LSU Honors the Silent Season
Olivia Beasley, Grace Cole, Alyssa Helak, Luke Robichaux
1918 was the peak of American involvement in World War One. During that year, many college students in the United States left school to fight in the war. Louisiana State University was no exception in sending students overseas. Because many men left school, there was no football season in 1918. This is known as the Silent Season. One-hundred years later, LSU paid tribute to this Silent Season in a football game against Mississippi State. In 2018, LSU rededicated the Memorial Oak Grove to the conclusion of World War One. The uniforms dedicated to the Silent Season are filled with futuristic technology while still paying respect to the past.
LSU was known as a “Seminary of Learning and Military” throughout its first 100 years of operation. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, LSU closed campus multiple times because of war (History of LSU). These chaotic and tumultuous times in the United States “played some part in the erosion of behavior among the young men of the South” (Price). Therefore, creating a military school was seen as a remedy for young men’s rowdy behavior. The Ole War Skule was not necessarily invented to create soldiers, but rather to teach men to be law-abiding, well behaved, and independent citizens (A History of Ole War Skule). In 1926, LSU moved to its current campus in Baton Rouge. The cadets moved with the university and kept the same military traditions and culture alive within the campus. On LSU’s campus today, the Pentagon is still used as student dorms. In the early 1900’s, the cadets took classes and lived in the Pentagon A picture of the cadets are shown in Figure 1: Ole War Skule.
The United States remained neutral throughout the first few years of the war, but eventually joined World War One in 1917. When the United States first entered the war, “it soon became apparent that there was a need for soldiers and training facilities” (Fleming). The United States during World War One is shown in Figure 2: U.S. in WWI. The U.S. started using colleges and universities as training facilities (Levinson). Because of its strong military history, LSU became one of these training facilities. In 1916, the United States created the National Defense Act of 1916. This established military training at colleges and universities, which later became known as the ROTC.
Many people left LSU to fight in the war, resulting in a decrease in enrollment. This negatively affected the university in many ways such as declines in student organizations, graduation rate, and athletics. LSU proceeded to add more war courses, increase fundraising around campus, help with the Red Cross, and start implementing food conservation.
When the United States entered World War One, both LSU students and faculty signed up to fight. The federal government needed the expertise of faculty from colleges and universities. The federal government employed faculty as experts in their designated fields. These fields included public speaking, working in military and government offices, agriculture, and food distribution. The president of LSU at the time, Thomas Boyd, also employed a team of shipbuilders. Women contributed to the war effort by creating a knitting club to make clothes for soldiers.
In 1893, LSU started its first football team. Twenty-five years later, there were no football games because of World War One. The season of 1918 is known as the Silent Season. When LSU had its Silent Season, the campus was located in downtown Baton Rouge. One-hundred years later, the LSU football team played Mississippi State and wore uniforms in honor of the Silent Season of 1918.
The Memorial Oak Grove was constructed in honor of the thirty students that left during the Silent Season to fight in World War One, but did not return. The Memorial Oak Grove is located directly behind the LSU Student Union. In 1926, thirty oak trees were planted, one for each fallen soldier. An additional tree to honor the unknown soldiers was also planted to represent those who went missing in action but will not be forgotten (Weeks). Today, they stand together as giants to remind us of these brave people. Memorial Oak Grove is marked by a plaque in its center as shown in Figure 3: Memorial Grove.
Each oak tree is also accompanied by a plaque displaying the names of each of the fallen soldiers.
In 2018, LSU held a ceremony to rededicate the Memorial Oak Grove in honor of the Silent Season’s one hundred year anniversary. This was done to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers, but also to spark new interest in the grove. According to Gary King, a professor at LSU, many students at LSU did not know that this area was a World War One memorial. King says that he himself did not know the grove was a memorial until he accidentally stumbled upon this knowledge. This rededication was done in hopes of restoring the Memorial Oak Grove to its former glory, and spread the word of its existence (Chauvin).
