Princeton University

History of Football

The history of football is generally traced back to it’s beginnings in rugby, the English game that is very similar to football and soccer which also began in England back in the early 1800’s.

The college campuses of Ivy League schools all played similar variations of football through the mid 1800’s. Then shortly after the end of the Civil War around the 1860’s some of the colleges began playing organized football. Princeton University frontiered some of the basic rules of football and the game became patented. It seems odd to be able to patent a game but nonetheless the sport began to grow. The first football game in college football history was then played in 1869 between Princeton and Rutgers with Rutgers as the victor thus producing football history.

College Football History took another big step in 1873 when a number of colleges met to form the first rules of the game and established the amount of players on each squad.
The coach for Yale, Walter Camp assisted the final step in the change from rugby style football to the American style. He limited the number of players to eleven on each team and sized the football field to 110 yards. He then created the downs system in 1882 which was originally three downs to gain 5 yards and then changed to 4 downs to gain 10 yards.

Without proper safety equipment at the time the sport had become extremely brutal and dangerous to all the players. There were even a number of deaths that had taken place in the sport. It had become such a serious problem that the President of the time Teddy Roosevelt summoned a change and helped implement a group of 7 selected members to govern a rules organization and save football history. This committee eventually became the NCAA or National Athletic Association which we all know today.

The committee formed a number of new rules including the forward pass and a number of safety measures which penalized players for roughness and unsafe acts. Football history was changed when a common practice for the time of locking arms and blocking in unison which was rightfully made illegal as well. The game was shortened to the sixty minutes that we play today and a neutral zone between the offense and defense was also incorporated.

The development of the sport led to an inevitable expansion into the college football area. College football history has since flourished into an incredible weekly spectacle. Hundreds of college teams now compete each year under the guidelines of the NCAA. Numerous college divisions now have conferences and all have hopes of winning a major New Year’s Day Bowl. The history of football and nostalgia are alive in well in college football today.

Professional football was first played around 1895 and in 1920 the APFA or American Professional Football Association was formed. It was renamed to what we all know today as the NFL or National Football League in 1922. The NFL started slow and in the mid forties only had ten teams. A major merger then took place in 1970 that combined the 16 NFL teams with the 10 AFL teams to make one large association with two conferences. The expansion continued to the now 32 team league and professional football has grown tremendously since it’s beginnings in 1869 from one college game to a billion dollar empire. So goes the history of football.

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