College football

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College football game between the Colorado State Rams and the Air Force Falcons

As a college football is more than 150 years of American football -Spielbetrieb at universities and colleges in the United States and Canada respectively. While professional sport is in the media focus today, college football continues to play a central role in the USA; crucial games attract more than 100,000 spectators to the stadiums and millions of people watch the games on television. Six of the ten largest sports stadiums in the world across all sports are college football, all with a capacity of over 100,000 spectators. Despite the great media interest, the players are not allowed to be paid a salary; only the costs for the studies including a scholarship for the mostly high tuition fees are covered by the universities for the players.

In addition, college football is the essential training platform for talented players before the best players can switch to professional sport. Unlike many other popular sports in North America, American football lacks training teams from the most successful franchises in lower leagues, so college football is often viewed as the second top division after the National Football League (NFL) and ahead of high school football. Players typically stay in college football for three or four years before moving to professional sport with graduation or dropping out of college. Before each season of the NFL, 256 players are signed directly to the NFL professional teams as part of the NFL Draft . As free agents , players who have not been drafted also have the opportunity to continue their playing career in professional football after university sport.

The beginnings and first developments of American football can essentially be traced back to college football, which achieved great popularity in the United States as early as the second half of the 19th century. The professionalism in American football developed based on the rules of college football with the establishment of the National Football League in 1920. With the first introduction of different rules of the game for the professional teams in 1933, a separate development finally began.

The game system of college football is historically shaped and from a European perspective takes getting used to. The majority of this is held during the regular season in regional conferences , which represent small groups of up to twelve teams (see section structure ). Here, however, not every team necessarily plays against every other team in its conference, but instead some games are played against teams from another conference. At the end of the regular season , the best teams qualify on the basis of a complicated system for a large number of independent finals, the so-called bowls . Between 1998 and 2013, a selected bowl game as part of the Bowl Championship Series also served to determine the nationwide overall winner, the National Champion . Since 2014, a play-off system based on the NFL has been introduced as part of the College Football Playoffs , so that for the first time since then two games have to be completed victoriously in the post season in order to become National Champion : after the bowl won, college football becomes Playoff National Championship Game played.

College football is mainly organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which among other things sets the binding rules of the game for college football and organizes Division I , in which the largest and financially strongest universities play. Division I is divided into two subdivisions, the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Football Championship Subdivision (previously Division IA and I-AA) under pressure from the largest programs that can market themselves significantly more profitably . In 2017/18, 29,029 athletes played for 254 football programs in Division I and nearly 45,000 more in the lower divisions.

The small and medium-sized universities usually play in Division II and Division III of the NCAA (the latter without scholarships), or under the care of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) or the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). Football is occasionally organized as club football by the athletes themselves.

In 1961, the Sports Broadcasting Act was enacted in order to avoid media competition between professional football and college football, whose seasons both traditionally take place in the fall of each year . This regulates that between mid-September and mid-December no professional games may be broadcast on US television on Saturdays. Traditionally, Saturday belongs to college football, while the NFL games are played on Sundays (and individual games increasingly also on Thursdays and Mondays).


The origin of the College Footballs is generally dated back to November 6, 1869, when the teams from the Universities of Rutgers and Princeton in New Brunswick ( New Jersey ) 6: played 4 - after football -like rules, because American football should be invented .

In 1874, the Harvard University team and the rugby team from McGill University , Montréal , Canada , met in games of compromise rules. From this food for thought, Canadian football and American football evolved .

The decisive personality in American football was Walter Camp , who from 1876 as a player, coach and functionary at Yale University had a decisive influence on its development (and that of other sports) until 1925 . The number of players was set at eleven, exclusive possession of the ball was introduced for at least three attempts and the attack formation with seven players on the line and four in the back area was common. Approximately ten games were played from September through November, marked by the holidays of Labor Day and Thanksgiving .

Camp also put together a highly acclaimed "All America" ​​selection team. B. is honored by the US President (see movie scene in Forrest Gump ). The games of the students at the " Ivy League " elite universities on the east coast became popular, and by the 1890s, 30,000 spectators were no exception. At that time there were also non-university competitions with the first professional approaches, but these were to remain in the shadow of college football for several decades. In 1902, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena established the tradition of bowl games on New Years Eve . A tournament to determine a master was never introduced; the “National Championship” honors were determined through surveys of coaches and journalists, although there was often disagreement.

At the same time, however, football was already in a different crisis, with more than a dozen players being killed each year because they stormed each other in wedge formations. The US President Theodore Roosevelt himself then forced rule changes that should make the game safer. By 1912 football had taken on its present form. In particular, the introduction of the forward pass marked the separation from rugby for good. A touchdown counted from now on six points. The dimensions of the pitch have been adapted to the newly built Harvard stadium .

