Knights of the Gridiron

May 16, 2006

Carleton football has gotten a bad rap in recent years. In his new book, Knights of the Gridiron: The History of Carleton Football 1883–2005, physical education professor emeritus and former Carleton football coach Bob Sullivan sets the record straight. The College has had only two losing spells in its football history, from 1964 to 1978 and from 1997 to the present. Crowds of 4,000 to 6,000 people were not uncommon in winning years.

“Carleton has a strong football tradition,” says Sullivan. “We’ve had a team since the beginning of the game in 1883. St. Olaf didn’t get a team together until 1919, and St. John’s was Johnny-come-lately in 1900. In the early days, Carleton was the champ.”

The College used to play Big Ten teams from the University of Minnesota, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago when that team was in the conference. In 1932, after a loss against Army at West Point, the Carleton team was invited to the White House as guests of President Herbert Hoover.

Sullivan coached more than 600 Carleton players between 1979 and 2000. For the book, he interviewed 80 former Carleton players, including the two oldest still living: Chuck Lunder ’37, who became a physical education professor at St. Olaf, and Dick Raiter ’41.

“The book will be of value to the College and to the Knights Athletic Club as a historical document, but the anecdotes and the wonderful photographs of Carleton football teams throughout the years will be of interest to anybody,” says Sullivan. “Writing it has been a ball.”

Sullivan will sign books at O’Gara’s Bar & Grill in St. Paul on Friday, May 19 from 6 to 9 p.m., and on the Carleton campus during Reunion Weekend (June 15–18). Copies of the book are available at the Carleton College Bookstore. Visit or call 800-799-4148.