History of College Sports

Jump straight to our Best All Time College Sports Articles

The history of college sports include all kinds of sports. Here's a list of the most common sports played on college campuses:

  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Baseball
  • Softball
  • Hockey
  • Volleyball
  • Soccer
  • Track & Field; Cross Country
  • Swimming & Diving
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Gymnastics
  • Wrestling
  • Lacrosse
  • Rowing
  • Field Hockey

Of course the most popular sports to college sports fans are Football, Basketball and Baseball. So, we'll focus on those. Naturally, first up, in the history of college sports, is the #1 college fan sport in America: FOOTBALL!!.

The first college football game was played on November 6, 1869. According to today’s standards it might be hard for some to agree that it was a football game at all. The game was played In New Brunswick, New Jersey. The twenty five player teams involved were from Princeton and Rutgers.  The ball they used was a round soccer style ball. Today’s football circumference is approximately twenty eight inches while the length wise circumference is eleven inches. The original field was seventy five yards wide and one hundred and twenty yards long. Today’s field is still the same length but the width has been reduced to fifty three and one third yards. There are seven officials on the field of every game today. That’s a seven hundred percent increase since that first game where there were no officials. Rutgers won that historic game six goals to four.

In 1875 the egg shaped, leather covered football appeared on the scene accompanied by three officials on the field. In 1876 the ten foot high cross bar was added to the goal posts and the size of the field was reduced. The number of players on each side was reduced to fifteen. Even with all of these changes it was a far cry from today’s game. In the early eighteen eighties Walter Camp, a former player for Yale, revised the rules. The number of players was again reduced, this time to eleven per team. A scrimmage system was established for putting the ball in play. Several other changes were introduced and by the beginning of the twentieth century there were around 250 college teams.

Clemson Memorial Stadium (Death Valley) was built 1941 -1942.
Clemson Memorial Stadium (Death Valley) was built 1941 -1942.
Thanks to scmikeburton on flickr.com for the picture.

The History of College Sports continues with basketball. Dr. James Naismith worked for the YMCA training school in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1892 he came up with the game of Basketball. The games were played by two teams of seven to nine players. They were not allowed to dribble the ball and each player was only allowed two fouls before being removed from the game. The original game had thirteen rules and looked little like current day games. The rules for modern games are based on the original thirteen.

The first college basketball game was played on February 9, 1895 between the Minnesota School of Agriculture and Hamline College. Minnesota won that game nine to three. On January 18, 1896 the first college game with five players per team was played in Iowa City, Iowa. The University of Chicago beat the University of Iowa by a score of fifteen to twelve.

Basketball grew so quickly that conferences began to form. The intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States was formed in 1906 to govern the rules of eligibility.  In 1908 they changed their name to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). By the nineteen eighties college basketball was considered to be one of the premier sports of the country.

UAAP Season 70 Finals Game 1 - UE vs. La Salle.
Kelvin Gregorio, TY Tang, Rico Maierhofer, Hans Thiele, Ferdinand UAAP Season 70 Finals Game 1 - UE vs. La Salle.
Thanks to inboundpass on flickr.com for the picture.

Baseball rounds out the History of College Sports. Pittsfield, Massachusetts is thought to be the site of the first intercollegiate baseball game. On July 1, 1859, Amherst College beat Williams College by a score of seventy three to thirty two. This was one of the last games played under the Massachusetts Rules. The New York rules were developed in the eighteen forties and gradually became the accepted rules of play. The first nine man team college baseball game was played on November 3,1859. New York’s Saint John’s College played Saint Francis Xavier College.

Over the years college baseball has grown phenomenally, particularly since the nineteen eighties. Baseball has traditionally been played in late spring and early summer and has a fairly short schedule. It is often hampered by cold and rain especially in the Northern and Midwest sections of the United States. Because of these set backs college baseball was considered a minor sport. During the nineteen eighties several changes took place to increase the popularity of the game. Bigger stadiums were built and the colleges started to recruit better players for the game. Money was invested in promotions and salaries of the staff were increased. These efforts resulted in better players which in turn resulted in better coverage by newspapers and television. The NCAA playoffs and the College World Series can be seen on ESPN. The series is played each year in Omaha, Nebraska. It has been the home of the Championship since 1950.

Appalachian State Baseball.
Appalachian State Baseball.
Thanks to JamieL. Williams on flickr.com for the picture.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has grown and expanded over the years but has maintained it's main purpose to regulate college atheletics for the betterment of all. as discussed at college football history, the NCAA was started at the behest of President Teddy Roosevelt who was concerned about injuries from the "Flying Wedge."

The national office of the NCAA is today in Indianapolis, Indiana and it has a staff of more than 380 employees. Walter Byers famously served as President of the NCAA for 36 years until he retired in 1987. He was replaced by Richard D. Schultz from the University of Virginia, who resigned in 1993 and was replaced by University of Arizona athletics director Cedric Dempsey. Dempsey served as President until 2002. Since then, the NCAA has been led by Myles Brand, who formerly was president of Indiana University.

What about woman's collegiate athletics? In 1980, the NCAA began overseeing women's athletics programs. One year later, the 75th convention, adopted an extensive governance plan, including women's athletics programs, services and representation. Delegates assigned to the women's championships expanded that program with the addition of 19 events.

Because football, basketball and baseball are the most popular college sports, we discuss those sports further at NCAA Football History, NCAA Basketball History and NCAA Baseball History. However, we also have pages devoted to the less popular "minor" sports.

Here's our Best All Time College Sports Articles (other than football or basketball):

If you want to buy a special gift for a college sports fan, go to Best College Sports Gifts.

What do you think?

We'd love to hear your comments and/or opinions. If you submit them here, other visitors can read them, rate them and comment on them. An e-mail address is not required.

From History of College Sports to Best All Time Sports | Best All Time Sports Blog | History of Professional Football | MLB History | History of NBA | History of Hockey | NCAA Football History | NCAA Basketball History | NCAA Baseball History | Olympic Sports History | History of All Sports | Best Moments in Sports History | Worst All Time Sports Moment | Current Best All Time Sports News | Best Sports Forum | NFL Football Apparel and Merchandise | MLB Baseball Apparel and Merchandise | NBA Basketball Apparel and Merchandise | NHL Hockey Apparel and Merchandise | College Fan Apparel and Merchandise | Other Sports Fan Apparel and Merchandise | Fathead | Sports Tickets |

Return to Home Page
About Us | Contact Us | Site Search | Advertise | Terms of Use / Privacy Policy |

New! Comments

Leave a comment about this article in the box below and share it with your Facebook friends.

Visit Our eBay Store: Better Display Cases

Like this Site

Subscribe to
Best All-Time

Your First Name

Your E-mail Address

We keep this private.

Follow the Best All-Time Blog.

Like this Page

Visit Our Social Pages

Become a Fan of Best All-Time on Facebook Find Best All-Time on Google+ Follow BestAllTime on Twitter Follow BestAllTime on YouTube