On this day in 1869

Submitted by UESWolverine on November 6th, 2015 at 1:20 PM

The first ever college football game was played today back in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton. Rutgers won 6-4. 

According to Wikipedia: 'immediately after Rutgers won this game, Princeton's players were literally run out of town by the winning Rutgers students. The Princeton students reportedly jumped in their carriages and quickly made the 20-mile trip back to their campus.'

I would seriously love nothing more than running Rutgers out of town on carriages after the game tomorrow.



November 6th, 2015 at 1:29 PM ^

It turns out that it was more of a soccer game than anything resembling a football game.  It was played with a completely round ball and there was no running with the ball.

The first "football" game that we would recognize was played by Harvard and Tufts in 1875:

the first game which included running with the ball, 11-man sides, an oval-shaped ball, and tackling to end a play occurred on June 4, 1875, between Harvard University and Tufts University

Rutgers' only claim to fame and they did not even get that right.


November 6th, 2015 at 1:37 PM ^

If we're going to split hairs on 19th century football, the 1875 game was more rugby than football since scrimmage and down and distance didn't exist until the 1880s. And even then, the forward pass didn't come until 1905.

Football, rugby and soccer all evolved from one game in the 1850s to three very distinct games by the twentieth century (four games if you don't forget about the Australians). The evolutions occurred because of politics and geography. RU football has literally had nothing going for them since that date (I think they didn't beat Princeton again until the 1930s). Let's let them have this one.

Blue Noise

November 6th, 2015 at 1:42 PM ^

And the key turning point for the developement of American football occurred during 1873-74. First, Harvard rejected the invitation of its rivals Yale, Princeton, Columbia, yes, Rutgers to join the "Intercollegiate Football Association," which played association football (aka soccer here in the US).

Then, the following year, Harvard visited McGill University in Montreal, where they played rugby. Harvard took to the game, returned home with the rules of rugby, and later shared the game with its rivals, like Yale. 

Later on in the decade, Walter Camp of Yale would begin adjusting the rules of rugby to create the sport we would all come to know and love as American football.


November 6th, 2015 at 3:21 PM ^

Handling was an integral part of the game. The ball could be advanced by bouncing it like a basketball, or dribbling like a soccer ball. It could be passed by kicking or batting (like an overhand volleyball serve).

They played with 20-30 or more per side. Some of the players had fixed positions, others roamed with the ball. The main feature was running interference for the ball carrier, knocking opponents out of the way who were trying to get at the ball. The goals were just two posts in the ground, 25-40 feet apart. Scoring was a matter of putting the ball between the posts, on the ground or in the air. There was no time limit - a "game" continued until a goal was scored. A match would consist of a fixed set of games (10, in the case of Princeton/Rutgers).

One of the problems was that there were no fixed rules - every college had its own version. They were broadly similar, but there was a distinct home field advantage, in that the home team got to play by their rules. It was more of a playground game than anything. They borrowed some of the concepts of Association Football to give it some structure and mke it more of an organized contest than just a free-for-all, but the game itself wasn't much like soccer at all.

Harvard never really liked the game, and after McGill came to Cambridge and showed them Rugby, they convinced everyone else to change over. However, the Americans really liked interfering for the ball carrier and wouldn't give it up. Walter Camp and co. finally gave in and officially allowed it in 1878, which started the process of changing Rugby into American Football.


November 6th, 2015 at 2:06 PM ^

The rematch between the two teams resulted in an 8-0 Princeton win.  Here's to hoping for another shutout. 

Since that day in 1869, Rutgers has won 640 games.  In comparison, Michigan has won 921.