On the afternoon of November 6, 1869, on a small field in New Brunswick, near the banks of the Raritan River, a group of young Rutgers students played a game of football against visiting students from nearby Princeton University. The Rutgers team won 6–4. The match marks the start of the enduring national phenomenon of college football.
Happy Birthday, College Football
That fabled first game bore little resemblance to today’s sport. Instead of wearing uniforms, the players stripped off their hats, coats, and vests and bound their suspenders around the waistbands of their trousers. To distinguish the players, the Rutgers team wound scarlet scarves around their heads.
The rules, based on English rugby, included limiting each team to 25 men on the field at once and banning throwing or running with the ball—points could only be scored by kicking or batting the ball.
Today, that small field is now the site of the College Avenue Gym (the team hosts games across the river at High Point Solutions Stadium on the Busch Campus), but Rutgers football remains a proud tradition 140 years later. The players still give it their all, the game still sparkles, and the fans still fill the stands with Rutgers pride.
Illustration courtesy of University Archives Special Collections
Another Sport’s Start
Also celebrating an anniversary November 6 is the intercollegiate game of ultimate Frisbee, a sport that has exploded in popularity in the past few years.
With an eye toward history, a Rutgers–New Brunswick team of ultimate players invited Princeton students to a match in 1972. Once again, Rutgers won, this time by a score of 29–27. Learn more about the Rutgers men’s and women’s ultimate Frisbee teams.