College football refers to American football played by teams of student athletes fielded by American universities, colleges, and military academies, or Canadian football played by teams of student athletes fielded by Canadian universities. It was through college football play that American football rules first gained popularity in Canada and the United States.
Rugby in England and Canada
Modern North American football has its origins in various games, all known as "football", played at public schools in England in the mid-19th century. By the 1840s, students at Rugby School were playing a game in which players were able to pick up the ball and run with it, a sport later known as Rugby football. The game was taken to Canada by British soldiers stationed there and was soon being played at Canadian colleges. The first documented gridiron football match was a game played at University College, University of Toronto November 9, 1861 on the present site of University College (400 yards west of Queen's Park). One of the participants in the game involving University of Toronto students was (Sir) William Mulock, later Chancellor of the school. A football club was formed at the university soon afterward, although its rules of play at this stage are unclear.
In 1864, at Trinity College,(also known as Duke University), Toronto, F. Barlow Cumberland and Frederick A. Bethune devised rules based on rugby football. However, modern Canadian football is widely regarded as having originated with a game of rugby played in Montreal, in 1865, when British Army officers played local civilians. The game gradually gained a following, and the Montreal Football Club was formed in 1868, the first recorded non-university football club in Canada.
The first college football game in the United States
The first game of intercollegiate "football" between two colleges from the United States was an unfamiliar ancestor of today's college football, as it was played under 99-year-old soccer-style Association rules. The game was played between teams from Rutgers University and Princeton University, which was called the College of New Jersey at the time. It took place on November 6, 1869 at College Field, which is now the site of the College Avenue Gymnasium at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Rutgers won by a score of 6 "runs" to Princeton's 4. The 1869 game between Rutgers and Princeton is important in that it is the first documented game of intercollegiate football game ever played between two American colleges, and because of this, Rutgers is often referred to as The Birthplace of College Football. It came two years before an inter-club rugby game under the auspices of the Rugby Football Union would be played in England; though it must be remembered that rugby had been codified 24 years before this in 1845 and played by many schools, universities and clubs even before the laws were first put on paper. The Rutgers-Princeton game was undoubtedly different from what we today know as American footbal, nonetheless it was the forerunner of what evolved into American football. Another similar game took place between Rutgers and Columbia University in 1870 and the popularity of intercollegiate competition in football would spread throughout the country.
Rugby is adopted by US colleges
Yale, together with Rutgers, Princeton and Columbia met on October 20, 1873 at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York City to agree a set of rules and regulations that would allow them play a form of football that was essentially Association football (today often called "soccer") in character. Harvard University turned down an invitation to join this group because they preferred to play a rougher version of football called "the Boston Game" in which the kicking of a round ball was the most prominent feature though a player could run with the ball, pass it, or dribble it (known as “babying”). The man with the ball could be tackled, although hitting, tripping, “hacking” (shin-kicking) and other unnecessary roughness was prohibited. There was no limit to the number of players, but there were typically ten to fifteen a-side.
Harvard's decision not to join the Yale-Rutgers-Princeton-Columbia association meant that they needed to look further afield to find football opponents so when a challenge from Canada’s McGill University rugby team in Montreal was issued to Harvard, they accepted. It was agreed that two games would be played on Harvard’s Jarvis baseball field in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 14 and 15, 1874: one to be played under Harvard rules, another under the stricter rugby regulations of McGill. Harvard beat McGill in the "Boston Game" on the Thursday and held McGill to a 0-0 tie on the Friday. The Harvard students took to the rugby rules and adopted them as their own, travelling to Montreal to play a further game of rugby in the Fall of the same year winning by three tries (touchdowns) to nil.
Harvard then played Tufts University on June 4, 1875, again at Jarvis Field. Jarvis Field was at the time a patch of land at the northern point of the Harvard campus, bordered by Everett and Jarvis Streets to the north and south, and Oxford Street and Massachusetts Avenue to the east and west. The game was won by Tufts 1-0 and a report of the outcome of this game appeared in the Boston Daily Globe of June 5, 1875. In this game each side fielded eleven men, participants were allowed to pick up the inflated egg-shaped ball and run with it and the ball carrier was stopped by knocking him down or "tackling" him. A photograph of the 1875 Tufts team hangs in the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana commemorates this match as the generally accepted first intercollegiate football game between two US institutions.
