college football

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A college football game between Colorado State and Air Force.
College football is American football played by teams of student athletes fielded by American universities, colleges, and military academies. It was the venue through which American football first gained popularity in the United States. College football remains extremely popular today among students, alumni, and other fans of the sport. According to "Bill Stern's Favorite Football Stories" (1948), the most people ever to attend a college football game was 114,000, for the Army-Navy game in 1926. It ended in darkness, in a 21-21 tie.


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A college football game between Texas Tech and Navy.

Modern American football has its origins in various games, all known as "football", played at public schools in England in the mid-19th century. By the 1840s, students at Rugby School in England were playing a game in which players were able to pick up the ball and run with it, a sport later known as Rugby union (or rugby). The game was taken to Canada by British soldiers stationed there and was soon being played at Canadian colleges.

The first football game played between teams representing American colleges was an unfamiliar ancestor of today's college football, as it was played under rugby-style rules [1]. The game between teams from Rutgers College (now Rutgers University) and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) took place on November 6, 1869 at College Field (now the site of the College Avenue Gymnasium at Rutgers University) in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Rutgers won by a score of 6 "runs" to Princeton's 4.[2][3][4] The 1869 game between Rutgers and Princeton is important in that it is the first documented game of any sport called "football" (which also encompasses the game of "soccer") between two American colleges. It is also notable in that it came a full-two years before a codified rugby game would be played in England. The Princeton/Rutgers game was undoubtedly different from what we today know as American football. Nonetheless it was the antecedent of what evolved into American Football. Another similar game took place between Rutgers and Columbia University in 1870 and the popularity of intercollegiate competition in football would spread throughout the country.

The American experience with the rugby-style game that led directly to present-day college football continued in 1874 at a meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts, between Harvard University and Montreal's McGill University. The McGill team played a rugby-style game, while Harvard played under a set of rules that allowed greater handling of the ball than soccer. The teams agreed to play under compromise rules. The Harvard students took to the rugby rules and adopted them as their own.[5]

The first game of intercollegiate football in America between two American colleges that most resembles the game of today was between Tufts University and Harvard on June 4, 1875 at Jarvis Field in Cambridge, Mass., won by Tufts 1-0 [6]. A report of the outcome of this game appeared in the Boston Daily Globe of June 5, 1875. Jarvis Field was at the time a patch of land at the northern point of the Harvard campus, bordered by Everett and Jarvis Sts. to the north and south, and Oxford St. and Massachusetts Avenue to the east and west. In the Tufts/Harvard game participants were allowed to pick up the ball and run with it, each side fielded eleven men, the ball carrier was stopped by knocking him down or 'tackling' him, and the inflated ball was egg-shaped - the combination of which marks this game as the first game of American Football. A photograph of the 1875 Tufts team hangs in the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana. Harvard and Yale also began play in 1875 though under rules that were slightly removed from the Tufts/Harvard contest. The longest running rivalry and most played game between two American colleges is between Lafayette College and Lehigh University.

Walter Camp, known as the "Father of American Football", is credited with changing the game from a variation of rugby into a unique sport. Camp is responsible for pioneering the play from scrimmage (earlier games featured a rugby scrum), most of the modern elements of scoring, the eleven-man team, and the traditional offensive setup of the seven-man line and the four-man backfield. Camp also had a hand in popularizing the game. He published numerous articles in publications such as Collier's Weekly and Harper's Weekly, and he chose the first College Football All-America Team.

College football increased in popularity through the remainder of the 19th century. It also became increasingly violent. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt threatened to ban the sport following a series of player deaths from injuries suffered during games. The response to this was the formation of what became the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which set rules governing the sport. One of the resulting rule changes was the introduction of the forward pass. Another was the banning of "mass momentum" plays (many of which, like the infamous "flying wedge", were sometimes literally deadly).

Prior to the founding of the National Football League and for many decades thereafter, college football was the predominant venue of American football. Innovations in strategy and style of play originated in college football and spread to the professional game gradually. During the 1950s and 60s, professional football began to be the predominant football medium.

