Today's Tidbit... College Football and Money in 1880
Among the most important years for rule changes in college football history was 1880. That year, football began using eleven players per side instead of fifteen and switched from the rugby scrummage to the football scrimmage, with one team possessing the ball for a series of downs. Two years later, they added a rule requiring teams to gain five yards in three downs or give up possession of the ball.
While football was in its infancy, and few played it, a snowy Thanksgiving Day game between two undefeated teams -Yale and Princeton- drew more than 4,000 people to the Polo Grounds in Manhattan.
College athletics on most campuses were organized as clubs under the auspices of an athletic association that funded equipment, travel, training table, and facilities. The athletic associations depended on ticket sales at rowing regattas and football games for their primary funding. The Thanksgiving gate of $3,000 ($82,300 in 2022 dollars) went a long way to financing those enterprises at Yale and Princeton, leading them to pursue larger crowds and football’s emerging role as the funder of college athletics.
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