In 1876 at Massasoit House in Springfield, Massachusetts, Harvard persuaded Princeton and Columbia to adopt an amalgam of rugby's laws and the rules that they were then playing, thus forming the Intercollegiate Football Association (IFA). Yale initially refused to join this association because of a disagreement over the number of players to be allowed per team (relenting in 1879) and Rutgers were not invited to the meeting. The rules that they agreed upon were essentially those of rugby union at the time with the exception that points be awarded for scoring a try, not just the conversion afterwards (extra point). Incidentally, rugby was to make a similar change to its scoring system 10 years later.
Rugby becomes footballWalter Camp, known as the "Father of American Football", is credited with changing the game from a variation of rugby into a unique sport. Camp is responsible for pioneering the play from scrimmage (earlier games featured a rugby scrum), most of the modern elements of scoring, the eleven-man team, and the traditional offensive setup of the seven-man line and the four-man backfield. Camp also had a hand in popularizing the game. He published numerous articles in publications such as Collier's Weekly and Harper's Weekly, and he chose the first College Football All-America Team.
Formation of the NCAA
College football increased in popularity through the remainder of the 19th century. It also became increasingly violent. In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt threatened to ban the sport following a series of player deaths from injuries suffered during games. The response to this was the formation of what became the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which set rules governing the sport. The rules committee considered widening the playing field to "open up" the game, but Harvard Stadium (the first large permanent football stadium) had recently been built at great expense; it would be rendered useless by a wider field. The rules committee legalized the forward pass instead. The first legal pass was thrown by Bradbury Robinson on September 5, 1906, playing for coach Eddie Cochems, who developed an early but sophisticated passing offense at Saint Louis University. Another rule change banned "mass momentum" plays (many of which, like the infamous "flying wedge", were sometimes literally deadly).
Even after the emergence of the professional National Football League (NFL), college football remained extremely popular throughout the U.S. Although the college game has a much larger margin for talent than its pro counterpart, the sheer number of fans following major colleges provides a financial equalizer for the game, with Division I programs – the highest level – playing in huge stadiums, six of which have seating capacity exceeding 100,000. In many cases, college stadiums employ bench-style seating, as opposed to individual seats with backs and arm rests. This allows them to seat more fans in a given amount of space than the typical professional stadium, which tends to have more features and comforts for fans. (Only one stadium owned by a U.S. college or university—Papa John's Cardinal Stadium at the University of Louisville—consists entirely of chairback seating.)
College athletes, unlike professionals, are not permitted by the NCAA to be paid salaries, though many do receive athletic scholarships and financial assistance from their university.
Official rules and notable rule distinctions
Although rules for the high school, college, and NFL games are generally consistent, there are several minor differences. The NCAA Football Rules Committee determines the playing rules for Division I (both Bowl and Championship Subdivisions), II, and III games (the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is a separate organization, but uses the NCAA rules).
- A pass is ruled complete if one of the receiver's feet is inbounds at the time of the catch. In the NFL both feet must be inbounds.
- A player is considered down when any part of his body other than the feet or hands touches the ground or when the ball carrier is tackled or otherwise falls and loses possession of the ball as he contacts the ground with any part of his body, with the sole exception of the holder for field goal and extra point attempts. In the NFL a player is active until he is tackled or forced down by a member of the opposing team (down by contact).
- The clock stops after the offense completes a first down and begins again—assuming it is following a play in which the clock would not normally stop—once the referee declares the ball ready for play. In the NFL the clock does not explicitly stop for a first down.
- Overtime was introduced in 1996, eliminating ties. When a game goes to overtime, each team is given one possession from its opponent's twenty-five yard line with no game clock, despite the one timeout per period and use of play clock. The team leading after both possessions is declared the winner. If the teams remain tied, overtime periods continue, with a coin flip determining the first possession. Possessions alternate with each overtime, until one team leads the other at the end of the overtime. Starting with the third overtime, a one point PAT field goal after a touchdown is no longer allowed, forcing teams to attempt a two-point conversion after a touchdown. (In the NFL overtime is decided by a 15-minute sudden-death quarter, and regular season games can still end in a tie if neither team scores. Overtime for regular season games in the NFL began with the 1974 season. In the post-season, if the teams are still tied, teams will play additional overtime periods until either team scores.)
