This is a quick guide to some of college football's most notable firsts and historic moments. In 2019, the sport celebrated its 150th anniversary. First, the TL/DR version:
- The first college football game was played in 1869 between Rutgers University and the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton University).
- The first college football rules were written Nov. 23, 1876, in Springfield, Mass., by representatives from Columbia, Harvard, Princeton and Yale.
- The first college football game on the radio was the contest between West Virginia University and Pittsburgh University on Oct. 8, 1921, broadcast on Pittsburgh radio station KDKA-AM.
- The first college football game on TV was between Fordham University and Waynesburg University on Sept. 30, 1939. The game was broadcast by NBC and aired on W2XBS.
- The first use of instant replay during a college football game was in 1963 during a Dec. 7 Army vs. Navy game.
- College football rankings began in 1939 with the release of the first Associated Press poll. Other notable ranking systems include the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) rankings, which started in 1998, and the CFP (College Football Playoff) rankings, which began in 2014.
- The first Heisman Trophy was awarded to Jay Berwanger of Chicago University in 1935. The award was created by the New York Downtown Athletic Club.
- The college football team with the most wins in history is the University of Michigan. The Wolverines have accumulated 962 wins since their first season in 1879.
- Yale has won the most championships in college football history with 18. Alabama and Princeton are tied for second with 15 each.
When was the first college football game?
The birth of American football came in 1869 on College Avenue in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The game was between Rutgers University and the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton University).
There were 25 players on the field for both teams and the rules were based on the London Football Association, which did not allow players to either pick up or throw the ball. The game resembled a form of soccer or rugby — something that if viewed in the context of football today, would look like one extended fumble with players trying to kick or hit the ball across the opposing team's goal line.
The game resulted in a 6-4 victory for Rutgers and attracted around 100 spectators.
When were the first rules established?
Just seven years after the first game was played, representatives from Columbia, Harvard, Princeton and Yale came together to propose the first rules of what is recognized today as American football.
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The representatives met at Massasoit House in Springfield, Mass., on Nov. 23, 1876. This is where Walter Camp emerged as the legendary father of American football. Camp created guidelines fans are familiar with today such as the line of scrimmage, the center-to-quarterback snap, a system of downs and proposed that each team should have no more than 11 players on the field.
When was the first college football game on radio?
On Oct. 8, 1921, one of the early installments of the "Backyard Brawl," the rivalry between West Virginia University and Pittsburgh University made history, as the game was the first to be broadcast across the airwaves. The game was on the first commercial radio station in the country, KDKA-AM in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh won the game 21-13.
When was the first college football game on TV?
The first game to shoot across television screens came on Sept. 30, 1939, when Fordham hosted Waynesburg for a season-opener. The game was broadcast by NBC on W2XBS. Fordham, a powerhouse football program at the time, won, 34-7. The number of viewers was estimated to be between 500-5,000.LONGEST FIELD GOAL: What we know about the longest college football field goal ever
When was the first use of instant replay?
Instant replay made its debut on television screens Dec. 7, 1963, during an Army vs. Navy game. The production used a 1,300-pound machine to wind back the reel and show a touchdown over again as commentator Lindsey Nelson warned viewers, "Ladies and gentlemen, Army did not score again!"
When did college football rankings begin?
The first Associated Press rankings were released in 1936. The rankings included 20 teams and helped determine a college football champion. Minnesota was the first team to sit atop the AP rankings at the end of the season, becoming the 1936 college football champs.
The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was created in 1998. The BCS integrated a system that matched top-10 teams together in marquee bowl games at the end of the season, including putting together the No. 1 and 2 teams in a the BCS national championship game. The first BCS national championship game featured Tennessee beating Florida State 23-16.
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The College Football Playoff (CFP) was created 14 years after the BCS was established. The CFP committee ranks teams 1-25, similar to the AP and BCS rankings, each week before determining the top four teams after the final week of play. The top four teams then face-off in a playoff where the first ranked team plays the fourth-ranked team and the second-ranked team plays the third-ranked team. The winners then play each other in the CFP final to determine a champion. The first CFP national championship game pitted Ohio State against Oregon in 2014. Ohio State won, 42-20.
When was the first Heisman Trophy awarded?
