Would the 25 players on each side for the then-College of both New Jersey and Rutgers have pictured what college soccer appears like 150 decades after?
The match played Rutgers’ campus on Nov. 6, 1869 may have looked more like soccer or rugby than football as we have known it for decades now, but the history of the game that will celebrate its 150th anniversary this fall traces its history back to that November day.
The game’s popularity led Princeton to build Palmer Stadium, constructed over four months in 1914 and lasting for 82 years, seating as many as 45,000-plus and serving as the inspiration for the shape of Princeton Stadium, which stands today.
It also led to the formation of the Ivy League that we know today, and the championships for which hundreds of Princeton athletes now compete every year across 33 Ivy League sports. In 1945, the league’s presidents formed the Ivy Group Agreement, which then applied only to football and in the next decade grew beyond that, formally creating the Ivy League in 1954. Heading into the 2019 season, Princeton has won 12 of those Ivy League football championships, running the table with a perfect 7-0 Ivy record in 1964 and again in 2018.
It has led to the creation of national honors like the Heisman Trophy, which Dick Kazmaier ’52 won in 1951 and has become both a title that connotes excellence within the game and a trophy every sports fan knows, with players striking the stiff-arm pose. One of those trophies, thanks to Kazmaier, is on display in the lobby of Jadwin Gym.
It has led to traditions that have spread across the sport, with other colleges and countless high schools sporting the winged helmet that returned to Princeton with the opening of Princeton Stadium and began with Herbert “Fritz” Crisler in 1935.
It has spawned the career aspirations of many players who’ve worn the Orange and Black to play and work in football as a profession, with kicker Charlie Gogolak ’66 taken sixth overall in the NFL Draft in 1966 and Princeton players hearing their names called as recently as Seth DeValve ’16 in 2016. Speaking of iconic designs in sports, the head coach of the star-helmeted Dallas Cowboys, Jason Garrett’89, is your second-winningest trainer of one of the NFL’s most recognizable brands. Detroit Lions vice chairman William Clay Ford Jr.’79, whose family has endowed the Ford Family Director of Athletics at Princeton, Minnesota Vikings president Mark Wilf’84, and Atlanta Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay’81 are one of those Princeton alumni that are guiding organizations from the NFL.
And for fans, it’s developed centuries and decades of customs, from tailgates into rivalries, by the group to cheerleaders, and more within households, some with lots of Princeton ties, a few with divided alma mater loyalties, all coalescing around an yearly assembly in a match whose origins started to take hold 150 years back this autumn.
Championships. Careers. Awards. Stadiums. Traditions. Would the 25 Princetonians who made the visit to New Brunswick at 1869 have pictured it?