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Rutgers Football History Capsule
The Birthplace of Intercollegiate Football

When Rutgers defeated Princeton in the first intercollegiate football game ever played in 1869, the setting was quite different than it is today. The game was contested on a field along College Avenue in New Brunswick. There weren’t tens of thousands of cheering fans in a multi-million dollar stadium. There was no manicured grass field or electronic scoreboard. There was no elaborate athletic equipment or television cameras. But on that fall day in 1869, those students established a tradition of quality football programs, competitiveness and school spirit that continues at Rutgers, the birthplace of intercollegiate football.

1882 Team
1882 team

On October 1, 1994, Rutgers celebrated that first team and all the teams that followed, as the 1994 squad played only its third game in the spectacular new Rutgers Stadium, hosting perennial national power Miami.

The game also continued 125 years of historical moments, outstanding athletes and memorable triumphs.

However, those historic moments were difficult to predict during the early years when intercollegiate football scheduling was inconsistent. For example, Rutgers won six of 10 games in 1882, but played only one game in 1885. Similarly, the Scarlet Knights went 8-6 in 1891, but two years later played only four games. By the early 1900’s, scheduling had become more consistent and football became more popular across the country.

Geroge Foster Sanford
George Foster Sanford

The eight wins of 1891 weren’t matched until Rutgers went 8-1 in 1947 with one of the most successful teams of coach Harvey Harman in the Golden Era immediately following World War II. That team, quarterbacked by Frank Burns, who would later become Rutgers’ most successful coach, lost its opener to Columbia and then swept through eight straight opponents.

In 1913, coach George Foster Sanford began a tradition of success among Rutgers coaches in their inaugural year by leading his team to a 6-3 mark. He then flirted with two perfect seasons, improving the team to 7-1 in 1915 and 7-1-1 in 1917.

Paul Robeson

Those two seasons, which featured All-American Paul Robeson, were among Rutgers’ best. The Scarlet Knights outscored opponents by an average of 44-3 in 1915 and 33-2 in 1917. Sanford, a member of Rutgers’ Hall of Fame, also helped to introduce Rutgers to the New York metropolitan area, playing games at the Polo Grounds against teams like Notre Dame, Nebraska, Louisiana State and West Virginia. A few year later, in 1924, two-time All-American end and fullback Homer Hazel helped coach John Wallace continue the tradition of first-year coaching success, as Rutgers posted a 7-1-1 mark.

Harvey Harman

Harvey Harman also had a successful first season, going 7-1 in 1938, the year Rutgers dedicated the original Rutgers Stadium. Rutgers won the dedication game, 20-18, over Princeton.

Harman, however, was replaced by former coach Harry Rockafeller during World War II. His tenure included an 8-1 season in 1947 when Rutgers, dominated by WWII veterans, registered a combined record of 27-7 from 1945-48.

Alex Kroll
1961 undefeated team.

When John Stiegman coached Rutgers from 1956-59, he brought back the single-wing formation to the Scarlet Knight offense, and led Rutgers to an 8-1 mark in 1958.

The only loss of that season, 13-12 to the Quantico Marines, came when All-American tailback Billy Austin had to miss a game due to a broken hand.

Another first-year coach got off to an impressive start when John Bateman went 8-1 in 1960. That campaign was followed by Rutgers’ first undefeated season in 1961, when the team went 9-0, capping the season with a fourth-quarter, 25-point comeback win over Columbia. That team included All-American center Alex Kroll, and was ranked 15th nationally. In his 11 seasons, Bateman led Rutgers to 73 wins in 124 games.

Centennial Game
1969 Centennial game


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