Citingconvincing evidence, former athletic director Rocky Carzo saysthe start of U.S. college football actually began with a Tuftsvictory.Medford/Somerville,Mass.
Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.27.04] Rocky Carzo will be the first to tellyou about the small wooden plaque hanging in the gym that commemoratesthe first U.S. college football game. The only problem is, it’slocated on the wrong campus. Citing research he’s amassedover four decades, the former Tufts athletic director says an1875 Tufts-Harvard match-up was the first true college footballgame – not the oft-cited Rutgers-Princeton game. His findings,say college football experts, are very convincing.
“Fromour perspective, it’s indisputable: Tufts and Harvard playedthe first intercollegiate football game in America,” Carzotold The Boston Globe, which recently published a lengthystory about his research. “I know some people are goingto take shots at us for saying it, but that’s good. That’sOK.”
Some of thoseshots will likely come from Rutgers and Princeton alumni, whohave long-claimed their 1869 match-up was the sport’s first.
Carzo doesn’tdeny the Rutgers-Princeton game was played first. “Look,the whole Princeton-Rutgers thing, it makes sense. Obviously,it was documented that it was a game between two schools,”he told the Newark Star Ledger. “Our only contentionis, they played soccer.”
He pointsto numerous accounts of the 1869 game describing the rules andequipment.
“ByCarzo’s research, as well as a detailed description of the’69 game on the Rutgers website, the rules governing thegame that day were vastly different than the so-called ‘BostonRules’ employed less than six years later between Tuftsand Harvard,” reported the Globe. “The ’69game, with 50 men on the field (25 a side), its ball smaller androunder and its play similar to rugby, ‘bore little resemblanceto its modern-day counterpart.”
The1875 Tufts game, however, had a distinctly football-like feel.
“Amajor difference between the two periods, noted National FootballFoundation College Hall of Fame President Bob Casciola, is thatthe ’69 game only allowed kicking the ball,” reportedthe Globe. “Most significantly, he said, pickingup the ball and running with it to advance the offensive play[which was not allowed in ‘69] was central to the ’75game.”
Likeningthe Rutgers-Princeton game to European soccer, Casciola told theGlobe that the 1875 Tufts-Harvard game was the “realMcCoy.”
The historicmatch-up – which Carzo emphasizes was won by Tufts –was covered by Boston newspapers and recounted in an extremelydetailed letter written by Eugene Bowen, an eye witness to theevent.
“Bowenwrote a letter to our football coach in 1949 detailing the game,how we prepared for the game and how the game was conducted,”Carzo said in an appearance last week on ESPN2’s morningshow Cold Pizza.
After sittingunnoticed in the athletic department’s files, the letterwas rediscovered in the 1960s by Paul Rich, the University’ssports information director.
“Iremember going through the files, including the Bowen letter,and thinking, ‘My God, what a great history,’”Rich, now 67-years-old, told the Globe. “No question,the ’69 game was more a soccer game. And, you know, it’sbeen written about over the years. I know it made its way intothe press when I was sports information director, but it neverreally caught on, really, except on campus. Maybe we’reat fault, because we didn’t push it enough.”
Rich isn’tthe only one who’s been convinced by Carzo’s research– which will be published in his upcoming book “JumboFootprints: A History of Tufts Athletics.”
“Ithink it’s somewhat a matter of re-education, and I thinkit’s definitely worth getting into,” Casciola, whoheads the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame, toldthe Globe. “It speaks to both evolution and refinementof the sport.”
As for Carzo,he isn’t trying to eliminate the Rutgers-Princeton game’splace in the history books – just refine it.
“We’renot trying to displace anybody,” Cazro told the Globe.“But part of being in the academic business is being inthe quest for truth – and if we find it, we find it. Andwith that comes the obligation to say something about it.”
And if thatdoesn’t work, Carzo says the question can always be settledon the field.
“Ithink there’s a great way to settle it,” Carzo toldESPN. “I think Rutgers and Princeton should play Tufts andHarvard. The game should be sponsored by ESPN and we should workit out.”
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