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1869 college football season

The 1869 college football season was the first season of intercollegiate football in the United States. While played using improvised rules resembling soccer and rugby as much as the modern American sport, it is traditionally considered the inaugural college football season. It consisted of only two total games, both of which occurred between Rutgers University and Princeton University; The first was played on November 6 at Rutgers' campus, and the second was played on November 13 at Princeton's campus.

The first ever college football national championship awarded (retroactively) was split between the only two participants in 1869, Rutgers and Princeton. Princeton was named the champion by the Billingsley Report and the National Championship Foundation, while college football research historian Parke H. Davis named the two teams co-champions. Various other ratings and retrospectives have rated the teams differently.

The two games were played with rules very different from what is currently understood as American football, and also played under home field rules that differed from each other. However, what developed into a more rugby-style play and eventually into the football known by current fans had its beginnings in 1869.

First intercollegiate football game ever played

See 1869 New Jersey vs. Rutgers football game

In what some regard as the very first game ever played of intercollegiate football, a contest was held between teams from Rutgers College (now Rutgers University) and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University).[1][2] The 1869 game between Rutgers and Princeton is important in that it is the first documented game of intercollegiate game called football between two American colleges. Rutgers won the game by a score of 6–4[3]

The Princeton/Rutgers game was undoubtedly different from what we today know as American football, as there was no running with the ball, each team included 25 players, and the ball was perfectly spherical. 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.[4][5]

Second and final game of 1869

A rematch was played at Princeton a week later under Princeton rules. One of the biggest differences in rules was the awarding of a "free kick" to any player that caught the ball on the fly. This rule seriously affected the speed advantage of Rutgers that had allowed them to win the first contest. Princeton won the second game by a score of 8 to 0.

Aftermath of the 1869 games

The two schools had originally scheduled to meet three times in 1869, but the third 1869 game never took place, reportedly because of the officials at both programs who complained about more emphasis being put on the contests rather than academics and studying.[6] Other sources claim that it may have been canceled due to disagreement over what set of rules to play under.[7] Due to each team winning one game, the inaugural football "season" ended with Princeton and Rutgers each tied at 1-1, and therefore each received a partial share of the college football national championship awarded (retroactively) for the 1869 season.

Rutgers players from the first ever game were honored fifty years later in a ceremony at their home-coming. The last surviving member of this Rutgers team was George H. Large, who died in 1939. The last surviving member for Princeton was Robert Preston Lane, who died in 1938.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ "1800s". Rutgers Through The Years. Rutgers University. Retrieved 2007-05-16. 
  3. ^ DeLassus, David. "Princeton Yearly Results (1869)". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved April 4, 2011. 
  4. ^ Carzo, Rocco J. "Jumbo Footprints: A History of Tufts Athletics", Medford, MA: Tufts University Gallery, 2005; summarized in Another 'Pass' At History by Tufts University eNews on 27 September 2004. Accessed 2 January 2012.
  5. ^ Citing Research, Tufts Claims Football History is on its Side Boston Globe Article, 23 September 2004, Accessed 1 January 2012.
  6. ^ "Rutgers - The Birthplace of College Football: The First Intercollegiate Game - November 6, 1869" at, published by the Rutgers University Athletic Department. Retrieved 2014-10-4.
  7. ^ "NO CHRISTIAN END! The Beginnings of Football in America" published by the Professional Football Research Association (no further authorship information available). Retrieved 2014-10-4.

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