I see this as the start of a series of posts, explaining the history of cheating in college football. This series will be fairly non-judgmental, except when dealing with obvious sociopaths (Jackie Sherrill). Doesn't it seem odd that there would be any cheating, considering that colleges tend to be fairly idealistic organizations? I've come to the conclusion that most cheating happens when hyper-competitive types perceive the rules as being biased against them, and are not sufficiently regulated by their bosses or institutions.
Let's start at the beginning. Did any of you play on any club sports (non-varsity) teams? That's basically what college football was 100 years ago- a club sport (a club sport that could draw crowds of over 10,000). There were notions about things like eligibility, but the regulating was very lax. It was not uncommon to see freshmen, grad students (some of whom had played a few years already), and non-students suiting up for competition.
Sports conferences were created to regulate the sport (this was before the NCAA). Football being more developed in the northeast, the Ivy league was created first. The Ivy League discovered that having a more regulated game strengthened its popularity, because victories really meant something.
In Texas, the TIAA was the first regulatory body, and it covered the whole state. The TIAA had rules about eligibility, but no method of inspecting or enforcing. This was a problem for the Texas AD, Theo Bellmont. Texas had just suspended its annual series with TAMU, because the Ag fans kept picking fights after the game, and because the Ag coach had the habit of using ineligible ringers. The memoir of one Ag player, "Dutchman on the Brazos" by Caesar Hohn, tells of how every year Moran would introduce 5 or so new players to the team, with names much like "John Doe". The newcomers would be immediate starters, but rarely attend class, and never final exams. They would disappear after the season. The Ag AD, Joe Utay, was constantly trying to get Moran to stop using the ringers, but unsuccessfully.
The Texas/TAMU series had been financially lucrative, and there was pressure to get it going again. Bellmont decided that the solution to all of these issues was a new regulatory body- the Southwest Conference. He convened the invited and interested ADs were invited to a meeting in Dallas. The original members were Texas, TAMU, Baylor, Southwestern, Arkansas, OU, and Oklahoma A&M (Oklahoma State). Rice joined soon after and LSU declined.
The primary purpose was to regulate the sport, and not to crown champions. Per Joe Utay, the new rules of play were explained to Moran, and he decided to leave rather than compete under them (contrary to Ag myth, Utay says UT in no way forced his departure).
The league was an immediate success. Teams that had not initially wanted to join soon started applying for membership. It's very ironic that a league created to stop cheating would become synonymous with cheating 70 years later.