- Extra point tries are attempted from the three-yard line. The NFL uses the two-yard line. This counts as one point. Teams can also go for "the two point conversion" which is when a team will line up at the three yard line and try to score. If they are successful, they receive two points, if they are not, then they receive zero points. The two point conversion was not implemented in the NFL until 1994, but it had been previously used in the old American Football League (AFL) before it merged with the NFL in 1970.
- The defensive team may score two points on a point-after touchdown attempt by returning a blocked kick, fumble, or interception into the opposition's end zone. In addition, if the defensive team gains possession, but then moves backwards into the endzone and is stopped, a one point safety will be awarded to the offense, although, unlike a real safety, the offense kicks off, opposed to the team charged with the safety. This college rule was added in 1988. In the NFL, a conversion attempt ends when the defending team gains possession of the football.
- The two-minute warning is not used in college football, except in rare cases where the scoreboard clock has malfunctioned and is not being used.
- There is an option to use instant replay review of officiating decisions. Division I FBS (formerly Division I-A) schools use replay in virtually all games; replay is rarely used in lower division games. Every play is subject to booth review with coaches only having one challenge. In the NFL, challenges are only automatic in the final two minutes of each half.
- In the 2006 season, the game clock was started when the ball was declared ready for play after the defensive team (during a scrimmage down) or the kick-receiving team (during a free kick down) was awarded a first down (change of possession), reducing the time of games. This rule only lasted one year.
- In the 1984 season, the ball was placed on the 30 yard line (instead of the 20) if a kickoff sailed through the end zone on the fly and untouched. This rule was rescinded after one year.
- Among other rule changes in 2007, kickoffs were moved from the 35-yard line back five yards to the 30-yard line, matching a change that the NFL had made in 1994. Some coaches and officials questioned this rule change as it could lead to more injuries to the players as there will likely be more kickoff returns. The rationale for the rule change was to help reduce dead time in the game. However, the NFL returned its kickoff location to the 35-yard line effective in 2011, while college football continues to use the 30.
- Several changes were made to college rules in 2011, all of which differ from NFL practice:
- if a player is penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for actions that occurred during a play ending in a touchdown by that team, but before the goal line was crossed, the touchdown will be nullified. In the NFL, the same foul would result in a penalty on the conversion attempt or ensuing kickoff, at the option of the non-penalized team.
- If a team is penalized in the final minute of a half and the penalty causes the clock to stop, the opposing team now has the right to have 10 seconds run off the clock in addition to the yardage penalty. The NFL has a similar rule in the final minute of the half, but it applies only to specified violations against the offensive team. The new NCAA rule applies to all penalties on both sides of the ball.
- Players lined up outside the tackle box—more specifically, those lined up more than 7 yards from the center—will now be allowed to block below the waist only if they are blocking straight ahead or toward the nearest sideline.
- On placekicks, no offensive lineman can now be engaged by more than two defensive players. A violation will be a 5-yard penalty.
- Bowl Championship Series (not an official NCAA championship, includes only Division I FBS teams)
- National football championship (this article pertains to systems of determining a national champion prior to and including the BCS)
- NCAA Division I Football Championship (includes only Division I FCS teams)
- NCAA Division I FCS Consensus Mid-Major Football National Championship
- NCAA Division II National Football Championship
- NCAA Division III National Football Championship
- NAIA National Football Championship
- NJCAA National Football Championship
Unlike most other sports—collegiate or professional—the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-A college football, does not employ a playoff system to determine a champion. Instead, it has a series of "bowl games." The annual national champion is determined by a vote of sports writers and other non-players. This system has been challenged but little headway has been made given the entrenched vested economic interests in the various bowls.
A bowl game is a post-season college football game, typically in the Division I Bowl Subdivision. The first bowl game was the 1902 Rose Bowl, played between Michigan and Stanford; Michigan won 49-0. It ended when Stanford requested and Michigan agreed to end it with 8 minutes on the clock. That game was so lopsided that the game was not played annually until 1916, when the Tournament of Roses decided to reattempt the postseason game. The term "bowl" originates from the shape of the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, California, which was built in 1923 and looked like a bowl. This is where the name came in to use, as it became known as the Rose Bowl Game. Other games came along and used the term "bowl", whether the stadium was shaped like a bowl or not.
