ATLANTA — The official start of the 2019 college football season may still be 43 days away as of Friday, but some of the sport’s biggest proponents are wasting no time in gearing up for what figures to be a very special season this fall.
Some of the game’s most prominent figures gathered Wednesday night at the College Football Hall of Fame to discuss and highlight plans for college football’s 150th anniversary season, which commences with Florida taking on Miami on Aug. 24 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
“We’re excited that you’re here (Wednesday) to celebrate and learn more about 150 years of college football,” Dennis Adamovich, CEO of the College Football Hall of Fame, told the gathering of a few dozen media members and dignitaries gathered Wednesday at the Hall. “It’s an incredible celebration. We are doing it in grand style. We represent a house of 150 years, and we’re excited we’re bringing this (all) to you.”
Exactly what is being brought to college football beginning with the Aug. 24 game in Orlando and extending through the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on Jan. 13 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans is a quite extensive list of activities, exhibits, multi-media presentations and other modes of celebrating the anniversary of the first college football game between Rutgers and Princeton, played Nov. 6, 1869 in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and the evolution of the game over the ensuing 150 years — some that had already been announced, some that were announced Wednesday and others that will be announced in the coming weeks.
Chief among the celebration for local fans in metro Atlanta and Georgia is an exhibit of numerous special artifacts from the past 150 years of college football that will be on display at the Hall of Fame through Nov. 11, including dirt from the field of the aforementioned Rutgers-Princeton game from 1869; a desk from noted Army General, football player and National Football Foundation member Douglas MacArthur; a typewriter used by legendary sports writer Grantland Rice; and other mementos of the game.
“We have some incredible exhibits (covering) decades of 150 years,” Adamovich said. “The … dirt from the Princeton-Rutgers game is actually here in the Hall of Fame. … We pulled out a vast majority of our archives to celebrate this.
“The other thing that we did … that is a monumental contributing piece to the Hall of Fame is we brought Douglas MacArthur’s desk from the Waldorf Astoria (Hotel in New York) that’s on display. If you know the history behind the National Football Foundation and the College Football Hall of Fame, Douglas MacArthur was one of a founding fathers (of the NFF), and we’re very privileged to have his desk here.”
The nearly six-month celebration of college football’s sesquicentennial season will not be limited to the Hall of Fame, however.
Numerous multi-media programming celebrating the history and evolution of the game will air this fall, including nearly 11 weeks of program over ESPN’s family of networks beginning in September.
And one of the things that programming will point out, according to longtime sports reporter and ESPN analyst Ivan Maisel, is that while a lot has changed in college football over the past 150 years, the game itself hasn’t changed as much as many people might think.
“What strikes me is how similar and how interconnected (college football has been from the beginning) to now,” Maisel said. “You know, the forward pass was first legalized in 1906. It was really not an important part of the game until 1906, and it was instituted chiefly to spread out the field. It was around before, but you couldn’t throw the ball past the line of scrimmage. It’s an odd rule, when you think about it.
“But now beginning in 1906, you can throw the ball past the line of scrimmage, and they did it as a safety measure because the game had become so violent in the middle of the field that they needed to move the players out. They needed to spread the field. More than a century later, where are we? We’re still spreading the field, and we’re talking about how important it is that teams spread the field. And I just marvel at how connected the game is, (even) as different as it is now. The rules, beginning around 110 years ago, are not all that different.”