In the 1970s and ’80s, conflicting accounts emerged. Two former teammates disagreed on whether Mr. Trice was injured deliberately. One of the teammates said he did not believe race was a factor. But a former Iowa State athletic official said he believed Minnesota sought to sideline Mr. Trice because he was Black.
Mr. Trice was taken to a hospital in Minneapolis, then accompanied his teammates back to Ames, Iowa, after a 20-17 defeat, lying painfully in a train car on a mattress fashioned from straw. A doctor considered his condition too risky to undergo an operation. On Oct. 8, two days after the game, Mr. Trice died in the Iowa State campus hospital. He was one of 18 college, high school and semiprofessional football players to die in October and November 1923.
Years later, Cora Mae Trice, his wife, wrote that she looked at her husband in his hospital bed and told him, “Hello, Darling,” but he didn’t respond. She heard the campus bell tower chime at 3 p.m., and “he was gone.”
The next afternoon, classes were canceled, Mr. Trice’s teammates carried his coffin and several thousand students attended a memorial service on campus, according to an account by Dorothy Schwieder, an Iowa State history professor who died in 2014.
Teammates set out five-gallon milk cans and collected $2,259 to cover funeral costs and settle the mortgage his mother had taken out to pay her son’s tuition. One newspaper elegy that soon followed referred to Mr. Trice as “steel of character,” a “true modern knight” who won glory “upon the fatal field.”
His mother, Anna, wrote a letter to the university president saying that if Mr. Trice had inspired other Black students who came to Iowa State, “he has not lived and died in vain.”
Yet she was inconsolable, adding that while she was proud of his honors, “he was all I had, and I am old and alone. The future is dreary and lonesome.”