Georgetown Football History Chapter 1:
Football's Roots At Georgetown
With the exception of intercollegiate baseball, football has been played at Georgetown University longer than any other team sport. Though interrupted three times for a combined period of eighteen years, the football legacy at the Hilltop stretches back through over half the school's history. It is a story all too forgotten but no less a part of the University's rich athletic heritage. The articles which follow in this series are a small attempt to highlight some of the people and events that have contributed to the Georgetown football story.
The University's first intercollegiate sport was baseball, which began play in 1870. By 1874, the rapidly growing sport of football was capturing interest at the college level. Hoping to bring a sport to the winter months, a group of students formed the Georgetown University Football Association on November 1, 1874, with the purpose of developing an intercollegiate team along the lines of teams at Princeton and Rutgers. The problem was that in 1874, there were no nearby colleges actually playing the game. As a result, the Football Association established an intramural program and apparently faded from the scene. Many of these same Football Association founders, notably John Agar (Class of 1876), were instrumental in the founding of the Rowing Association in 1876 and the University's adoption of the colors blue and gray shortly thereafter.
The Georgetown College Journal chronicled the sport's gestation in an 1874 article which read as follows:
With sports coverage nonexistent in the daily newspapers, the Journal becomes the only verifiable source on sports at Georgetown University in this era. The next mention of football at the college is not until 1881, when the Journal announced the scheduling of a game between a Georgetown team and a group of boys from Alexandria High School. Wrote the Journal:
" Before the holidays the football eleven of the Alexandria High School sent a challenge to the college for a match game; the game was to be played on their grounds and the Rugby ball was to be used. Though we had not a regularly organized team, the challenge was accepted, and an eleven was selected from the players of the year. "All arrangements for the match were made, but at the last moment word was sent to us that the High School eleven could not play; the game was consequently postponed.
"Though this match did not take place, there is no reason why football should not become as popular at the college during the colder months of the year as baseball is in the summer. We have a first class baseball nine; now let us have a good football eleven."
In 1883, a Journal citation noted two games between a "representative eleven" from the Georgetown intramural ranks and a team cryptically known as "the House". The games are never officially recognized by future Georgetown records, probably because the identity of "the House" was somewhat clouded. However, these games are cited by Gallaudet University as their first two intercollegiate games, which they claim to be wins over the Georgetown team. A citation by the Washington Post also claimed that Georgetown traveled to play St. John's College in 1884, but this too cannot be verified.
It is not until 1887 that a recorded game is cited to begin team play. In that event, Georgetown defeated Emerson Institute 46-6 for its first win. Its first winning streak was short lived, as a 24-8 loss to Alexandria High School soon followed. The 1887 season finished with a 12-6 win over Washington High School, ending the first season 2-1.
The 1888 schedule featured local high schools and semi-pro clubs, with Georgetown earning a 4-2 mark. Still, campus interest remained small compared to baseball and rowing, each of which featured college opponents. In 1889, the University scheduled its first full intercollegiate opponent, the University of Virginia. The Georgetown archives tell of a rousing 32-0 triumph of the Blue and Gray that day...but Virginia records claim the gentlemen from Mr. Jefferson's university prevailed, 34-0. (Of course, we concur with the former.) A turnout of nearly 4,000 fans to Georgetown's baseball diamond broke all local attendance records for a sporting event. With the game, the sport won acceptance at Georgetown and became a regular part of campus life.
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