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First Contest Under Rugby Rules Played With McGill in 1874.


Today's contest on Soldiers Field represents the very latest development in intercollegiate football. Thirty-nine years ago Harvard played McGill University in the first intercollegiate game under Rugby rules. The game was played on Jarvis Field, May 15, 1874, and resulted in a scoreless tie. Although these two teams had met the day before, the game on the 15th was the first of interest owing to the fact that it was played under the Canadian code of rules. The principal difference between the Harvard and Canadian rules was, to quote a daily paper of that date, that, "under the Harvard rules the ball must be kicked over a rope extending across the entire field while according to McGill's plan the ball must be kicked over a wooden bar 10 feet from the ground." For some time previous to the contest the team was drilled by night on Jarvis Field. Although this game represented the crudest kind of football, compared with the game as we know it today, yet it aroused great enthusiasm among the colleges in the new Rugby rules, and it was a result of this feeling that the Harvard-Yale series was begun in 1875. A contemporary Harvard publication in speaking of the game says: "Football will be a popular game here in the future. The Rugby game is in much better favor than the somewhat sleepy game now played by our men." In this match Harvard experienced considerable difficulty with the spherical shaped ball which they were unaccustomed to, but in spite of this embarrassment, combined with McGill's experience Harvard managed to hold the Canadians gainless by superior tackling and general defensive work. The captain of this pioneer team was Henry R. Grant '74, who played one of the halfback positions.

Little attention was paid this contest by the general public, mention of it being found in only one Boston paper, and that confined to a scant ten lines announcing the game and ending with this single sentence of general criticism of the affair. "There was a large crowd and much enthusiasm." In spite of the lack of general interest which it aroused, this game on May 15, 1874, marked the beginning of a football regime which has reached its highest point before 47,000 spectators today.

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