College Football: The Complete History
The very first university football game was played between Princeton and Rutgers on November 6th, 1869 at New Brunswick in New Jersey. There were different things between the game played that day and the games we watch today. In the early days of college football, the football was round and the field 120 yards long and 75 yards wide and each team had 25 players.
The popularity of college football was fairly low in the early days and there were only 6 teams by the time a rugby ball was adopted for playing with and the first officials of the game were used. In the following year a crossbar was added to the goalposts and these remain in use for college football games to this day. The college football field was also made smaller and the members of each team were reduced to 15.
In 1876 a crossbar was added to the goal posts at a height of 10 feet (in effect to the present day), and the field was reduced to nearly modern dimensions. At the same time the number of players on each side was lowered to 15.
It took until 1880 before more revisions were made to the rules and the teams were limited to 11 players. In 1882, the downs system was introduced in college football games although it began as a requirement for a team to make 5 yards in 3 downs which remained in effect until it was changed to 10 yards in 4 downs in 1912. The college football game now became much more popular and widespread with over 250 colleges playing by 1900.
The first real college football uniform was designed in 1877 and included a tightly laced canvas jacket, black knee pants, stockings and a jersey with orange trim. This form of college football uniform did not offer the players very much protection, unlike the college football uniforms used today and a number of college football players suffered serious injury and some were even killed.
The number of officials at a college football game grew from a single referee in 1885 to a trio in 1894. These three college football officials were a referee, an umpire and a linesman. Eventually, a field judge was added to the team of college football officials in 1915, then a back judge in 1955, a line judge in 1972 and finally, in 1983, a side judge.
By 1894 the officiating crew had grown from a single referee (first required in 1885) to a trio: referee, umpire, and linesman. A field judge was added for a brief period starting in 1908, and was made a permanent part of the crew in 1915. A back judge was not added until 1955, with a line judge added in 1972 and a side judge in 1983.
In 1905 there was such an outcry about the violence of a college football game that a governing body was needed to oversee changes in the game. This became the National Collegiate Athletic Association and it still exists to create rule changes and procedures to ensure the safety of college football players.