Even with the emergence of the NFL, college football remains extremely popular throughout the U.S.[7] Although the college game has a much larger margin for talent than its pro counterpart, the sheer number of fans following major colleges provides a financial equalizer for the game, with Division I programs — the highest level — playing in huge stadiums (four [1] of which have seating capacity exceeding 100,000). In many cases, the college stadiums employ bench-style seating (as opposed to individual seats with backs and arm rests). This allows them to seat more fans in a given amount of space than the typical professional stadium, which tends to be a bit more luxurious. Overall college football draws more attendees than its professional counterpart. [8] [9]

A lack of a professional franchise is not necessarily an indicator of where the college game is most successful; for example, in California, Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Florida—states which all have multiple NFL franchises—there are universities that also rank in the upper financial echelons of the college football. In many cases, though both collegiate and professional football teams exist in the same state, they reside in different cities.

College athletes, unlike professionals, are not permitted by the NCAA to be paid salaries. Many do receive scholarships and financial assistance from the university.

Unlike the early years of college football, the upper echelons of the college football are now dominated by public schools. First-tier conferences are mainly made up of flagship public schools from each state.

Season schedule

The college football season begins two to three weeks earlier than the NFL, toward the end of August. From 1982 until 2003, the regular season was officially ushered in by the Kickoff Classic (other pre-season games such as the Eddie Robinson Classic and the Pigskin Classic have also been played). Recent NCAA rules changes have eliminated these games. The regular season continues through early December, ending with the annual Army-Navy Game and several conference championship games on the same weekend.

The postseason consists of a series of bowl games that showcase top college teams. Bowl games generally match two teams of similar standing from different conferences, although some pit a high ranked team from a smaller conference against a lower ranked team from a more prestigious one. Division I Bowl Subdivision (still widely known by its former designation of Division I-A) football is the only NCAA sport which does not decide its champion with a playoff. In the past, the unofficial national champion was determined by various polls, such as the AP Poll, Coaches Poll, and the United Press International Poll. This system was problematic because two polls often named different champions.

Since 1998, the National Championship has been determined by the Bowl Championship Series. This formula, incorporating numerous computer rankings and human polls, is used to determine the top two teams in the country.[10] From 1998 to 2005, the two teams competed in one of the four BCS bowl games in a set rotation. Starting in the 2006 season, the BCS National Championship Game, was added. The game is played after completion of the BCS Bowls and the site rotates every year between the four BCS Bowls: the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, and Sugar Bowl. The first BCS Championship game was held on January 8, 2007 in the new University of Phoenix Stadium, the new home of the Fiesta Bowl. This system is not without controversy. Some critics argue that the system unfairly favors teams from large conferences and that the process used to select the teams can be just as ambiguous as the earlier poll system. Also, the Bowl Championship Series champion has not always been the undisputed national champion; for example, in 2003, the Associated Press and Bowl Championship Series chose different champions, which is what the system was designed to prevent. However, most years do have a consensus national champion.

The season concludes with series of all-star bowl games in January. These include the East-West Shrine Game, the Gridiron Classic, the Hula Bowl, the Senior Bowl, and the newly-established Texas vs. The Nation Game. However, the Gridiron Classic was recently declared canceled for 2006 because of lack of sponsorship.[11]

The length of the season has gradually increased over the course of the game's history. In spring 2005, the NCAA ruled that teams could schedule twelve regular-season games (up from eleven) beginning in the 2006 season.[12] This decision was met with some criticism from those who claimed that expanding the season would overwork the athletes.[13]