The Heisman Trophy award was created in 1935 and members of New York's Downtown Athletic Club (DAC) presented the first to Jay Berwanger of Chicago University. The trophy was named after John W. Heisman in 1936. On Dec. 2, 1975, Ohio State running back Archie Griffin became the first and only player to win the Heisman Trophy in consecutive seasons.
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Heisman Trophy winners: History
|2013||Jameis Winston||Florida State||QB|
|2012||Johnny Manziel||Texas A&M||QB|
|2011||Robert Griffin III||Baylor||QB|
|2009||Mark Ingram Jr.||Alabama||RB|
|2006||Troy Smith||Ohio State||QB|
|2005||Reggie Bush*||Southern California||RB|
|2004||Matt Leinart||Southern California||QB|
|2002||Carson Palmer||Southern California||QB|
|2000||Chris Weinke||Florida State||QB|
|1995||Eddie George||Ohio State||RB|
|1993||Charlie Ward||Florida State||QB|
|1988||Barry Sanders||Oklahoma State||RB|
|1987||Tim Brown||Notre Dame||WR|
|1984||Doug Flutie||Boston College||QB|
|1981||Marcus Allen||Southern California||RB|
|1980||George Rogers||South Carolina||RB|
|1979||Charles White||Southern California||RB|
|1975||Archie Griffin||Ohio State||RB|
|1974||Archie Griffin||Ohio State||RB|
|1973||John Cappelletti||Penn State||RB|
|1968||O.J. Simpson||Southern California||HB|
|1965||Mike Garrett||Southern California||HB|
|1964||John Huarte||Notre Dame||QB|
|1962||Terry Baker||Oregon State||QB|
|1957||John David Crow||Texas A&M||HB|
|1956||Paul Hornung||Notre Dame||QB|
|1955||Howard Cassady||Ohio State||HB|
|1953||Johnny Lattner||Notre Dame||HB|
|1950||Vic Janowicz||Ohio State||HB/P|
|1949||Leon Hart||Notre Dame||End|
|1947||Johnny Lujack||Notre Dame||QB|
|1944||Les Horvath||Ohio State||QB/HB|
|1943||Angelo Bertelli||Notre Dame||QB|
Who has won the most games in college football history?
Although college football started with Rutgers and Princeton, a pair of teams from the Midwest have won the most games. Entering the 2020 season, Michigan wears the crown with 962 wins, followed by rival Ohio State with 923 wins and then Yale with 917 wins. Alabama and Texas follow Yale with 916 wins each. Notre Dame and Oklahoma are also locked even with 908 wins with Nebraska behind them with 902. Penn State and Southern California round out the ten most winningest programs with 898 victories for the Nittany Lions and 847 for the Trojans.
As for the number of National Championships, Yale tops the list, followed by Alabama and Princeton.
|School||Number of titles|
Other Notable milestones in college football
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- In 1916, Fritz Pollard became the first African American football player to participate in a Rose Bowl. Pollard went on to live a life full of football, as he would become the first African American to become an NFL head coach in 1921 (back when player-coaches were a thing), and would go on to be the first African American to play quarterback in the NFL in 1923.
- On October 7, 1916, Georgia launched itself into the college football history books as they knocked off Cumberland College by a whopping score of 222-0. No other game has come close to this blowout, as Georgia Tech scored 32 touchdowns and Cumberland committed 15 turnovers.
- In 1958, the NCAA implemented a rule allowing two-point conversions. The rule was put into place to try and increase scoring and maintain a balance between offensive play and defensive play. The post-touchdown maneuver was tried 51.4 percent of the time during that first season.
- In 1966, No.1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Michigan State famously tied 10-10 during a game at the end of the season, which ultimately determined the champion of the 1966 season. Regarded as one of the most controversial games in college football history, Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian decided to let the clock run from 1:10 down to zero even though Notre Dame had the ball with the game tied 10-10. After the game, Notre Dame went on to defeat Southern California to finish the season 9-0-1 and were voted champion of the NCAA by a majority of polls.
- In the late 1990s and early 2000s, two place-kickers made history for being the first two women to score points during a college football game. Liz Heaston, for Williamette successfully kicked two extra-points for her team in 1997. Williamette was then an NAIA school but is now apart of Division III. In 2001, Ashley Martin kicked three extra points for Jacksonville State to be the first woman to score during a Division I college football game.