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First Intercollegiate Game

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First Intercollegiate Game
October 2002

Are you ready for some football? New Jersey was ready for football before anyone else. The first college football game ever was played in New Jersey.

While far different from the game we know today, Rutgers beat Princeton 6-4 on Nov. 6, 1869. A few hundred fans gathered in New Brunswick to watch the game.

Twenty-five men took the field for each team. The game was a mix of soccer and rugby, which is what American football is based on. The teams used the rules of the London Football Association.

Twelve players on each team moved all around the field as the offense. Two players on each team stayed near the opponent’s goal to try to sneak through the defense and score. The other 11 players stayed in their own territory as the defense.

Each score counted as a game. Ten games completed the contest. Following each score, the teams changed direction. The ball was only advanced by kicking or batting it. Players could not carry the ball.

Some Ivy League schools soon joined Rutgers and Princeton in playing this new brand of football. Princeton dominated the early days of college football. The team was considered national champion more than ten times in the 1800s.

Eventually, the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) was formed. The NCAA is divided into three divisions. Today, Rutgers continues to carry the torch for college football in New Jersey as the state’s only Division I-A team. A few other New Jersey colleges have Division I-AA teams and the state is home to a number of Division III programs.

Next: The Early Days


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