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The Birth of American Football


Most experts share the belief that the birth of American football happened on November 6, 1869. That day Rutgers and Princeton Universities met for the first intercollegiate football game.The game then was almost unrecognizable to today’s game. It was more similar to a Rugby match.

The game evolved swiftly though many rule changes. Changes were made in order to increase both excitement and safety.

The Universities of Rutgers, Yale, Columbia, and Princeton sent representatives to New York City in 1873 to establish the first intercollegiate rules for this sensational new sport. The result was the establishment of the Intercollegiate Football Association (IFA). The number players on each team dropped from 20 to 15.

The man who is considered the “Father of American Football” was Walter Camp. He was Yale’s Head Coach and the man most influential in the game evolving to the 11 man squad we know today. Besides decreasing the amount of players from 15 to 11, Camp also suggested that the playing field size be set at 110 yards. Mr. Camp devised a system of downs where a team was give 3 attempts at moving the ball 5 yards.The distance was changed to 10 yards in 1902. In 1912 the fourth down was added.

By the turn of the 20th century the game of football had grown so violent that the sport was almost banned. 18 young men had died on the field and close to 200 had sustained serious injuries. In an effort to save the sport and protect the players, President Theodore Roosevelt called upon the Universities of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale to assist in reforming the sport.

After the 3 schools met and agreed to changes a second meeting was held involving 60 colleges. They appointed a 7 member Rules Committee which would later evolve into the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or the NCAA.

This Rules Committee introduced the legalization of the forward pass. This major step would result in the football itself being reshaped and helped open up play on the field. The dangerous plays which had caused so many deaths and serious injuries were prohibited by the new committee. They also banned teammates from “locking arms” as a system of blocking. The games time was reduced from 70 down to today’s 60 minutes of play. The neutral zone was also established. It separated the teams by the length of the ball before each play.

My next post will be on the birth of Professional Football in America.

  1. August 7, 2013 at 12:22 am

    Aw, this was a really good post. Taking the time and
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