Official rules and notable rule distinctions

See also: American football
Although rules for the high school, college, and NFL games are generally consistent, there are some differences. The NCAA Football Rules Committee determines the playing rules for Division I (both Bowl and Championship Subdivisions), II, and III games (the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is a separate organization, but uses the NCAA rules).
  • A pass is ruled complete if one of the receiver's feet is inbounds at the time of the catch. In the NFL, both feet must be inbounds.
  • A player is considered down when any part of his body other than the feet or hands touches the ground (from a tackle or otherwise). In the NFL, a player is active until he is tackled or forced down another way by a member of the opposing team (down by contact).
  • A play may not begin until the referee declares the ball ready for play, at which time the play clock (25 seconds) starts. In the NFL, a similar rule requires the next play to begin within 40 seconds from the end of the previous play.
  • The game-clock briefly stops when a first down is achieved to move and reset the chains. The clock restarts when the referee declares the ball ready for play, unless the previous play was ruled out of bounds. The clock then starts on the snap. In the NFL, the clock does not stop to allow the officials to move the chains.
  • Overtime was introduced to Division I-A in 1996, eliminating ties. When a game goes to overtime, each team is given one possession from its opponent's twenty-five yard line. The team leading after both possessions is declared the winner. If the teams remain tied, overtime periods continue, switching the order of possessions for each overtime, until one team leads the other at the end of the overtime. Starting with the 3rd overtime, teams must attempt a two-point conversion after they score a touchdown. (In the NFL, overtime is decided by a 15-minute sudden-death quarter, and regular season games can still end in a tie if neither team scores. Overtime for regular season games in the NFL began with the 1974 season.)
  • Two point conversions are attempted from the three-yard line. The NFL uses the two-yard line.
  • The defensive team may score two points on a point-after touchdown attempt by returning a blocked kick, fumble, or interception into the opposition's end zone. In addition, if the defensive team gains possession, but then moves backwards into the endzone and is stopped, a one point safety will be awarded to the offense. In the NFL, a conversion attempt ends when the defending team gains possession of the football.
  • The two-minute warning is not used in college football, except in rare cases where the scoreboard clock has malfunctioned and is not being used.
  • There is an option to use instant replay review of officiating decisions. Division I-Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) schools use replay in virtually all games; replay is rarely used in lower division games. Every play is subject to booth review with coaches only having one challenge. In the NFL, challenges are only automatic in the final two minutes of each half.
  • In the 2006 season, the clock would use a rule that started the clock immediately after the chains were set on either change possession or kickoffs, reducing the time of games. This rule only lasted one year.
  • In the 1984 season, the ball was placed on the 30-yard line (instead of the 20) if a kickoff sailed through the end zone on the fly and untouched. This rule was rescinded after one year.
  • Among other rule changes to 2007, kickoffs have been moved from the 35 yard (32 m) line back five yards (4.57 m) to the 30 yard (0 m) line to match that of the NFL. Some coaches and officials are questioning this rule change as it could lead to more injuries to the players as there will likely be more kickoff returns.[14]The rationale for the rule change was to help reduce dead time in the game.[15]

National championships

Team maps

A map of all Division I Bowl Subdivision (I-A) schools.

A map of all Division I Championship Subdivision (I-AA) schools.

A map of all Division II schools

A map of all NAIA schools.

Bowl games

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2006-2007 Bowl Games per state (and Canada)
Main article: Bowl game
Unlike every other sport -- collegiate or professional -- Division I college football does not employ a playoff system to determine a champion. Instead, it has a series of "bowl games." The annual national champion is determined by a vote of sports writers and other non-players. This system has been challenged but little headway has been made given the entrenched vested economic interests in the various bowls.

A bowl game is a post-season college football game, typically in the Division I Bowl Subdivision. The first bowl game was the 1902 Rose Bowl, played between Michigan and Stanford; Michigan won 49-0. The term originates from the shape of the stadium in Pasadena, California where the game is played.

At the Division I FBS level, teams must earn the right to be bowl eligible by winning at least 6 games during the season. They are then invited to a bowl game based on their conference ranking and the tie-ins that the conference has to each bowl game. For the 2006 season, there are 32 bowl games, so 64 of the 120 Division I FBS teams will be invited to play at a bowl. These games are played from mid-December to early January and most of the later bowl games are typically considered more prestigious.

After the Bowl Championship Series, additional all-star bowl games round out the post-season schedule through the beginning of February.

Bowl Championship Series (BCS)

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Bowl Championship Series logo
The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is designed to pair the top two teams in college football against each other for a National Championship game. The system also selects matchups for the other prestigious BCS bowl games. The ten teams selected include the conference champion from each of the six BCS conferences plus four others ("at-large" selections). The top-ranked and second-ranked teams are pitted in the BCS National Championship Game in order to crown an unofficial NCAA Division I FBS national football champion. The winner is also required to be voted number one by the Coaches Poll. It has been in place since the 1998 season. Prior to the 2006 season eight teams competed in four BCS Bowls. The BCS replaced the Bowl Alliance (in place from 1995–1997), which followed the Bowl Coalition (in place from 1992–1994).