As the most important of various awards, the Heisman Trophy has been given to the best player of a year since 1935 , and OJ Simpson was one of the winners . Another award is the Jim Thorpe Award for the best defensive back , which has been presented since 1986 and is named after Jim Thorpe .


College Football is played at hundreds of universities by the NCAA in the divisions Division I - Bowl Subdivision (until 2005: Division IA) - Championship Subdivision Division I : (I-AA until 2005) Division II and Division III are divided . (The traditional designations "IA" and "I-AA" are still used unofficially.) The elite universities of the Ivy League , which dominated in the early days, were last able to record a (shared) championship with Dartmouth in 1925 and are at best still athletic second class (Div I-AA).

The most important Division I is made up of over 120 teams, most of which have ten to twelve participants in conferences . Here is a list:

Then there are the NCAA Independents , who used to be more numerous. Some well-known universities (Pennsylvania State University, University of Miami) have joined leagues, others have withdrawn. The BigTen now has eleven teams, with the 11 cleverly inserted under the T in the adapted logo . Currently seven teams are independent in the design of their game plan. In addition to the Army Black Knights , the BYU Cougars , the Liberty Flames , the New Mexico State Aggies , the UConn Huskies , the UMass Minutemen , and traditionally the legendary Notre Dame Fighting Irish .

These leagues are pure youth leagues. The players who play in these do not get a salary.


Sports scholarships

An important distinction is that between normal students, who sometimes have to pay high tuition fees and usually only play in the second teams of top colleges, and those who are granted a sports scholarship , which means that these fees are waived and also some room and board, book money, etc. is included. The colleges use it to attract talented young players. The number and criteria of such scholarships, particularly minimum achievements in academic subjects, is determined by the NCAA . Some critics complain that one-sidedly talented athletes are favored over other talented people, while others complain that the universities set up teams with these relatively cheap pseudo-professionals that generate millions in television income.

Academic elite universities such as Harvard University do not award sports scholarships, so that hardly a graduate later plays in a professional league, but on the other hand no one receives a degree solely thanks to his sports talent.


Students typically play four game years in college. Each game year is named separately - a player in the first year is called a freshman , in the second year he becomes a sophomore , in the third and fourth years a junior or senior . In the early years of college football, the game usually lasted three years.

Players who were not active in one academic year and only entered the squad in their second year of study are called Redshirt . Players who drop out of their studies and thus shorten the number of playing years are known as underclassman . The risk of dropping out of school without a degree is usually taken by players who already have a chance of winning a contract in the National Football League (NFL) after just three years of play .

An extension or resumption of studies is possible. The playing time in the football team is limited to four active years, which means that the associated scholarships are no longer applicable and tuition fees have to be paid.

Bowls & Championship

Since the teams usually play their typically ten to twelve games independently of one another in their conferences, various rankings of the best 25 teams in the USA are created through surveys of journalists ( Associated Press , United Press International ), coaches and others .

In the past, the bowl organizers distributed invitations to participate in the now more than 30 games around the turn of the year according to their traditions or contracts and thus in an uncoordinated manner. In the Rose Bowl, for example, the winner of the distant Big Ten traditionally competed against that of the local Pac Ten . On New Year's 1902, the unbeaten Michigan Wolverines won the first championship for a non-Ivy League team by beating Stanford Cardinal .

In the end, however, several teams (unbeaten or with one defeat) could claim the championship several times. This was the case three times in the 1990s, because previous collaborations had not resulted in a meeting of the favorites. Since 1998, an agreement known as the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) has ensured that in the four most important games ( Sugar Bowl , Rose Bowl , Fiesta Bowl , Orange Bowl ) the winners of their traditional partners (Pac-12, Big-12, Big- 10, SEC, ACC, AAC) plus two other freely selectable teams are distributed in such a way that a decision is brought about. In addition to these four games, the BCS also includes the BCS National Championship Game for determining the national champion.

Nevertheless, the last championship was split after the 2003 season: The LSU Tigers with a 13-1 record and a Sugar Bowl victory were favored by the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and ESPN , while the USC Trojans with 12-1 and Rose Bowl win by Associated Press were seen up front.

Web links

Commons : College football  album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. NN: 2017-18 NCAA Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report. On: NCAA Publications website; Indianapolis, IN, October 2018. Retrieved January 21, 2020 (in English).
  2. SM Oliva: Ever Wonder Why College Games Are On Saturday & NFL Games Are On Sunday? On: Saturday Down South website; Windermere, FL, undated 2011. Retrieved September 7, 2018 (in English).