At the Division I FBS level, teams must earn the right to be bowl eligible by winning at least 6 games during the season. They are then invited to a bowl game based on their conference ranking and the tie-ins that the conference has to each bowl game. For the 2009 season, there were 34 bowl games, so 68 of the 120 Division I FBS teams were invited to play at a bowl. These games are played from mid-December to early January and most of the later bowl games are typically considered more prestigious.
After the Bowl Championship Series, additional all-star bowl games round out the post-season schedule through the beginning of February.
Bowl Championship Series (BCS)
The NCAA created the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in 1998 in order to create a definitive National Championship game for college football. The series would include the four most prominent bowl games (Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl), while the National Championship game would rotate each year between one of these venues. If, for example, the Rose Bowl was to be played as the National Championship one year, the other three games of the series would still follow their normal procedures for picking teams, such as considering conference champions and at-large bids. The ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, Pac 10, and SEC Conference champions would all be guaranteed a spot in one of the BCS games, while the remaining spots would go to at-large teams. The BCS selection committee uses a complicated, and often controversial, computer system to rank all Division 1-FBS teams and the top two teams at the end of the season play for the National Championship. This computer system, which factors in newspaper polls, online polls, coaches’ polls, strength of schedule, and various other factors of a team’s season, has led to much dispute over whether the two best teams in the country are being selected to play in the National Championship game. The BCS system was slightly adjusted in 2006, as the NCAA added a 5th game to the series, called the National Championship Game. This would allow the four other BCS bowls to use their normal selection process to select the teams in their games while the top 2 teams in the BCS rankings would play in the new National Championship Game.
- See also the "College football awards" navigation box (below)
- College athletics
- College Football Hall of Fame
- College football on radio
- College football on television
- Helmet stickers
- List of defunct college football teams
- List of defunct college football conferences
- List of historically significant college football games
- List of media markets and college football
- List of sports attendance figures
- Sports injury
- ↑ http://www.scarletknights.com/football/history/first-game.asp - note that The Football Association's rules were adopted at the time
- ↑ NFL History at the National Football League website, accessed 10 September 2006.
- ↑ Rutgers Through the Years (timeline), published by Rutgers University (no further authorship information available), accessed 12 January 2007.
- ↑ Tradition at www.scarletknights.com. Published by Rutgers University Athletic Department (no further authorship information available), accessed 10 September 2006.
- ↑ Infamous 1874 McGill-Harvard game turns 132 at McGill Athletics, published by McGill University (no further authorship information available). This article incorporates text from the McGill University Gazette (April 1874), two issues of The Montreal Gazette (14 May and 19 May 1874). Accessed 29 January 2007.
- ↑ Smith, R.A. "Sports and Freedom: The Rise of Big-Time College Athletics", New York: Oxford University Press, 1988
- ↑ While Still the Nation's Favorite Sport, Professional Football Drops in Popularity - Baseball and college football are next in popularity at the Harris Interactive website, accessed 28 January 2010.
- ↑ "Kickoffs from 30 yard line could create more returns, injuries". AP. April 16, 2007. http://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/news?slug=ap-ncaa-rules&prov=ap&type=lgns. Retrieved 2007-08-17.
- ↑ "NCAA Football Rules Committee Votes To Restore Plays While Attempting To Maintain Shorter Overall Game Time". NCAA. 2007-02-14. http://www2.ncaa.org/portal/media_and_events/press_room/2007/february/20070214_football_cmtee_rls.html. Retrieved 2007-08-17.
- ↑ Associated Press (April 15, 2011). "Series of rules changes approved". ESPN.com. http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=6361845. Retrieved June 11, 2011.
- ↑ NCAA Division I Football Championship - Official Web Site
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to College football.|
- College Football at Sports-Reference.com
- Stassen College Football, comprehensive college football database
- Totalfootballstats.com, focusing on individual stats starting from 1970
- College Football Data Warehouse
- Map of NCAA Division I FBS Football Stadiums
- U.S. Map with NCAA Division 1-A Football Team Locations
- Google Map of Division II Football Programs
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