This article originally appeared in the Spring 2019 edition of Centrepiece.
Still reveling in the Praying Colonels’ unexpected 6-0 victory over Harvard in 1921, the College made plans in 1923 for a new stadium with concrete stands to line either side of a new football field. The project required 18,000 barrels of cement, each costing $3.15, and enthusiastic supporters from across the state—and the nation—quickly signed up.
Morris Farris Jr.-1915 and his father, both prominent Danville bankers with Citizens National Bank, bought Section 5 of the new stadium for about $550 according to an article in the Kentucky Advocate. When the stadium was dedicated on Nov. 3, 1923, 15,000 fans sat in a driving rain to watch Centre outplay the University of Kentucky, 10-0.
Morris Farris Jr. died unexpectedly in 1934 at the age of 40. He left a bequest of $25,000 (about half a million today) specifically to improve the football field and stadium with the provision that the still-unnamed stadium be named Farris Stadium. He left another $100,000 to the College as well, which the Board of Trustees decided to use as an endowment for stadium maintenance.
“The work on the stadium would furnish funds to employ a number of students, thus enabling them to pay their tuition,” noted the board minutes of Oct. 22, 1933.
The Danville Messenger praised the 1936 stadium improvements.
“When football enthusiasts enter Farris Stadium for the first home game of the Centre Colonels, to be played with Transylvania College on October 10, they will see a resplendent grandstand structure in new and modern dress,” said a story in the Aug. 13, 1936, Daily Messenger.
Centre won, 12-0, but the glory days of Centre’s gridiron prowess being able to fill 12,000 seats were coming to a close. In 1946, the board reported a de-emphasis on intercollegiate sports.
“No athletic scholarships will be given,” said the March 1946 board minutes. “Worthy students who need assistance will be given the same within the limits of the college budget regardless of whether they play ball or not . . . Games [will be] scheduled with institutions like our own who conduct their athletics on this basis.”
by Diane Johnson
April 19, 2019