Painting of the match by Rutgers graduate William Boyd
On November 6th 1869 at College Field on the campus of Rutgers University in New Jersey, two teams from Rutgers and the College of New Jersey (today Princeton) met each other to play a match under the London Football Association rules. The teams were 25 players each and they wore no uniforms. The rules resembled soccer more than college football–the players were not allowed to carry or throw the ball. Teams scored a goal (also called a ‘run’ in newspaper reports) by kicking the ball into a goal. Rutgers won 6-4. It was the first of two games Rutgers and Princeton played in 1869 in the first ever college football season.
College Avenue Gymnasium, site of the match
In 1870 Rutgers would play Columbia College in another game under similar rules. However, in 1874 Canada’s McGill University and Harvard played each other in a game under rules of the ‘Boston game,’ which were derived from the Rugby Football Union in England and allowed carrying the ball. From there, the college football would evolve into the rules of the gridiron played today. Nevertheless, the Rutgers-Princeton match in 1869 is considered the ‘Birth of College Football’.
The First Football Game Monument at High Point Solutions Stadium (photo from Rutgers University website)
The site of the match is now Rutgers’ College Avenue Gymnasium, which now has a plaque depicting the Rutgers players in the match. A statue entitled The First Football Game Monument stands outside Rutgers’ current home High Point Solutions Stadium, though it inaccurately depicts a player carrying the ball.