January 16, 2018

Happy Birthday, College Football!

After a very humble beginning on a cold and windy November 6th day (143 years ago today), the sport of college football has seen changes upon changes—some for the good and others maybe for the not so good.

Just 100 or so fans turned out to witness history being made on that blustery day—though few, if any, realized the importance of the game.

Today’s games, from the smallest crowds to massive stadiums filled to the brim, witness the happenings on the field and share it with the world within seconds.

Two schools from the state of New Jersey, Princeton and Rutgers, took to the field that chilly afternoon.

Taken by surprise, the Princeton men fought valiantly, but in five minutes we (Rutgers) had gotten the ball through to our captains on the enemy’s goal and S.G. Gano, ‘71 and G.R. Dixon, ‘73, neatly kicked it over.

And the sport of college football, had begun; in earnest.

But, the early game was more along the lines of soccer or rugby; as the ball could only be advanced down the field by kick it.

Princeton made the proper call, winning the toss and promptly took the wind.

Today, each team consists of 11 players attempting to score—or stop the opposition from finding the end zone. In 1869, each side lined-up with 25 players each

The teams lined up with two members of each team remaining more or less stationary near the opponent’s goal in the hopes of being able to slip over and score from unguarded positions. Thus, the present day “sleeper” was conceived. The remaining 23 players were divided into groups of 11 and 12. While the 11 “fielders” lined up in their own territory as defenders, the 12 bulldogs carried the battle.”

Even though Rutgers emerged victorious, not one of its players scored a touchdown.

One-hundred forty-three seasons ago scoring was determined by the team converting the most goals; or as they were called at that time, “games.”

That day, after scoring history’s first points, Rutgers would rally and hold to win 6-goals to 4-goals.

Naturally, there were no statistics recorded that day; but a few terms of the era can be highlighted as follows:
• game by game (play by play)
• game (name for each play)

Each score counted as a “game” and 10 games completed the contest. The teams would change direction following each score.

During pre-game meetings the two captains discussed several rules or guidelines that were to be observed that day.

One such was that a winner was to score 6 goals. (In the rematch a week later, the leaders indicated 8 goals were needed to victorious. Princeton won the rematch, scoring the contest’s first 8 goals.)

Scoring Summary from Game 1:

1st Rutgers, 1-0
2nd Princeton, Tied, 1-1
3rd Rutgers, 2-0
4th Princeton, Tied, 2-2
5th Rutgers, 3-2
6th Rutgers, 4-2
7th Princeton, Rutgers, 4-3
8th Princeton, Tied, 4-4
9th Rutgers, 5-4
10th Rutgers, 6-4

Worth noting: Princeton’s seventh goal was scored by a Rutgers player; who mistakenly sent the ball into his own goal.

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