By Ahfaaz Merchant | Sports Writer
The band is playing, fans are roaring and adrenaline is rushing through the veins of millions of people preparing to take part in an experience born a century and a half ago.
As we march closer to kickoff for the 2019 football season, there is much more to think about than the Heisman race or the road to the national championship. This year marks the 150th anniversary of college football. The celebration will pay homage to the game and the numerous opportunities it has given to various student-athletes around the country.
According to Kevin Weiberg, executive director of the CFB150 non-profit organization, the celebration will be a year-long effort with several other organizations taking part as well, including the NCAA and the National Football League.
“We’re looking forward to advancing the mission that we were given around this, which is to make this a broad-based national celebration and to use this platform of the anniversary to remind people about the aspects of the game that have been so important across all these years,” Weiberg said.
Among the initiatives taken by CFB150, the NFL will pay tribute to the sport during the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants game on Nov. 4 in New York City. The organization has also sent helmet decals and uniform patches to universities and junior colleges around the nation.
The flame for the sport was ignited on Nov. 6, 1869, between Rutgers University and Princeton University. Considered to be the first American football game ever, it was played with very different rules than what we see today. This was just years after one of America’s darkest times.
“Remarkable really if you think about the sport having its launching pad just a few years after the end of the Civil War.”, Weiberg said. “This game has a strong tie to the college campus.”
Teams were made up of 25 players and the objective of the game was to kick the ball into the opposing team’s goal. The most significant difference was that carrying or throwing the ball was not allowed. It was played in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with an audience of only a 100 people, according to statistics from Rutgers University. The game ended with the score of 6-4.
The average attendance today, according to the NCAA, is 12,668 with a typical game featuring 30+ points per team per game.
It wasn’t until men like Walter Camp and John W. Heisman introduced the line of scrimmage and the forward pass did the dynamic of football begin to evolve.
The game has meant so much to many people across its history and in the eyes of Big 12 commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, it has become an “American phenomenon.”
“As I said earlier, college football is a great thing,” Bowlsby said in a press conference at Big 12 Media Days. “It’s the best regular season in all of sports, especially if the month is October and November.”
The impact that college football has had is perhaps best seen in the state of Texas, with the tradition beginning on Oct. 19, 1894. The Texas Longhorns defeated the Texas A&M Aggies 38-0 and sparked one of the longest-standing rivalries in the sport.
Baylor University has also made a significant impact on college football with its history dating back to 1898. There have been several rivalries and key moments engraved into its history. The biggest rivalry matchups for the Bears include the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs, which dates back to 1899, and the Texas A&M Aggies, which goes back to 1901.
The TCU vs. Baylor rivalry ranks 22nd among the longest-running rivalries in college football history. TCU, historically known as AddRan Christian University, was once housed in Waco until they ultimately decided to move their campus to Fort Worth. The rivalry was rooted on the historic 1899 football game, where the two teams met for the first time and ultimately ended the game with a score of 0-0. This, however, was the beginning of what is now the second- longest rivalry in the state of Texas.
The Aggies vs. Bears rivalry, otherwise known as the Battle of the Brazos, began after the Aggies ruined the Bears’ chance at a perfect season in their debut by giving the Bears their first loss 33-0, in 1899. The rivalry intensified in the 1926 season after a brawl broke out at Baylor’s homecoming parade. The rivalry became dormant in 2012 when the Aggies decided to take their talents to the Southeastern Conference.
Baylor’s 100+ years of football history includes both awards and tradition. Robert Griffin III earned the Bears’ first Heisman Trophy in 2011 before being drafted by the Washington Redskins.
Freshmen play a big part in one of the most well-known pre-game rituals.The Baylor Line was founded in 1970 as a spirit organization for first-year male students and a Baylor Sideline was created a year later for the female students halfway through the1990s the Line was reorganized into what we see today out on the field. The students wear special jerseys with their nicknames or last names printed on the back at all home games. They get to run across the field to form a human tunnel as the Baylor football team makes it entrance into McLane Stadium. The Baylor Line also has special seats in the stands directly behind the visitor bench.
The anniversary celebration began Saturday and continues with Baylor playing this weekend, opening its season against Stephen F. Austin University at 6:00 p.m. on Aug. 31 at McLane Stadium.