three years and a record of 13-8-1. He also contributed on the field as well, playing end, fullback, halfback, and quarterback. This duty could be hazardous, which was shown when he suffered a broken nose in a game in 1894 and was forced to leave two games the following year due to injury.

In 1897, however, Bloomsburg won only three of the seven games played. But this season deserves some attention because it was one of the most difficult schedules in school history. Dr. Aldinger did not play this year, but the family was well represented with his brother Harry at quarterback.

The season began with Lafayette College coming to town on September 27. Although Bloomsburg lost 14-0, it was a great tribute to our defense to hold them to that score, since their record the previous season had been 11-0-1, and in 1897 they finished 9-2-1.  Normal, as the press often called them, rebounded later that week with a 12-0 victory over the Berwick YMCA, and then hosted one of the more renowned teams from the turn of the century, the squad from the Carlisle Indian School. They came to Bloomsburg on October 9, and even though the home team lost 26-0 the crowd was still pleased by a well-played, gentlemanly game.

Bloomsburg returned the favor the next game by routing the YMCA team from Mt. Carmel by a score of 48-0. Harry Aldinger did fine work at quarterback, and the Normal defense limited Mt. Carmel to only one first down. But Bloomsburg could not sustain their momentum as they went to Lewisburg on October 20 for their first road game of the year and lost to Bucknell 6-0.
Members of the crowd at the October 20, 1897 game
with Bucknell University in Lewisburg

The final home game on Nov. 6 was against the reserve team from the University of Pennsylvania, and Bloomsburg evened their record at 3-3 by winning 13-0. The game started at 3:10, and in a situation that would never happen today the second half was greatly shortened so that the Junior Quakers could catch the 4:17 train back to Philadelphia.  The season concluded with a trip to State College and the only meeting ever between Bloomsburg and Penn State in football. The Normal boys played an excellent game against the college team but lost 10-0. There was talk of playing again, but all further games between the two schools were limited to Penn State's reserve and freshmen teams.

Every game this year ended in a shutout, and although Bloomsburg had a losing record of 3-4 they did outscore the opposition 73-56. The Bloomsburg State Normal School Quarterly called it one of the most successful seasons of football Normal has ever had. Although this was somewhat overstated, considering the level of their competition the team of 1897 had a very credible showing.

Dr. Aldinger went on to coach Bloomsburg's football team for six more seasons through 1905, not leaving until January, 1906, to go to New York City to teach physical education in the city schools. He stayed there for twenty years before joining the faculty at the University of Vermont as Head of the Physical Education Department. After three and a half years there he returned to New York, where he stayed until his retirement in 1946. 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 nearly 50 years ago in October, 1957, Dr. Aldinger 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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