See also


1. ^ [2]
2. ^ NFL History at the National Football League website, accessed 10 September 2006.
3. ^ Rutgers Through the Years (timeline), published by Rutgers University (no further authorship information available), accessed 12 January 2007.
4. ^ Tradition at Published by Rutgers University Athletic Department (no further authorship information available), accessed 10 September 2006.
5. ^ Infamous 1874 McGill-Harvard game turns 132 at McGill Athletics, published by McGill University (no further authorship information available). This article incorporates text from the McGill University Gazette (April 1874), two issues of The Montreal Gazette (14 May and 19 May 1874). Accessed 29 January 2007.
6. ^ Smith, R.A. "Sports and Freedom: The Rise of Big-Time College Athletics", New York: Oxford University Press, 1988
7. ^ Harris Interactive Poll "While Still the Nation's Favorite Sport, Professional Football Drops in Popularity Baseball and college football are next in popularity" [3]
8. ^ NCAA 2006 Attendance Statistics [4]
9. ^ NFL 2006 Attendance Press Release [5]
10. ^ About the BCS (HTML) (English). Bowl Championship Series. Retrieved on 2006-07-18.
11. ^ Gridiron Classic Will Not Be Played In 2006 (HTML) (English). Florida Citrus Sports (August 19, 2005). Retrieved on 2006-07-18.
12. ^ Div. I-A Football Gets 12th Game (HTML). NCAA (April 19, 2005). Retrieved on 2006-07-18.
13. ^ NCAA ponders adding 12th game to college football season (HTML). Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (2004-11-22). Retrieved on 2006-11-22.
14. ^ Kickoffs from 30 yard (0 m) line could create more returns, injuries (HTML). AP (April 16, 2007). Retrieved on 2007-08-17.
15. ^ NCAA Football Rules Committee Votes To Restore Plays While Attempting To Maintain Shorter Overall Game Time (HTML) (English). NCAA (February 14, 2007). Retrieved on 2007-08-17.

External links

College football awards:
Best player awards:
Heisman Memorial Trophy
Maxwell Award | Walter Camp Award
Bronko Nagurski Trophy (Best Defenseman)
Chuck Bednarik Award (Best Defenseman)
Dave Rimington Trophy (Best C)
Davey O'Brien Award (Best QB)
Dick Butkus Award (Best LB)
Doak Walker Award (Best RB)
Draddy Trophy (Academic Heisman)
Fred Biletnikoff Award (Best WR)
Jim Thorpe Award (Best DB)
John Mackey Award (Best TE)
Johnny Unitas Award (Best Senior QB)
Lombardi Award (Best Lineman or LB)
Lott Trophy (Defensive impact)
Lou Groza Award (Best PK)
Manning Award (Best QB)
Mosi Tatupu Award (Best spec. teams)
Outland Trophy (Best IOL or DL)
Ray Guy Award (Best P)
Sammy Baugh Trophy (Best QB)
Ted Hendricks Award (Best DE)
Wuerffel Trophy (Humanitarian-Athlete)
Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year | Home Depot Coach of the Year
Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year | Walter Camp Coach of the Year
Walter Payton Award (Best Div. I FCS Off.) | Buck Buchanan Award (Best Div. I FCS Def.)
Harlon Hill Trophy (Div. II) | Gagliardi Trophy (Div. III) | Melberger Award (Div. III)

NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision Conferences:
Atlantic Coast Conference*Big 12 Conference*Big East Conference*Big Ten Conference*Conference USAMid-American ConferenceMountain West ConferencePacific-10 Conference*Southeastern Conference*Sun Belt ConferenceWestern Athletic ConferenceIndependents
*Conference champion receives an automatic BCS bid

NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision Conferences
Big Sky Conference •Big South Conference •Colonial Athletic Association •Gateway Football Conference •Great West Football Conference •Ivy League •Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference •Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference •Northeast Conference •Ohio Valley Conference •Patriot League •Pioneer Football League •Southern Conference •Southland Conference •Southwestern Athletic Conference •Independents

NCAA Division III Football Conferences
American Southwest ConferenceAtlantic Central Football ConferenceCollege Conference of Illinois and WisconsinCentennial ConferenceEmpire 8Freedom Football ConferenceHeartland Collegiate Athletic ConferenceIllini-Badger Football ConferenceIowa Intercollegiate Athletic ConferenceLiberty LeagueMichigan Intercollegiate Athletic AssociationMiddle Atlantic CorporationMidwest ConferenceMinnesota Intercollegiate Athletic ConferenceNew England Football ConferenceNew England Small College Athletic ConferenceNew Jersey Athletic ConferenceNorth Coast Athletic ConferenceNorthwest Athletic ConferenceOhio Athletic ConferenceOld Dominion Athletic ConferencePresidents' Athletic ConferenceSouthern California Intercollegiate Athletic ConferenceSouthern Collegiate Athletic ConferenceUniversity Athletic AssociationUpper Midwest Athletic ConferenceUSA South Athletic ConferenceWisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic ConferenceIndependents

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