Jack Elway Looks Back at the First Ever College Football Game


Today, college football is worth billions of dollars. Few remember the humble beginnings of this 21st century business, however. Jack Elway hopes to refresh people’s memories by discussing the November 6, 1869 game. This game featured Rutgers University versus Princeton University, and it was the first ever college football game.

Jack Elway on the Rutgers v. Princeton Game

There are two interesting things about this game. Firstly, it was the first of its kind. Secondly, it was half of the first season as well. Indeed, in the first season, there were just two teams, which meant they also played against each other twice! The result of this, perhaps unsurprisingly, was that Rutgers won their home game, and Princeton won theirs. This meant that the first national college football championship ended up in a tie, both in terms of winning the league and being the worst players in the league.

That first game is likely to have been a lot more like rugby than what today’s college football is. However, it is still of important historical significance, as it was the first time a game that was called “football” was played by two colleges in the country pitted against each other. After that, the sport evolved, but all sports do this. As time goes by, rules change, knowledge changes, and so on.

Take baseball, for instance, which actually stems from cricket. Cricket is likely to have evolved from a more primitive game, likely one that hasn’t been recorded. The only exception of this, to a degree, is basketball. This is because we know that the game was created in December of 1891, and that the rules then are still almost entirely the same as what they are now.

Another fascinating little fact about the first ever football game is that, back then, the schools weren’t called Rutgers University and Princeton University. Rather, Rutgers University was still known as Rutgers College. Meanwhile, Princeton University used to be called the College of New Jersey. Rutgers hosted the very first game at home in New Brunswick, NJ. Today, the College Avenue Gymnasium is located there. Rutgers won this game with six runs to four, which was long before the “touchdown” became so popular, therefore. It is believed that around 100 people attended this first game.

Today, there continues to be a bit of home pride in New Jersey, with people there almost seeing themselves as the original college football lovers. And, today, in New Brunswick, NJ, you will see just two different blankets and college jerseys: Rutgers or Princeton. The towns truly are home to college football and that is something that the area is incredibly, and deservedly, proud of.

It is interesting to think that today’s young people almost depend on college football. For some, it is the scholarship they get for being recruited that enables them to go to college at all. For others, it is buying the jersey that allows them to create a type of personal identity. Either way, football is essential to student society.