Rutgers — the birthplace of college football?
NEW BRUNSWICK — Nov. 6, 2019, is believed to be the 150-year anniversary of the first-ever intercollegiate football game.
It reportedly occurred right here in New Jersey, where the College Avenue gymnasium stands today on the Rutgers University campus.
On that day in 1869, Rutgers defeated Princeton 6-4. The score alone should hint at how differently the sport was played compared to the game of American football as we know it today.
"They weren't allowed to run with the ball. All they could do was kick it, or they could punch it with their fists," said Tom Frusciano, university archivist emeritus.
The Princeton team, and its fans, took a train to New Brunswick for a full day of food, camaraderie and football, according to documents. The sport allowed 25 members per team on the field at once. There were no helmets and no pads.
After that day, Rutgers did not beat Princeton again until 1938, Frusciano said.
"The popularity of the sport grew. It grew around New Jersey, through Rutgers," he said.
To celebrate 150 years of Rutgers football, an exhibition is on display and open to the public at Alexander Library on the College Avenue campus, covering everything from the first game in 1869 to Rutgers joining the Big Ten. Visitors can view archival documents, photographs, and memorabilia including a uniform from the 1930s and a signed football from an undefeated 1961 team.
A panel discussion on the history of Rutgers football, also free and open to the public, is scheduled for Nov. 18.
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