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Past & Present: 'Heartland Football Classic' Brings College Football Back To Cessna Stadium


From 1897 to 1986, Wichita State University, previously known as Fairmount College, fielded a football team. During its eighty-nine year history, Shocker football made news both on and off the field. For instance, a 1905 game against Washburn College featured the first forward passes thrown in a game. On October 2, 1970, Wichita and the nation mourned the death of half of the Shocker football team in a plane crash.

In the beginning, Fairmount College played football on a field north of 17th Street. During the 1940s, the team moved to a new stadium on 21st Street, originally known as Veterans Field. After extensive renovations during the late 1960s, the renamed Cessna Stadium emerged as one of the best college football facilities in America.   

Since 1986, Cessna Stadium has primarily served as a training facility for the WSU track and field program and a venue to host track and field meets.  

On September 7, 2019, the Heartland Wichita Black Chamber of Commerce will bring college football back to Cessna Stadium. Their “Heartland Football Classic” features the Langston University Lions versus the McPherson College Bulldogs. The halftime events include a special ceremony honoring former WSU coach Willie Jeffries, who made history in 1979 as the first African American head football coach at a Division 1-A school.

Robert E. Weems Jr. is the Willard W. Garvey Distinguished Professor of Business History at Wichita State University.