The jerseys honoring the “Silent Season” are filled with hidden details. “The Tigers will wear uniforms that pay homage to The Silent Season of 1918, when LSU did not suit up on the field, but rather took to the battlefield in World War I” (Just). LSU revealed these exciting new uniforms a couple of days before the big game against Mississippi State. This helped to get the fans excited for Saturday night in Death Valley. The “Silent Season” uniforms were noticeably different than their regular home game uniforms, but they received great feedback from everyone who saw them. There is an oak leaf pattern in the jersey numbers, collars, and the pant striping depicted in Figure 5: Front of Jersey.
This element honors the soldiers that are recognized in the Memorial Grove. The actual font of the lettering in the jerseys represents a style that was popular in the early twentieth century. It is wider and more circular than the typical square-font that is used today. The back of the jerseys appear different from what most people have become accustomed to. This is because of their lack of nameplates, shown in Figure 6: Back of Jersey.
LSU chose to include this aspect with respect to the unknown members of the community who lost their lives in World War One. Since the nameplate is missing, the players’ numbers are larger than normal on their backs, and pushed up closer to their shoulders. The most popular element in the new uniform is the shiny, color-changing helmet displayed in Figure 7: Helmet.
“Like an iridescent Mardi Gras bead, its color will shift from purple to gold under the bright lights of Tiger Stadium” (Moriarty). They were also referred to as “‘the crown jewel’ of the ensemble” (Just). The back of the helmets also acknowledge 1918 by having it displayed on the bottom. They also depict the flag of the United States of America, which only had forty-eight stars at the time. The players wore purple cleats with gold detailing for this game as illustrated in Figure 8: Cleats.
The cleats did not add specific tribute to the Silent Season, but were added to further enhance the uniform as a whole. The numerous details hidden in these uniforms allowed LSU to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers during the 1918 Silent Season.
These special uniforms differ from the typical attire that fans see LSU football players in every weekend. The “home” jersey, which is what LSU wears the majority of the time, is a white jersey with purple and gold stripes on the sleeves, portrayed in Figure 9: “Home” Uniforms in Action.
The lettering is more “box-like”, and the players’ last names are written on the back of their shoulders. The home jerseys are paired with gold pants, a gold helmet, and white cleats. Both the pants and helmet include a purple and white stripe down the side of their legs and in the middle of the helmet. This is to incorporate all of the school’s colors in the uniform. LSU also has a purple uniform, but the crowd does not get to see it very often. Their purple uniform is represented in Figure 10: Purple Uniforms in Action.
It is a purple jersey with white and gold stripes on the sleeves. The rest of the uniform remains the same as the home uniform, but fans prefer to see the tigers dominate other teams in white jerseys.
Another way in which LSU honored the Silent Season was with a pregame air show. This consisted of fighter jets flying over Tiger Stadium as the National Anthem concluded as shown in Figure 11: Pregame Air Show.
Air shows are performed as a way to honor veterans in an entertaining way at a sporting event. Air shows also help society realize the capabilities the United States has compared to other countries. Many other countries do not have the resources to use their military as a form of entertainment. Air shows are beneficial for fighter pilots to practice flying because “it is still important that pilots get every possible value out of their flight time” (Durkin). LSU chose to add fighter jets to the Mississippi State game to honor veterans from World War One. Adding fighter jets to the pregame activities was a way for people to remember not only those who lost their lives during World War One, but also those who are continually fighting overseas for our freedom.
The Silent Season tribute at the LSU football game against Mississippi State goes far beyond uniforms. The Memorial Oak Grove was recognized as a dedication to LSU students who lost their lives fighting in the war. The pregame show consisted of fighter jets flying over Tiger Stadium to honor our veterans. LSU made a statement when creating uniforms that honored soldiers who fought overseas during World War One. These uniforms were showcased to pay tribute to the fallen warriors who sacrificed everything they had, including a football season, to fight for our country.
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Figure 6: Parent, Chris and Stark, Gus, Back of Jersey. LSU Athletics, 18 October 2018. Web. 28 November 2018.
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