College football is getting to be as popular as professional football. In some areas of the country, college football is a lot more popular than NFL football. In Nebraska for example, Memorial stadium in Lincoln becomes the state’s third largest city on home football game days. The stadium becomes a sea of red as fans dress in the team colors in support of the Cornhuskers.
Almost as popular as discussing the games themselves is discussing the ranking systems. The BCS ranking system is used to determine which two teams will play for the National Championship each year. Data that is fed into several computers along with the USA Today poll (also called the Coaches poll) and the Harris poll are used to determine the BCS ratings each week. The first BCS poll each year is published around mid-October even though college football season starts in either late August or early September.
The AP poll and the USA Today polls are the most common polls used by the general public. There are several other polls. ESPN has a Power Sixteen poll. Sports Illustrated publishes a poll and so do CBS’s Sportsline and Athlon to name a few others.
The BCS ranking system has come under a lot of criticism. Almost every college football fan has an opinion about it, usually a strong opinion. Many people do not like the BCS ranking system because they think there should be a playoff to decide which teams will play for the National Championship instead of computers deciding who will play.
Although the majority of college football fans are in favor of a playoff, the majority of University presidents are against it because they feel it would make the football season too long and would affect academics.
College football has been around a long time. The first intercollegiate college football game was played on November 6, 1869. The game was between Princeton and Rutgers University. The score of the game was 6-4. Rutgers won.
The game played that day was much different than college football as we know it today. During that first game each team had 25 players. The rules of the game were more similar to rugby than to modern day football. The rules for that day’s game were adopted from the rules of the London Football Association. Every time one of the teams scored that day it counted as a game. The contest ended after there were ten “games” or ten scores. Whoever scored the most times won the match. That is why there is the odd-looking score of 6-4 for that first game.
The game of football evolved over time. In 1875 the round ball that had been used the first six years of play was replaced with an egg-shaped ball. In 1876 a crossbar was added to the goal posts. The height of that crossbar was 10 feet – the same height it is today. In 1876 the large playing field was changed also. It was made smaller – a size that is close to the size of today’s playing field.
In the 1880’s the game started to resemble football as we know it today. The rules that were similar to rugby rules were changed. Instead of 25 players for each team being allowed on the field at one time, it was changed to 11 players. More rules were changed and added over time, many of those because of serious injuries and deaths of players. By the late 1800’s some safety equipment was part of the player’s uniforms.
Early football was a vicious game. By the late 1800’s the public started to speak out strongly against the game. In the early 1900’s Columbia, which had been one of the early teams to join the sport, decided to ban football because it was too dangerous. Even President Theodore Roosevelt spoke out to say that changes needed to be made to the game.
More changes in rules and safety equipment were implemented. In 1910, an association was formed to govern collegiate football. That body is known today as the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). The NCAA is responsible for the rules and regulations of college football and is also charged with making sure the member teams of the NCAA follow those rules and regulations.
Changes in the rules, how the game was scored, and in the ball itself in the 1930’s helped the game gain popularity.
Today, over 135 years after the first intercollegiate college football game was played, there are over 600 collegiate football teams in the United States. And, yearly attendance at those games is in the tens of millions.
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