Fictional college created as a hoax
Plainfield Teachers College was an imaginary college, created as a hoax, that fooled The New York Times sports department[1] and college football fans across the country.

The hoax[edit]
In 1941, stockbroker Morris Newburger and radio sales executive Alexander “Bink” Dannenbaum concocted the idea of a mythical college football team.[2][3] Using the name Jerry Croyden, Newburger phoned the New York papers and Dannenbaum phoned the Philadelphia papers with fantastic stories of Plainfield’s lopsided victories over several (equally nonexistent) schools, beginning in late October.[4] For the first two weeks, the scores and the opponents in the New York and Philadelphia papers did not match but by the third week, they were better organized.[5]
When the newspapers started printing the scores week after week, Newburger and Dannenbaum invented other details, including a sophomore running back named Johnny “The Celestial Comet” Chung, whose amazing abilities on the gridiron was chalked up to the rice he ate on the bench between quarters.[5][3] Hop-Along Hobelitz was named as Plainfield’s coach. There was even speculation that Plainfield might secure a bid to a small-college bowl game; in fact, Newburger had already planned for the team to “play” in the non-existent “Blackboard Bowl” in Atlantic City at season’s end.[5]
After several weeks of Plainfield victories (padded by “wins” Newburger made up after the fact), Red Smith from the Philadelphia Record (who by this time was also reporting the fake scores) decided to actually go to Plainfield, New Jersey, to try to find the college—and, of course, there wasn’t one. (At the time, New Jersey had real teacher colleges in Jersey City, Newark, Paterson, Montclair, Glassboro, and Trenton, none of them fielding football teams as the student bodies were largely female.)
Finally, Newburger and Dannenbaum had to confess, and “Jerry Croyden” wrote his final press release, stating that Plainfield had cancelled its remaining schedule as Chung and several other players were declared ineligible after flunking exams. The Tribune took it in good humor, reporting the hoax; columnist Franklin Pierce Adams even wrote a song for Plainfield, to the tune of Cornell’s “Far Above Cayuga’s Waters”: “Far above New Jersey’s swamplands / Plainfield Teachers’ spires! / Mark a phony, ghostly college / That got on the wires…!”[6]

1941 “season”[edit]
All games and opponents are fictitious.

Week

Day

Date

Opponent

Result

1

Benson Institute

W

2

Scott

W

3

Chesterton

W

4

Fox

W

5

Saturday

October 25, 1941

Winona

W 27-3

6

Saturday

November 1, 1941

Randolph Tech

W 35-0

7

Saturday

November 8, 1941

Ingersoll

W 13-0

8

Saturday

November 15, 1941

Appalachian Normal

cancelled

9

Saturday

November 22, 1941

Harmony Teachers

cancelled

10

Blackboard Bowl at Atlantic City

cancelled

See also[edit]

References[edit]

^ Christine, Bill (January 15, 2016). “The Greatest Hoax in Sports Reporting History (Yes, The Times Fell for It, Too)”. The New York Times. Retrieved January 15, 2016.

^ Levy, R. T.; Hamburger, Philip; Ross, Harold (November 22, 1941). “Plainfield Teachers”. The New Yorker.

^ a b Barra, Allen (January 18, 2013). “The Meaningless Hoax Before Manti Te’o’s Meaningless Hoax”. The Atlantic.

^ “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on 2021-08-30. Retrieved 2021-08-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

^ a b c Eyman, Scott. “THE GREAT GRIDIRON HOAX”. Sun-Sentinel.com.

^ “All the News That’s Fit to Fake : In Days Gone By, the Terminally Mischievous Could Take Pride in Seeing the Flying Figments of Their Imaginations Make Their Way Into Print”. Los Angeles Times. October 11, 1987.

External links[edit]

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