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150 Years of Varsity Football

Gala fundraiser at Great Hall in Hart House will mark Blues milestone

It’s been almost 20 years since U of T’s football team won the Vanier Cup, but the team does bear the distinction of having won U of T’s first national championship way back in 1895. Pictured here are the members of that winning team and University of Toronto’s president at the time, James Loudon (at centre).

Loudon was also a participant in the first documented football game at U of T, in November 1861. This fall marks the 150th anniversary of that game, and U of T is celebrating with a gala fundraiser on Nov. 9 at the Great Hall in Hart House. All proceeds from the dinner will go to the Friends of Varsity Blues Football’s Varsity Leadership Foundation, which provides support for athletic scholarships and enhancements to the Varsity football program. A 200-page commemorative book will also be available. (Images from the slideshow are all taken from the book.)

For tickets, or more information, visit

Start slideshow of Varsity Blues’ photos by clicking on image

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  1. 9 Responses to “ 150 Years of Varsity Football ”

  2. doug drysdale says:

    My father's uncle Hugh Ritchie clearly loved football. He took two consecutive engineering degrees at U of T so that he could play. His claim to fame was kicking off the very first Grey Cup game in 1907. A long time resident of B.C. he was asked to make the ceremonial kick-off at the first game at the new Vancouver statium when the Grey Cup was played there on its 50th anniversary in 1957. He booted the ball to the goal line (farther than the actual starting kick-off).

  3. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    I was interested to see this picture of the 1895 Varsity football team. I believe that the fellow in the middle of the front row, to the right of the cup, is my grandfather, John W. Hobbs (1875-1951).

    Jack Hobbs attended UC, graduating in 1898, which would have put him in second year at the time of the photograph. During his time at the university, he was captain of the football team and apparently played several games wearing a protective steel chest plate after he cracked some ribs.

    Hobbs’ later life was profoundly influenced by the friendship he formed at U of T with classmate Edward Beatty. After graduation, Beatty studied law and later joined the legal department of Canadian Pacific Railway. He became president of the company in 1918 and chairman in 1923. Seeking a reliable ally, Beatty had Hobbs appointed to the CPR board.

    This appointment was more than mere cronyism, as my grandfather had run a successful glass company in Toronto for several decades before his involvement with CPR. Still, being a member of the CPR board in those days put Hobbs at the top of Canada’s corporate elite, and many other directorships followed. He retained most of them until he died of cancer in 1951.

    Hobbs’ connection with U of T continued with his descendants. His only child was my mother, Katharine (Hobbs) Masters, who was in the second graduating class of the university’s physiotherapy program in the 1930s. Her four surviving children all attended the university: Patricia and Philinda Masters and I all graduated from Trinity College; Elizabeth Masters attended what was then known as Scarborough College.

    Ian G. Masters
    BA 1968 Trinity
    Brooklin, Ontario

  4. Allen Hadley says:

    A lot of history pictured there... hard to believe it's that old...

  5. James says:

    Can you please tell me if this book is for sale other than at the event itself, and where I might get a copy?

  6. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    Those interested in purchasing a copy of the Varsity Blues commemorative book should contact Robin Campbell, executive director of development, Faculty of Physical Education & Health. His email address is robin dot campbell at utoronto dot ca. Phone: 416-978-4740.

  7. Bob Hayman says:

    I'm trying to find information on Jo Jo Stirrett who played for U of T in the 1920 Grey Cup winning against Toronto Argonauts.

    He scored a touchdown, dribbling a fumble by an Argo player over the goal line, falling on it for the touchdown.

    Are there any pictures around of that 1920 team -- or list of players on that team?

  8. Meghan Newton says:

    What a nice surprise I had when my great uncle (Frederick Newton) sent me the link to this article and slideshow.

    My great grandfather was John (Jack) Newton (1887-1967), captain of the 1909 Varsity Blues team that won the first Grey Cup.

    From the information I gathered from my grandfather (John W. Newton), Jack Newton was a civil engineering student at U of T. As well as being the captain of the VB 1909 team, he coached the Toronto Argos to their first Grey Cup win in 1912.

    He enlisted in the Canadian Field Artillery, on March 28, 1916, and married Eleanor May Watson (a graduate of U of T's University College, date unknown) before going overseas.

    He served in England and France. His Battery was being shelled by the Germans on the Douai-Cambrai Road, France, in Sept 1918. Every man in his Battery except for him and one other were killed. He and the N.C.O. kept the gun going and tended the wounded. He was presented the Military Cross by King George the Sixth, in 1919. He also received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

    After the war, Jack Newton continued to coached football in Sarnia, at the collegiate, intermediate, and senior levels. For his active promotion of the sport, he was inducted into the Canadian Football’s Hall of Fame in 1964 as a "builder." And in 2004, he was inducted into the University of Toronto’s Sports Hall of Fame, alongside his 1909 teammates.

    My family is very much interested in the commemorative book on the Varsity Blues, and any information about Jack Newton.

  9. Anne Martin says:

    @Bob Hayman: My mother is a Stirrett and niece of Jo-Jo. He was a big figure in her youth in Sarnia in the 1920s and 1930s. I was looking up information on Jo-Jo myself in conjunction with the 100th Grey Cup festivities and thus saw this article and your comment. If you see this, Bob, please contact me at the above address and I can provide the information I have on Jo-Jo Stirrett and possibly put you onto others in my family. Very interested in the long history of Varsity football!

  10. John Morgan says:

    My grandfather was Robert F. Thompson. He was President of the Varsity Football Team and outside wing in 1910, 1911 and 1912. He appears in the Grey Cup team photos for 1910 and 1911. I have some old newspaper clippings that reference him also playing in 1908, 1909 and 1912. However, he does not appear in the 1909 Grey Cup team photo. I am in the process of trying to track down whether he indeed played in 1909 for the first Grey Cup.

    He graduated with a BA in 1910 and a BD in 1913. He served as a Chaplain in the 4th Canadian Field Artillery Brigade and was awarded the MC for bravery under fire in burying the dead in and around Courcellette in 1916. He was also awarded the OBE for his work in establishing rehabilitation programs during WWII.

    I suspect he knew Jack Newton (1909 Varsity Blues and referenced above) quite well. No doubt there were many Varsity men from those early Grey Cup teams who served and distinguished themselves in WWI.