In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we thought it would be appropriate to share a bit of Maryland athletics/Thanksgiving history. In a 2012 blog post, we told you about the bitter athletic rivalry between Maryland and Johns Hopkins in the early twentieth century, including the annual football contest between the two. This game was nearly always held on Thanksgiving day, and usually determined the state championship. No single game better exemplifies the rivalry than the 1920 Thanksgiving Day matchup.
Maryland Agricultural College vs. Johns Hopkins Football Game, 1919
The year is 1920, Thanksgiving Day, state title up for grabs, and Hopkins hasn’t scored a touchdown against the Maryland squad since 1910. Just when you thought the rivalry between Hopkins and Maryland couldn’t get any more exciting, enter Leroy Mackert.
Leroy Mackert was Maryland’s star tackle and fullback, a true force to be reckoned with on the field. What makes Mackert so controversial, however, is the simple fact that he had attended Lebanon Valley College before transferring to Maryland where he would play the 1919 and 1920 seasons. In the weeks leading up to the big Thanksgiving game, Hopkins Athletic Director Ronald Abercrombie suddenly began making claims questioning the eligibility of Mackert. Hopkins accused Maryland of playing an athlete who had used up all of his collegiate eligibility in Junior College. In response to the accusations, Maryland coach Curly Byrd fired back that Mackert had been and was still eligible to play.
Maryland defense stops “Turkey” Jones of Johns Hopkins, Maryland Agricultural College football, 1919
After the game Hopkins demanded that Maryland had to apologize for playing Mackert and if not, they would cut off athletic relations with Maryland. Needless to say, neither happened. Leroy Mackert went on to play football professionally and serve in the military. He also returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach and physical education instructor. He will always be remembered by Terps fans as the guy who abruptly turned the world of Maryland collegiate sports upside down.