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Football History

Football, American, distinct type of football that developed in the United States in the 19th
century from soccer (association football) and rugby football. Played by professionals and
amateurs (generally male college or high school teams), football is one of the most popular
American sports, attracting thousands of participants and millions of spectators annually. The
forerunner of American football may have been a game played by the ancient Greeks, called
harpaston. In this game there was no limit to the number of players. The object was to move a
ball across a goal line by kicking, throwing, or running with it. Classical literature contains
detailed accounts of the game, including its rougher elements, such as ferocious tackling.
Most modern versions of football, however, originated in England, where a form of the game
was known in the 12th century. In subsequent centuries football became so popular that
various English monarchs, including Edward II and Henry VI, forbade the game because it
took interest away from the military sport of archery. By the middle of the 19th century
football had split into two distinct entities. Still popular today, these two sports included the
football association game, or soccer (the word being a slang adaptation of the three letters, s-
o-c, in Association), and rugby, in which players ran with the ball and tackled. Modern
football evolved out of these two sports.

Modern Football

American football was made popular by teams representing colleges and universities. These
teams dominated the game for most of the first 100 years of football in the United States.
Even today, despite greatly increased interest in professional football, intercollegiate contests
played by some 640 teamare attended by more than 35 million spectators each year.
Many college stadiums hold more than 50,000 spectators; one stadium, at the University of
Michigan, holds more than 100,000. Many of the major universities are now grouped in
conferences, such as the Big Ten (northern midwest), the Big Eight (midwest), the Pacific Ten
(western states), the Southeastern Conference, and the Ivy League (northeast). The birth date
of football in the United States is generally regarded by football historians as November 6,
1869, when teams from Rutgers and Princeton universities met in New Brunswick, New
Jersey, for the first intercollegiate football game. In the early games, each team used 25
players at a time. By 1873 the number was reduced to 20 players, in 1876 to 15 players, and
in 1880 to 11 players, where it has remained. In the 1900s, college football became one of the
country's most popular sports spectacles. Ranked among the greatest United States sports
heroes of the 20th century are such student athletes as Jim Thorpe of Carlisle Institute; George
Gipp of the University of Notre Dame; Red Grange of the University of Illinois; Tom Harmon
of the University of Michigan; Doak Walker of Southern Methodist University; Glenn Davis
and Doc Blanchard, the Touchdown Twins of Army (the U.S. Military Academy); Joe
Namath of the University of Alabama; and O. J. Simpson of the University of Southern
California. In 1935 the Downtown Athletic Club of New York City established an award
honoring one of the outstanding college football coaches in the country, John William
Heisman. Heisman is credited with legalizing the forward pass in 1906. The John W. Heisman
Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the outstanding college player of the year, as
decided by a national poll of sportswriters. After World War II ended in 1945, college athletes
began to receive football scholarships, often paying the player's room, board, tuition, and
incidental expenses while enrolled in college.