Know your foe: Rutgers University
This weekend will not only be EMU’s first football game against Rutgers, it will be EMU’s first football game against any team from New Jersey. That’s not terribly surprising, since despite being the birthplace of American football, there are only three Division I programs in the state, and Rutgers is the only one competing in FBS. So let’s turn to our good friend, Wikipedia, to learn about Rutgers University!
“Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey” is a public research university and the largest institution for higher education in New Jersey in the United States.
Rutgers University history
Originally chartered as Queen’s College on November 10, 1766, Rutgers is the eighth-oldest college in the United States and one of the nine “Colonial Colleges” founded before the American Revolution. The college was renamed Rutgers College in 1825 in honor of Colonel Henry Rutgers (1745–1830), a New York City landowner, philanthropist, and former military officer, whose donation to the school allowed it reopen after years of financial difficulty. For most of its existence, Rutgers was a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Dutch Reformed Church and admitted only male students. The college expanded its role in research and instruction in agriculture, engineering, and science when it was named as the state’s sole land-grant college in 1864 under the Morrill Act of 1862. It gained university status in 1924 with the introduction of graduate education and further expansion. However, Rutgers evolved into a coeducational public research university after being designated “The State University of New Jersey” by the New Jersey Legislature in laws enacted in 1945 and 1956. It is one of only two colonial colleges that later became public universities.1
Rutgers has three campuses and enrolls approximately 65,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. The university’s three campuses offer instruction in 175 academic departments, and Rutgers is widely regarded as a top public university system.2 The university’s main campus, the historic core of the university, is spread across the City of New Brunswick and Township of Piscataway, with smaller campuses located in Newark and Camden. The Newark campus was formerly the University of Newark, which merged into the Rutgers system in 1946, while the Camden campus was created in 1950 after Rutgers acquired the College of South Jersey and the South Jersey Law School.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are the athletic teams that represent Rutgers University. In sports, Rutgers is chiefly known for being the “Birthplace of Football,” hosting what is claimed by some to be the first American football game.
Among the first American schools to participate in intercollegiate athletics, Rutgers’ main campus in New Brunswick-Piscataway currently fields 27 teams in the American Athletic Conference in the following sports: baseball, basketball, crew, cross country, field hockey, football, golf, gymnastics, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field, swimming and diving, wrestling, and volleyball.3 Rutgers will be leaving the American Athletic Conference to join the Big Ten Conference in 2014.
The Rutgers campuses in Newark and Camden participate in intercollegiate athletics separately, under the names Scarlet Raiders and Scarlet Raptors, respectively, both in NCAA Division III.
Let’s get this out of the way upfront. The game played at Rutgers, between the Rutgers “Queensmen” and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), on November 6, 1869, although historic and important in the development of American football, was not American football in any way you’d recognize today. For my money, the sport really began, as a distinct sport from the various football (soccer) and rugby codes, with Walter Camp’s changes in the 1880s; it was Camp who introduced the line of scrimmage, the snap from center to quarterback, and eventually the down and distance rules, which together define not just standard American football but the whole family of gridiron football.
I’m not going to get into the details of that first game either, because explaining it would require explaining the rules under which it was played, which — this bears repeating — in today’s terms could best be described as a mix between rugby-like and soccer-like rules. If you really want the details, read this. The important thing is that the game was played. Less importantly, Rutgers won, 6-4.
Mascot and colors
Keep in mind that Rutgers dates more than 100 years before that first football game. Early on, students sought to make the official school color orange, to honor Rutgers’ Dutch heritage. In May 1869, in the third issue of The Daily Targum, the official student newspaper of Rutgers, came a suggestion that scarlet should be chosen, because it was a striking color for which ribbons could easily be obtained. Six months later, in that famous game, the Rutgers men wore scarlet turbans and handkerchiefs to distinguish themselves as a team from the Princeton players. It took several decades, but in 1900 the Board of Trustees finally adopted scarlet as the official school color.
For many years, Rutgers athletes were known informally either as “Queensmen” (in reference to the school’s original name) or as “The Scarlet” (for the school’s color).
