Football, although indefinitely known as a sport to Greek and Roman antiquity, did not come into existence as a school or college game until the eighteenth century. During the three or four centuries prior to this time football, in a vague way, figured in English inter-town and county contests. It first appeared as a distinct school game in the early part of the eighteenth century, but at this time was in more or less disfavor on account of the strict Puritanism of the period.

It is to the English schoolboy that the game of football really owes its origin. During the middle of the nineteenth century there was an athletic revival throughout England and football became the favorite pastime of the winter months in such schools as Rugby, Eton, Harrow, Charterhouse and others. The game came to its present important position through a gradual evolutionary process in which both a standard of play and of rule were developed together. In the growth of the two principal forms of modern play, "Association" and "Rugby," the size of the particular school ground was the determining factor. In 1850 the only school playground in England large enough to permit the running and tackling game was connected with Rugby. At Harrow, kicking and fair catching were allowed. A game was developed at Eton peculiar to this school and called the "wall game," while at other schools the play consisted almost entirely of so called "dribbling," in which carrying the ball and tackling were unknown.

The two systems of play, outgrowths of environment, have ever since retained their individuality, constantly increasing along well defined lines to the present day.

Originally each school was bound only by self-made rules. Not until 1863 was there any attempt at codification. At that time a number of Rugby clubs in London met and attempted the adoption of laws governing their play. During the next ten years several attempts were made by the exponents of the two forms of football to formulate a code which would unify the two systems. At this time the followers of the dribbling game greatly outnumbered their rivals, but, notwithstanding this fact, Rugby retained its individuality and the numerous attempts at consolidation were without success.

In 1871 the clubs of London met and agreed upon a code out of which the present Rugby game of England and the intercollegiate game of America developed.

Prior to this time, however, a crude sort of football was being played on this side of the ocean. As early as 1840 at Yale, contests resembling to a certain extent the early game at. Rugby were in vogue between the freshman and sophomore classes. In reality this series of games was, however, little but the prototype of the modern class rushes which are prevalent in most colleges at the present time. The so-called football soon assumed so strenuous a form that the faculty at Yale was obliged to abolish the custom, and the game was not revived at this institution until the early seventies.

Through the influence of a Yale undergraduate who had previously attended Rugby, inter-class football games were inaugurated in 1873, under a modified system of Rugby Union rules. In the meantime the game was also being developed at other seaboard colleges in America. Harvard, Rutgers, Princeton, Columbia and others were doing their share toward its development. At first the contests were of an inter-class or inter-hall variety. In the progress of the play, however, the desire for intercollegiate competition grew, and in October, 1872, representatives of Yale, Rutgers, Princeton and Columbia met in New York and adopted a set of rules which formed the first intercollegiate football association in America.

While throughout the New England towns and villages at this period a "dribbling" game was being played, the American colleges naturally adopted a form of play resembling that in progress under the English Rugby rules. Running with the ball and tackling, in fact every feature which tends to make the game a vigorous one, have subconsciously moulded the game in America. College football in the United States now stands as an exemplification of the athletic instincts of its younger generation.

The assimilation of the Rugby game and its evolution into the form in which football is now played in the United States were matters of considerable time and no small amount of deliberation. The English rules were found to be ambiguous in some cases, and difficult of comprehension in others. The novelty of the game, also, was productive of many suggested alterations and it was one of these which is really accountable for the wide difference which now exists between Rugby and American football. This was the adoption of a clause which permitted the forwards to heel or pass the ball out from the scrimmage where it could be grasped by one of the backs, who could then advance it.

This was a procedure not tolerated in the original form of the game, but the additional interest which it imparted was immediately seen and the superiority of this plan for putting the ball into play, over the English method of kicking it about in scrimmage, was so apparent that it was eagerly embraced.

Football Its Origin And Development 2

In logical order then followed the selection of one man to do the passing, through the greater accuracy which was thus secured, and the alignment of the men in the forward positions, instead of the old form of helter-skelter. Naturally, the heavy men were grouped about the center to protect him and the man immediately behind who was to receive the pass, while the lighter and faster men were assigned to duty on the ends.

Other provisions of the English game were altered to suit the new conditions and a rules committee, composed of prominent sportsmen of the leading institutions where the game was played, made numerous other changes in finally placing the game on a uniform basis. But one kind of intercollegiate football is now played the whole country over, and of recent years the changes in the rules have been comparatively slight and unimportant. The desire of the men who have from time to time served on the committee has been to develop a game which is clean and manly, and only a reference to the present code of rules is needed to demonstrate the stringent penalties placed upon any tactics even bordering on the unfair. The safety of the individual players has always been carefully looked after by the committee and the most important change made in the rules in recent years was the abolition of the flying wedge and its variations of mass play, an action taken in 1894.

In recent years as well, the rule makers have been endeavoring with continued success to cultivate the attractive features of the game by bringing kicking and open field running into greater prominence, a purpose which is being steadily accomplished without the sacrifice of any of the former attractions which the game has always possessed for both player and spectator.

To a great extent the rapid progress of the game has been due to the natural rivalry manifested between the elevens in the various institutions which took up the game at about the same time. Since the very earliest days of the game the contests between Yale and Princeton have roused the interest, not only of the students and alumni, but of a constantly increasing proportion of the sports-loving public. Yale and Harvard have maintained their annual competition almost every year. Pennsylvania has long been one of the best known homes of the game. West Point and Annapolis, the national schools for army and navy officers, have always been supporters of rival football teams. Numerous other institutions, natural rivals, have assisted in the development of the game, urged to increasing efficiency by the progress of the competitor, and the west has in more recent years taken a position of enthusiastic support until now the game is practically general in all parts of the United States, not only in the colleges, but in preparatory schools as well.