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1874 Harvard vs. McGill football game

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1874 Harvard vs. McGill football game

The 1874 Harvard vs. McGill football game was a college football game between the Harvard Crimson and the McGill Redmen played on May 15, 1874. The game used three period or "games" and ended in a scoreless tie. It was the first rugby-style football game played in the United States. A Princeton vs. Rutgers football game was played five years earlier in 1869, but under England's "Football Association" rules more commonly known as soccer.



On October 20, 1873, representatives from Yale, Columbia, Princeton, and Rutgers met at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York City to codify the first set of intercollegiate football rules. Before this meeting, each school had its own set of rules and games were usually played using the home team's own particular code. At this meeting, a list of rules, based more on association football than on rugby football, was drawn up for intercollegiate football games.

Harvard, which played the "Boston game", a version of football that allowed carrying, refused to attend this rules conference and continued to play under its own code. While Harvard's voluntary absence from the meeting made it hard for them to schedule games against other American universities, it agreed to a challenge to play McGill University, from Montreal, in a two-game series.

The McGill team traveled to Cambridge to meet Harvard. On May 13, 1874, the first game, played under "Boston" rules, was won by Harvard with a score of 3–0. The next day, the two teams played under "McGill" rugby rules to a scoreless tie. The first game featured a round ball instead of a rugby-style oblong ball. McGill used simply a bladder covered by leather instead of a rubber ball as did Harvard, which was much more difficult to kick. This series of games represents an important milestone in the development of the modern game of American football.


Harvard quickly took a liking to the rugby game, and its use of the try which, until that time, was not used in American football. The try would later evolve into the score known as the touchdown. In late 1874, the Harvard team traveled to Montreal to play McGill in rugby, and won by three tries in front of 2,000 spectators.


1874 Harvard vs. McGill football game Wikipedia

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