In 1925, the mascot was changed to “Chanticleer”, a fighting rooster from the medieval fable Reynard the Fox (“Le Roman de Renart”) which was used by Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales. At the time, the student humor magazine at Rutgers was called Chanticleer, and one of its early arts editors, Ozzie Nelson (later of “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” fame) was quarterback of the Rutgers team from 1924 to 1926. The Chanticleer mascot was unveiled at a football game against Lafayette College, in which Lafayette was also introducing a new mascot, a leopard. However, the choice of Chanticleer as a mascot was often the subject of ridicule because of its association with “being chicken.” In 1955, the mascot was changed to the Scarlet Knight after a campus-wide election, beating out other contenders such as “Queensmen”, the “Scarlet”, the “Red Lions”, the “Redmen,” and the “Flying Dutchmen.” Earlier proposed nicknames included “Pioneers” and “Cannoneers”. When Harvey Harman, then coach of the football team, was asked why he supported changing the Rutgers mascot, he was quoted as saying, “You can call it the Chanticleer, you can call it a fighting cock, you can call it any damn thing you want, but everybody knows it’s a chicken.” Harman later is said to have bought the first “Scarlet Knight” mascot costume for the 1955 season, which was to be his final season as football coach at Rutgers.
The university has historic rivalries with Lafayette College, Lehigh University, Princeton University, and Columbia University (formerly King’s College) originating from the early days of college football. While they maintain the Princeton rivalry in other sports, they have not faced off in football since 1980. Rutgers has a men’s basketball rivalry with Seton Hall University, and has growing rivalries with the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University in all sports.
The university’s longest active football rivalry is with Navy, which dates to 1891. This rivalry stems in part from Navy and Rutgers being two of the only three programs (the third is Army) to come out of the original, informal “Ivy League” that are still members of the top tier of NCAA college football. Other football teams they’ve frequently faced include West Virginia and Temple.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights football
Despite claiming to be the “Birthplace of College Football”, Rutgers has not had an overly successful heritage in the sport through the years. They do claim one national championship, but that’s for the 1869 “season” — which consisted of the aforementioned “first game”, won by Rutgers, plus a rematch won by Princeton. Noteworthy seasons in Rutgers football history include 1961 (9-0), 1976 (11-0), and 2006 (11-2).
Especially over the three decades from the late-70s to the late-90s, Rutgers was often regarded as one of the worst teams in Division I-A/FBS, posting multiple consecutive losing seasons and raising discussion of possibly reducing the team to Division I-AA/FCS competition. In 1991, after 15 years as an independent, Rutgers joined the Big East, where they remained until that conference’s recent implosion; out of that they’ve landed in the American Athletic Conference for this year, before moving on to the B1G, where they and Maryland will bring the “Big Ten” membership to 14.
- Of the nine colonial colleges, seven (Harvard, Yale, Pennsylvania, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, and Dartmouth) remained private. The College of William and Mary was taken over by the Commonwealth of Virginia and reincorporated as a public institution in 1888, and Rutgers became the State University of New Jersey after laws passed in 1945 and 1956. [↩]
- In the most recent US New & World Report ranking, they were the #25 public university. [↩]
- The American Athletic Conference was born out of the destruction of the old Big East by the football-driven conference realignment of the last several years. Seven of the ten current members, as well as all three programs joining the AAC in 2014, are former members of Conference USA. [↩]
- Before he became known as an actor, singer, and civil rights activist, Robeson was an outstanding football player. He was an All-American in 1917 and 1918, and then played in the NFL for four years. [↩]
- Hazel was named an All-American in 1923 as an end and in 1924 as a fullback. [↩]
- Kroll initially enrolled at Yale, where he played two seasons. After being expelled his sophomore year, he enlisted in the Army, serving in the military police for two years. He then returned to school, this time at Rutgers, where the team posted a 17-1 record in his two seasons. His senior year — their undefeated 1961 season — Kroll was a team captain and was named to seven different All-American teams. After graduation he played one season for the New York Titans, now the New York Jets, and after retiring from football he eventually became a leader in the advertising industry. [↩]