NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - On Wednesday, Rutgers partied like it was 1869.
The university threw a joyous celebration to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first collegiate football game between Princeton and Rutgers.
The glee club sang "On the Banks of the Old Raritan." The ubiquitous Scarlet Knight mascot darted around. The drum corps rapped out a rat-tat-tat. The cheerleaders cheered. A representative of the City of New Brunswick read a proclamation. Even the bells at Old Queens were rung, and that is an honor reserved for precious few special occasions.
And at the end of this afternoon's festivities, athletic director Pat Hobbs unveiled a sign near the College Student Center declaring that "On Nov. 6, 1869, on this site known as College Field, Rutgers College hosted the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University."
For one afternoon, anyway, it was a time to forget the state of the current team and its 2-7 record, the recent 52-0 loss to Michigan, the impending dates with Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State and the search for a head coach to turn the program around and celebrate a hard-fought 6-4 victory 150 years ago.
"This is a remarkable history, if you think about it, what happened here, what started here 150 years ago," said Athletic Director Pat Hobbs. "A group of young men came up from Princeton University and they went out on the field and I think they sort of penciled out the rules."
Twenty-five guys on each side. Some couldn't leave a designated box area. No helmets. No forward pass. Hobbs said it sounds as if that first game was a combination of soccer, rugby and wrestling.
Who knew, said Hobbs, that from that moment to now, the lives that were positively affected by college football.
"You think about the number of young men who have been able to access a college education because of football," Hobbs said.
Hobbs said that the sport was so brutal in its infancy that there were calls to ban it. But college football lived to see a better day.
"Then they started to see these crowds that gathered on the sidelines and the spirit and pride they took in their universities and alma maters because they are playing this game," Hobbs said. "A couple of universities thought, 'Maybe we could take advantage of this. If this is something that brings our alums back to campus and they can get excited about it, maybe this is away we can build pride in our university.'"
It was a time for Rutgers' past and present to come together. Captains Tyshon Fogg, Tyreek Maddox-Williams and Zach Venesky posed for photos with Gil Greenberg, who at 97 is the oldest living Rutgers football letter winner,
Bert Baron, a communications officer in New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill's office, read a proclamation. So much care was taken with crafting the proclamation that the R in the word was replaced with a scarlet block R.