College Football
Celebrates 150 Years!

By Dave Cohen

As schools across the state of Georgia get ready to open the 2019 college football season, collectively the sport will celebrate its 150th anniversary. The roots of the game date back to November 6, 1869 when Princeton took the field against Rutgers in Brunswick, N.J., a game that the Scarlet Knights won 6-4. 150 years later the National Football Foundation and the College Football Hall of Fame will present numerous activities during the coming months that will pay homage to the sport and its legacy. We spoke with Kevin Weiberg, the Executive Director of the CFB150 committee.

150 years of college football. Wow, that's quite a legacy.

The one thing we wanted to do with this was to create a sort of template where everyone could celebrate, even those institutions that have played the game for a shorter period of time. We're encouraging schools to tell their own stories, their own history. There are a lot of common things about the game, going back to the two that started it all with Rutgers and Princeton.

For the average fan that follows his/her team each week there's the entertainment factor but college football, and athletics overall, can mean so much more to the participants.

Yes. I think first and foremost is the educational opportunities that the young people have as a result of participation. I think over the history of the game there something like five million-plus young men that have had the chance to play college football, many on a college scholarship and many of them first generation college students who may not have had the opportunity otherwise. That's a significant piece to it. There's great leadership qualities that one can gain from participation and all you have to do is talk to former players, many of them who talk about the experience as being most formative in many respects in their life. Also, it has such a community aspect to it. It brings people to campus. The following really goes beyond the viewers or folks listening on radio.

It's interesting how different college football is and can be in different parts of the country. There really are many different cultural aspects to the sport, at all levels.

The history really captures the flavor of it. The northeast was very prominent in the early days of college football and it really wasn't until the modern era, into the 1940's and 50's before some of that flavor began to change. The NFL developed into a more prominent game during that time. But it is some of that regional quality that I think still makes the sport very special. You also have a lot of Division III institutions and non-scholarship football programs that play in the northeast with very unique culture and traditions around their games.

With the College Football Hall of Fame downtown, some would say that ground zero is for the sport is right here in Atlanta.

Well, it really has become a hub in many respects of college football and football in general through the great work that the Peach Bowl organization has done and the support of sponsors like Chick-Fil-A, Coca-Cola and others has been tremendous in helping to grow the presence of the SEC championship game and the hosting of national championship games as well.

There's a difference in some fan's passion for the game when it comes to the college game and the NFL. Nobody went to school at the Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys or Green Bay Packers. The passion within the college football culture, for many fans, involves having attended their institution where that connection is ingrained for life.

I agree and feel the local and regional aspect add to the flavor that I think in many ways surpasses it. You can even make the case that the fact that it didn't have a true national championship until only recently with the playoff structure, has contributed to that. The unusual nature of the sport and the debate, discussion and the rivalry games has helped to fuel that over the years. It's deep seeded. There are family traditions that surround the teams and schools they support. The culture helps to make college football so unique and so special. It had a fifty-year jump on the NFL.

What role is CFB150 playing during the 150th college football season?

What we've tried to do is coordinate a national effort to recognize and celebrate the anniversary. Our goals are to try and use our organization to get buy-in from as many stakeholders as we could, the universities, the networks, the general media and we continue in that effort and it will be exciting to see it as it rolls out at the beginning of the season.



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