Get into Sports

A return match which the H.U.F.B.C. played at Montreal in October weaned Harvard from her peculiar Boston rules to the game from which American football has developed. Tufts College took it up and trounced Harvard the following June; in the fall of 1875 Yale was converted, and defeated. The first^ Harvard-Yale football game was played on November 13, 1875, at New Haven, [where about a hundred and fifty Harvard student were on hand to see their team win by four goals and four touchdowns. It had been better to have been more moderate, for Yale made a determined and successful effort to learn more than her teacher. Walter Camp began to play in 1878; and Harvard did not beat Yale again until 1890. The following description from the Harvard Herald of the first half of the Harvard-Yale football game of 1882 is typical:

The eleven played its last game of the season on Holmes field Saturday, and received its first defeat. Although a cold wind blew down the field promising much inconvenience to spectators, about 2,500 people were grouped around the lines at 2:15 when the teams came on the field. Yale won the toss and chose the wind, Harvard kicking off.The ball was passed back and sent on to Yale’s ground by Mason’s kick and Morison’s rush. Soon, however, Yale’s half-back, taking advantage of the wind, sent the ball by a high punt far into Harvard’s territory, and Hull receiving the ball from a down carried it over our line by a pretty rush and scored a touchdown, but no goal was kicked. Yale now commenced the contemptible game she resorted to last fall, and in a few minutes nearly every man in her rush line was warned and threatened with disqualification either for foul tackling or for jumping on and fouling the backs. It was an exhibition which will be long remembered at Harvard and by the outsiders as well, who came expecting to see a scientific game of football. Wesselhoeft sprained his ankle in one of the roughest scrimmages, and Adams, ’86, took his place. Yale soon scored a touch down through Beck, from a fumble by one of our rush; but Richards again failed in the goal. Harvard then rallied, and brilliant rushing by Morison and Appleton carried the ball into the middle of the field, when time was called.

The ‘fouling the backs’ complained of was the beginning of interference; but Harvard had no right to ‘kick,’ because her initial victory over McGill had been won by springing new plays that were neither forbidden nor anticipated by the Rugby rules. This constant innovation has been the genius and the bane of the American game, for the (almost invisible line between clever tactics and foul play made the temptation to unsportsmanlike conduct almost irresistible, and hard feeling between contestants an inevitable concomitant.