The history of football is generally traced back to it’s beginnings in
soccer, the English game that was started in the early 1800’s.
The college campuses of Ivy League schools all played variations of
football through the mid 1800’s. Then shortly after the end of the
Civil War around, some of the colleges began playing organized
football. The famous Princeton University defined some of the basic
rules of football and the game became patented. The first football game
in college football history was played in 1869, between Princeton and
Rutgers with Rutgers as the victor.
Football history took another big step in 1873 when a number of
colleges met to form the first rules of the game and established the
number of players on each squad.
The coach for Yale, Walter Camp assisted the final step in the change
from rugby style football to the American style. He limited the number
of players to eleven on each team and sized the football field to 110
yards. He then created the downs system in 1882 which was originally
three downs to gain 5 yards and then changed to 4 downs to gain 10
Without proper safety equipment, the sport had at the time become
extremely brutal, resulting in a number of deaths. President Roosevelt
summoned a change and helped form a group of 7 selected members to
govern a rules. This committee eventually became the NCAA or National
Athletic Association which we all know today.
The committee formed new rules including the forward pass and a number
of safety measures, which penalized players for roughness and unsafe
acts. Another milestone was reached when a common practice, the locking
of arms and blocking in unison was rightfully made illegal. The game
was shortened to the sixty minutes that we play today, and a neutral
zone between the offense and defense was also incorporated.
The development of the sport led to an inevitable expansion into the
college football area. College football history has since flourished
into an incredible weekly spectacle. Hundreds of college teams now
compete each year under the guidelines of the NCAA.
Professional football was first played around 1895 and in 1920 the APFA
or American Professional Football Association was formed. It was
renamed as the NFL or National Football League in 1922. The NFL started
slow and in the mid forties only had ten teams. A major merger then
took place in 1970. 16 NFL teams were combined with the 10 AFL teams to
make one large association with two conferences. The expansion
continued to the now 32 team league.
Thus we see how professional football has grown from from one college game in 1869, to a billion dollar empire today.