Early Days of Penn Football

1878-79 Penn football team
Photo credit: University Archives

The first college football game was played in 1869, when Princeton and Rutgers battled in New Brunswick, N.J.

In 1876, Penn finally joined the fun, playing its first three games—losing two to the heavier, more experienced Princeton team, and winning one (by four goals) against the “All-Philadelphia” squad. Two years later, the University began playing intercollegiate games on a regular basis, and on Nov. 11th of that year, won its first football game against another college, defeating Swarthmore by a score of nine goals and sixteen touchdowns to zero. Other victories were hard to come by, however, as the 1878-79 team (pictured above) proved incapable of beating the more established teams that had been playing the game for years. It was a problem that would plague Penn for some time. In fact, the Quakers didn’t become competitive with college football’s powers—Yale, Harvard and Princeton—until the mid-1890s.

For more on this and other notable moments in Penn history, go to the University Archives web site at www.archives.upenn.edu.

Originally published on October 2, 2008