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NCAAF - National Collegiate Athletic Association Football

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From its humble beginning in the last half of the 19th century, college football has become one of the most popular sports in the United States. With passionate fan bases from all across the nation filling up huge stadiums, the game has a unique place in the American sports landscape. While there have been issues and controversies along the way, college football is still evolving and growing in the early stages of the 21st century.

Early history

The first college football game was played back in 1869. Rutgers and Princeton were the first two schools to take the field for a collegiate football contest. In the matchup, Rutgers defeated the visiting Tigers by a final of 6-4. In reality, these early games were closer to rugby than the football that we know today.

A few years after the initial college game was held, Walter Camp helped to lay the foundation for the evolution of the sport. After playing for Yale, Camp became the head coach at his alma mater in 1888. Camp would eventually be known as the "Father of American Football" for the changes that he developed for the sport. His ideas included beginning plays from a line of scrimmage, 11-man units and the modern elements of scoring.

While Camp's changes helped to get the sport moving forward, there were still some issues that needed to be worked out moving into the 20th century. By 1905, college football was an extremely violent sport. The equipment worn by players was far less effective than the helmets and pads that are used by football teams today. Due to all of the injuries, President Theodore Roosevelt even considered banning the sport. At this time, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was formed. The organization sought to bring some structure to the game by tweaking some of the rules to help reduce injuries. One of the initial adjustments involved the introduction of the forward pass in the game.

College Football evolves

In the decade of the twenties, college football began to take off. Illinois running back Red Grange became one of the first big stars in the game. With the NFL just beginning in 1922, college football had more attention at this point in time. Led by head coach Knute Rockne, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish became one of the first dominant programs in the sport during the twenties. The concept of postseason bowl games also began to really grow in this decade. The Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, California was built in 1923.

In the thirties, college football continued to grow. In 1935, the Heisman Trophy was established to award the top player in the sport each season. In the following year, the Associated Press developed a poll to rank teams and declare a national champion each season. To close out the decade, the first college football game to be televised was in 1939.

Legends of the game

Over the last seventy years, there have been a number of legendary players and coaches that have aided the growth of college football. Following Rockne's lead, many other coaches went on to become household names over the years. In the mid-fifties, Oklahoma's Bud Wilkinson led his school to an NCAA-record of 47 consecutive victories in a dominant run. In the sixties, Alabama's Paul "Bear" Bryant established himself as an elite coach. He retired in 1982 as the winningest coach in the history of major college football. More recently, Penn State's Joe Paterno and Florida State's Bobby Bowden would become two of the top coaches in the game for several decades.

On the field, many players excelled to greatness. Notre Dame continued to be a force with three Heisman Trophy winners in the forties. In the sixties, future NFL stars Roger Staubach and O.J. Simpson gained prominence as Heisman winners. In the mid-seventies, Ohio State running back Archie Griffin became the only player ever to win two Heisman Trophies in a career. In the last three decades, many other standouts have stepped up to win a Heisman.

Controversial issues

Today, college football is a huge enterprise. With big television contracts and mega conferences, the sport generates plenty of money. In part, the big money has led to number of recruiting scandals in the modern era of college football. While elite head coaches now earn well over a million dollars per year, star players are limited to just a scholarship. This disparity has led to plenty of debates over the years.

Another controversy involves the lack of a playoff in major college football. Despite the formation of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in the late-nineties, many fans are still hoping for a true playoff system to eventually be established. Despite these issues, college football is poised to grow and flourish in the years to come as one of America's most enjoyed sports.