The University of Pennsylvania has long been one of the foremost schools of the football world and, in the early days of the game, has, with Harvard, Yale and Princeton, been one of the "Big Four" institutions in its position of prominence. Football relations have been maintained with Harvard practically since 1881; with Yale from 1879 to 1894, and with Princeton from 1876 to 1894. The game has been played at Pennsylvania every year since it became known in any systematized form in the United States. For years the season has closed at Pennsylvania with the annual Thanksgiving Day game with Cornell.
Among the players who have made the elevens of Pennsylvania famous are such men as Gelbert, Knipe, Osgood, Brooke, Woodruff, Hare, Minds, Overfield and McCracken.
Woodruff, who for many years coached the Pennsylvania teams, brought out the famous guards-back play as a method of attack, and for this play and its variations Pennsylvania's teams were long famous. Later it has developed into the tackle-back play, which is a refinement of the Woodruff idea.
On offense and defense alike is the Pennsylvania play distinctively original, for, when the opponents have the ball, the Penn eleven plays in compact order, the ends drawn in and the tackles close to the guards. The ends of Penn are invariably sent into a play with the idea of breaking it up before it has well started, reliance being placed on the hacks and tackles to get the runners. The tackles themselves play close and charge forward and toward the center on defensive.