History tells us that the first college football game played in the United States was an all New Jersey match. Rutgers University took on Princeton in 1869. The game was played on a “common” between College Avenue and Sicard Street near Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The teams met again the following Saturday at Princeton’s Conover’s field. Rutgers then took on Columbia University in 1870. Cornell organized its football association in 1870.
The first game between ivy league colleges was in 1872 when Columbia played Yale. The game was played at the Hamilton Park racetrack oval in New Haven. Yale won 3-0.
The 1875 game between Yale and Harvard was the first one in which the teams wore uniforms specifically for the game.
In 1876 representatives from Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Columbia organized the Intercollegiate Football Association. “The big three” of Princeton, Harvard and Yale form the games longest running rivalries. Their players monopolized the first All-American team which was selected by Yale Head Coach Walter Camp in 1889. The only unbroken relationship among the three is the Princeton v. Yale series which has been going on continuously since 1873.
If you are interested in learning more about early Ivy League football games we recommend Ivy League Autumns by Richard Golfstein published in 1996.