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The article in Rugby Magazine's September/October issue of 2008 narrated the beginnings of rugby played in the United States. For the record, McGill University of Montreal, Canada, journeyed to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to play Harvard in May 1874. In April 1875, Harvard would travel to New Haven to introduce Yale to the rugby game. Rugby in the 1870s became the contact sport among several eastern colleges and continued in the same format until 1883 when the rules significantly altered.
Yale's Walter Camp, a six-year rugby veteran and the driving force behind the Rules Committee, perceived the game needed a radical make over. He proposed changes, including a line of scrimmage, three downs to make five yards to keep possession, and reducing teams to eleven players. The scoring also changed, awarding more points for a touchdown. For example, in 1882 Yale had 52 points for and only 1 against. But a year later, the Elis went 540-2 under the inflated scoring changes.
These many rules' adjustments ushered in the distinctive sport known as gridiron football, different from rugby union. But, over time, nomenclature has confused and complicated the true history of the nation's origins of "football." The most repeated and false claim is that Princeton and Rutgers played the first football game in America in November 1869. The misnomer emanates from the modern era use of the word "football," which has been historically associated with the gridiron game. Princeton and Rutgers played a soccer style contest with a round ball without running, carrying, or tackling. The game was also denoted as "Association football," a reference back to England's Cambridge Association that systemized the rules in 1863 to delineate the play of the kicking game from the British Rugby Union's carrying game that codified its rules in 1871.
The term Association formed the abbreviated "ASSOCCER" in England, a word eventually shortened to soccer. But many in the UK held on to "football" name, and when the sport proliferated in Europe, it retained the football designation, which explains why the international organization is called FIFA, in French, Fédération Internationale de Football Association.
After Camp's rules changes, almost all the eastern schools playing rugby switched to the gridiron game. According to the book Evolvements of Early American Foot Ball by Melvin I. Smith (Authorhouse Publishers, 2008), what ensued were three separate designations; (1) the "kicking game" or association football, (2) the "carrying game" or rugby union, and, finally, (3) the "American collegiate game."
The collegiate game would thrive and prosper, eventually spreading from coast to coast to become the autumnal university contact sport. In sum, Princeton and Rutgers played the first intercollegiate game using a ball, featuring kicking only that approximated soccer. McGill and Harvard competed in the first rugby contest on American soil in 1874. To employ modern nomenclature, the USA's first "football" game occurred when Camp's new rules went into effect.