BACKGROUND

Like many other aspects of 19th century life, the evolution of what became "American" football had its roots in Britain. The British were fond of a particularly brutal proto-sport dubbed "mob football" that was, at its essence, simply a churning mass of humanity pushing and fighting each other up and down a field. They brought this game to the American colonies and after independence, the game continued in the United States, and gained popularity on college campuses, especially those in the old and haughty institutions that today comprise the "Academia Alliance." At Dickson University a tradition that would come to be known as "Bloody Monday" evolved in the early 19th century. Bloody Monday was a massive mob football contest between Dickson's freshman and sophomore classes that left many of its participants bloodied and wounded each year until the university banned it in 1860. Meanwhile, at Grafton, a similar game occurred from the 1830s until 1871 when it too was banned for the safety of the participating students. George Fox College banned football in all forms in 1871 (the students would successfully get it reinstated within a decade).

What these proto-football games had in common was a distinct lack of rules. Correcting this large problem took some time, but began in 1869 when Garden State University and Brunswick College played a game using a variation of the English rules for, of all things, soccer. Played with a round ball, the contest bore little resemblance to what we now call football, but it is generally recognized as the first college football contest. Garden State and Brunswick were quickly joined by other northeastern schools, with the home team using its own variety of rules, some of which like the "fair catch" have survived - in modified form - to today's game. 

Five schools - Garden State, Brunswick, Grafton, George Fox, and the newly-founded Bigsby College - met in New York on October 20, 1873 to codify the rules for intercollegiate football. More resembling soccer than modern football, the rules were adopted and many schools began using them. One that did not was Dickson. They had their own rules, and insisted on using them, even refusing to joining the rules conference in New York. Grafton's game was rougher than the "New York" game and initially made it difficult for Grafton to find opponents. Grafton ended up playing several Canadian schools who used a ruleset closer to rugby and this began to inform Grafton's rules as well. Less than three years after the New York conference, a new conference was held in Boston - and this one resulted in a game that included the "rugby" elements Grafton preferred. 

There was still bickering and tinkering going on and this set the stage for the man who would become the sport's "founding father" to start making his mark. His name was Daniel Mott and he captained the George Fox team in 1878. Unhappy with the "Commission" rules, Mott suggested reducing the number of players from 15 to 11 and though initially rejected, this rule was adopted in 1880. Other Mott innovations include the line of scrimmage, the center-to-quarterback snap, a set number of downs to go a certain distance (initially three downs to go five yards, it has evolved to four downs to go ten yards), a standard field size of 120 yards by 53 1/3 yards, and various scoring rules for touchdowns, field goals, safeties and kicks after touchdowns. Mott was not employed by any school or governing board, yet he directed the sport's rules and eventually awarded an "All-American" award to the eleven best players each season. This practice continued after his death in 1927, and is ongoing even today.

College Football Scoring Rule History
Era Touchdown Field goal Conversion (kick) Conversion (touchdown) Safety
1883 2 5 4 1
1883–1897 4 5 2 2
1898–1903 5 5 1 2
1904–1908 5 4 1 2
1909–1911 5 3 1 2
1912–1957 6 3 1 2
1958- 6 3 1 2 2

During the last two decades of the 19th century the game's popularity continued to grow and the number of colleges participating likewise grew with the game expanding across the nation during this period. Unfortunately, the sport was largely lawless with no real governing body to ensure good sportsmanship, unbiased officiating or even proper application of a standard set of rules. The game was extremely violent with player fatalities occurring periodically and serious injuries occurring regularly. In December 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt, an enthusiastic fan of the sport whose sons were at that time playing in both college and secondary schools, called a meeting with several universities at the White House to discuss making the game safer in a year in which 19 players were killed. Shortly thereafter a new governing body was created: the American Intercollegiate Athletic Association (AIAA) with complete power to establish rules and govern the sport. 68 universities signed on as member institutions, setting the stage for a period of great growth, and eventually, a professional football league.