The origins of American College Football began in the 1800's in England. In Europe, the term football generally means what Americans called soccer. The American game of football evolved from the British game of rugby. It did not, however, come directly to America, but has developed through some twists and turns in its history. We will take a look at the origin of American Football, and some of the steps taken to bring it along to the game we now recognize as American College Football.
In the mid 1800's, kids in public schools in England were playing a game with a ball that involved picking it up and running with it. It became known as rugby football because of its popularity and further development at Rugby School, one of the UK's leading co-ed schools and one of the oldest public schools in England (founded in 1567).
British soldiers stationed in Canada introduced
the game of rugby to our continent and it was soon played in Canadian colleges. The first recorded game of "football" was actually a soccer game, played between Rutgers College (Rutgers University) and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) on November 6, 1869.
The rugby style game continued in New England, gaining popularity, until 1874. Harvard University played Montreal's McGill University. The differences in the University's games led to a set of "compromise" rules to be adopted. Harvard University then took these hybrid rules and made them their own.
The matchup between Tufts University and Harvard University on June 4, 1875 is considered to be the first game of American Football, possessing more characteristics of the game we now enjoy. The ball was egg-shaped, eleven players were on each team, and they would stop forward movement by tackling the ball carrier.
The sport left its rugby roots and was well on its way to becoming a unique sport with the influences of Walter Camp, the "Father of American Football". Additionally, he promoted the sport by publishing articles in the popular Collier's Weekly, Harper's Weekly, and others.
As college football entered the 20th century, it became increasingly violent. So much so, that President Theodore Roosevelt threatened to ban the sport altogether. Instead, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was formed. Because of the number of player deaths caused by high impact, the NCAA was considering the benefits of widening the football field so the game would "open up" more. But Harvard University had just gone to great expense in constructing a nice stadium, and the wider field would have rendered the expensive project useless. Instead, the forward pass was introduced.
American Football has progressed still further from 1905, but in generally minor steps. Today, there are approximately 120 NCAA Division I, BCS football teams. The season runs from about Labor Day to the beginning of December, with the Bowl Championship Series going from late December to mid-January. And the popularity of American College Football continues to soar.