1876 College Football Summary

The game continues to grow and change.

This season a key factor of the game was initiated and has forever changed the game—as it will remain a vital part of and as long as the game is played.

Prior to this season, the only way the ball could be advanced down the field was to kick it forward; or to "pass" it sideways to a teammate with a shorter kick; thus giving a whole new meaning to the word "FOOT" ball.

Now, the player would be able to use both feet to advance the ball into scoring position—as they could run with the ball.

The use of the ball also changed this season; from the round soccer ball that hs been used since the inception of the game to an oblong style.

Heads or Tails?

Well before its time, a forward pass was made; with the referee's decision being ruled by a flip of a coin.

Walter Camp, who would later become the "Father of Football", was playing for Yale. As he was about to be tackled, Camp made a desperation toss to teammagte Oliver Thompson who found his way into the end zone against Princeton.

Of course, the Tigers cried fouled as the only way to move the ball forward was to run with it. So, the official flipped the coin. (It is not recorded as the call, but regardless, the score was allowed as Yale won the game.)

Dr. L. H. Baker, a noted early historian, recalled this event in the book Athletics at Princeton- A History.

It's worth noting that Thompson kicked the winning goal in victories over Harvard and Princeton—both from 35-yards out.

Yale would also go on to further cement its place in college football history: in its game against Harvard, with each team lining-up with 11 players per side; as the former scored a 1 goal-0-goal 3 TDs victory.

Scoring was still determined by the first school to record 6 goals being declared the winner.

Of course, there were no lights during the game's early days; so often, darkness would fall before the required number of goals was made.

A good example was in the Princeton-Columbia match-up. The two teams battled 114 minutes; as Princeton had a 3-goal margin and was declared the winner, 3-0. Eight days later, the Princeton offense was in high-gear; finishing its game against Penn, in 74 minutes, winning 6-goals to nothing.

At season's end, officials from Harvard, Princeton and Columbia met to create the first conference. (Yale also sent a representative, but was not a member.)

The group formed what would become the Intercollegiate Football Association.

Since the new league was founded after the season, no formal standings were kept; but unofficially—of the three teams and Yale—showed (with record among the other listed:

  • Harvard 1-0, 4-1
  • Columbia 0-1, 1-1
  • Princeton, 0-2, 0-2
  • Yale 2-0, 3-0*

*With Yale claiming the title.

Source: Evolvement of Early American Foot Ball: Through the 1890/91 Season

1876 Leaders (min. of 3 games) Show:

  • Offensive Scoring Leader (Most Scored)
    Harvard (4-1) 4 Goals, 14 Toucdowns; coverterted to 44 Points
  • Defensive Scoring Leader (Least Allowed)
    Tufts (2-0-1) and Princeton (3-0) didn't allow their opponents to score all season.
  • National Champions (Retroactive)
    Yale (3-0)

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