The Original Rules of College Football

A.B. Frost/Bettmann via Getty Images

On Nov. 6, 1869, the first-ever college football game was played between the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) and Rutgers College. The game bore little resemblance to college football as we know it today, with a far different set of rules designed to minimize scoring and maximize the bone-crushing -- and often deadly -- violence that characterized the sport's early years. A century and a half later, we've uncovered the original rulebook that was used for that first game, which provides a fascinating glimpse into the sport's rudimentary beginnings and reveals just how dramatically it has changed over the past 150 years.

The Civil War is over but the lust to maim our brethren remains, and so we must partake in a savage new recreation called Foot Ball, where school lads riled with excessive activity of blood and nerve may make their brutal mischief on one another atop blood-soaked pastures, just as they did on the front lines of Antietam. The Laws of Foot Ball are as follows:


(A) The game shall be played upon a grassy rectangle of five hundred Grecian cubits long (approx. 2994 Roman handsbreadths) and one hundred Welsh paces broad (approx. .53 Imperial furlongs), the boundaries of which shall be marked by four wailing widows who have been lured from their squalor with bread crumbs to the field's respective corners. The field of play shall be furnished with a trench eleven Roman paces long (approx. 23 million Welsh cubits) for depositing the maimed and a robust assortment of heavy rocks to facilitate the maiming.

(B) In both size and shape, the Game Ball shall be like that of a very fat owl, and it shall be constructed of the most dynamic and hardy substance known to man: wood.

(C) Players of Foot Ball must don the regulation costume of: a powdered wig; a white woolen blouse with great billowing sleeves and a loose-fitting gauze diaper to accommodate the proper gentlemanly running form of kicking one's knees up to one's chest while frantically flapping one's arms; a bugle; a King James Bible strapped to the waist to ward off the ever-looming spirit of bowel disease; and three-inch-long hard-wood shoes that truncate the feet into dense, secure wads so as to protect them from errant stomps.


(A) The object of Foot Ball is for players to maul one another while taking turns holding a ball.

(B) In each game, there shall be one fifteen-minute "Half Time" in which players briefly pause their bludgeoning and withdraw for a thorough delousing and a restorative luncheon of boiled wood and chest-nuts.

(C) Points may be won by advancing the ball past the opponent's Goal Line. However, points bear no consequence on the game's final outcome and are awarded only because it would be weird if a sport did not have points.

(D) The main point of Foot Ball is maiming.


(A) Teams shall field 25 players, each of whom shall be assigned one of the following roles:

Quarter Back:The Quarter Back is the commander of the team and is appointed such because he has the longest ponytail. He is also the designated passer of the ball. However, passing the ball is considered a sinful act of hubris in the eyes of God and is therefore forbidden, and so the Quarter Back can do nothing but scuttle around crying with ball in hand, unsure what to do.

Half Back: This is the player the Quarter Back gives the ball to when he is frightened.

Full Back: This is the player the Half Back gives the ball to when he is frightened.

He Who Runs The Wrong Way: This is the player who sprints heedlessly in the wrong direction with the ball.

He Who Retrieves Him: This is the player who retrieves him.

Horse Of Constant Destruction: This player is an untamed horse whose purpose is to thrash his hooves about and kick his teammates in their heads so as to toughen them and keep them alert.

The Knight Of Daffy Countenance: A man of great ugliness who flaunts his amusing, misshapen features and deformed expressions to distract his opponents and make them susceptible to maiming.

Druggist: A player who dispenses opium tinctures to rally team spirits.

Punting Baby: A wee infant who is called upon to kick the ball very short distances.

Punting Behemoth: A hulking pituitary colossus who is called upon to kick the ball great distances.

Shrieking Eunuch: A man of hollow scrotum and colicky temper who scampers hither and thither about the field shrieking in the berserk manner of a starving eaglet, sowing great chaos with no discernible purpose. Each team must field 12 Shrieking Eunuchs at all times.

(B) The officials of the game shall be the Whistlemeister (blows whistle constantly to remind players that sports is happening), the Virginitymeister (enforcer of chastity) and the Strong Nanny (dispenses stern punishment for on-field infractions and the building of character).


(A) The game commences with both teams' players charging onto the field, where they toot their bugles deafeningly until their opponents can locate them.

(B) The team that toots its bugles loudest wins the first possession, which it then immediately forfeits by punting the ball high into the air and scurrying every which way.

(C) The player who recovers the punted ball must declare "I have got it!" so that the opposing team knows whom to try to murder, at which point he then readies himself for a barbaric drubbing.

(D) He is then besieged by the opposing team as well as his own, as both teams are equally eager to get on with the maiming, uniting in one giant, heaving mass of happy violence that shall persist until either the player with the ball crawls free from the forest of thrashing limbs or his head falls off.

(E) A different player then recovers the ball and receives a maiming of his own, and this cycle repeats itself for many hours or even days, continuing until all players are nearly dead from fatigue and pain, at which point the contest is ruled a draw and everyone goes to church.

(F) A Foul may be called upon any player who commits a violation, the punishments for which shall be biblical in severity and born of the Strong Nanny's fevered imagination.

(G) Punishable violations include: getting one's head stuck in one's bugle; engaging in locomotive-based offensive schemes; coveting thy neighbor's wife or his ox; insufficiently roughing the kicker; using any performance-enhancing substances, such as drinking water or dynamite; defying the Virginitymeister; general cowardice and jackassery; excessive celebration of any kind, such as raising one's eyebrows in a satisfied manner; and possessing an unhappy attitude about being maimed.

These are the Laws of Foot Ball, which must be observed always to ensure that all maiming occurs in a safe and enjoyable manner. May the best sportsmen win.