Princeton Tigers football

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Princeton Tigers Football
2018 Princeton Tigers football team
Princeton Tigers logo.svg
First season 1869
Athletic director Gary Walters
Head coach Bob Surace
9th season, 38–42 (.475)
Stadium Princeton University Stadium
(Capacity: 27,773)
Field surface FieldTurf
Location Princeton, New Jersey
Conference Ivy League
All-time record 796–374–51 (.673)
Claimed nat'l titles 28
Conference titles 11
Rivalries Brown (rivalry)
Harvard (rivalry)
Rutgers (1869–1980)
Heisman winners 1
Consensus All-Americans 93
Current uniform
Princeton Football Uniform 2009.png
Colors Black and Orange[1]
Fight song "Princeton Cannon Song"
Marching band Princeton University Band

The Princeton Tigers football program represents Princeton University and competes at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level as a member of the Ivy League. Princeton’s football program—along with the football program at nearby Rutgers University—is the oldest in the world. The schools competed in American football's first intercollegiate contest in 1869.


First football game[edit]

Students from The College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) traveled to New Brunswick, New Jersey on November 6, 1869 to play Rutgers College (now Rutgers University) in a game using a modified version of London's Football Association rules. The game included 25 players on each side and the round ball could only be advanced by kicking it.[2] Rutgers won what has been called the first intercollegiate American football game 6 goals to 4. A week later, the Rutgers team traveled to Princeton for a rematch, which Princeton won 8–0.

Early history[edit]

Due in part to their invention of the sport, the Tigers were one of the dominant forces in the early days of intercollegiate football, winning 22 of the first 40 national titles (between 1869 and 1909). As the sport transformed at the hands of figures like Penn's John Heisman and Yale’s Walter Camp and more schools began competing, Princeton and the rest of the eventual Ivy League faded out of national championship contention. The Tigers won their last national championship in 1950 when Dick Kazmaier, the 1951 Heisman Trophy winner, was a junior.[3]

Formation of the Ivy League[edit]

When Princeton joined Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, and Yale Universities, Dartmouth College, and the University of Pennsylvania in formally organizing the Ivy League athletic conference in 1955, conference rules prohibited post-season play in football. (Princeton never competed in the post-season.) The policy further insulated Princeton and the Ivy League from the national spotlight. Despite an undefeated season in 1964, Princeton was not among the top 10 teams in the season-ending Associated Press poll.[4]

NCAA Division I subdivision split[edit]

The NCAA split Division I collegiate football into two subdivisions in 1978, then called I-A for larger schools, and I-AA for the smaller ones. The NCAA had devised the split, in part, with the Ivy League in mind, but the conference did not move down for 4 seasons. Unable to play competitively against long-time rival Rutgers anymore, Princeton stopped scheduling them as a football opponent after 1980. Then in 1982 the NCAA created a rule that stated a program’s average attendance must be at least 15,000 to qualify for I-A membership. This forced the conference’s hand, as only some of the member schools met the attendance qualification. Choosing to stay together rather than stand their ground separately in the increasingly competitive I-A subdivision, the Ivy League moved down into I-AA starting with the 1982 season.[5] Despite often finishing its seasons ranked in the championship subdivision, Princeton cannot play in the NCAA Division I Football Championship per Ivy League rules.

Recent history[edit]

Since the formation of the Ivy League, Princeton has achieved moderate success on the gridiron, with eleven Ivy League championships, three outright and eight shared, 10 Big Three championships since 1955. In 2009, Princeton hired Bob Surace.[6] Surace was an All-Ivy league center at Princeton and graduated in 1990. Beginning in 2018 Princeton will play Penn in their final game of the season, intensifying the already heated rivalry between these two neighboring Ivy League schools.


National championships[edit]

Princeton has laid claim to a record 28 national championships, with at least one selector declaring them a champion for each season. Although they do not compete in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, they maintain claims to titles won at the highest level at the time, with retroactive championships for the 19th century, in which Princeton was declared champion for twenty different seasons in a thirty year span from 1869 to 1899. All except the last title were won in the era prior to the Associated Press poll selecting champions starting in 1936, with the final national championship claim coming from a different poll than the Associated Press. On some occasions, Princeton shared a championships with other teams, with as many as four other teams claiming a championship for certain years, such as 1922, when five teams were given a title in some form with only one tie separating the five unbeaten teams including Princeton.

Season Coach Selector Record
1869 No coach Billingsley Report, National Championship Foundation, Parke Davis 1–1
1870 Billingsley Report, National Championship Foundation, Parke Davis 1–0
1872 Billingsley Report, National Championship Foundation, Parke Davis 1–0
1873 Billingsley Report, National Championship Foundation, Parke Davis 1–0
1874 Billingsley Report, Parke Davis 2–0
1875 Billingsley Report, Parke Davis 2–0
1877 Parke Davis 2–0–1
1878 Billingsley Report, National Championship Foundation, Parke Davis 6–0
1879 Billingsley Report, National Championship Foundation, Parke Davis 4–0–1
1880 National Championship Foundation, Parke Davis 4–0–1
1881 Billingsley Report, Parke Davis 7–0–2
1884 Parke Davis, Billingsley Report 9–0–1
1885 Billingsley Report, Helms Athletic Foundation, Houlgate System, National Championship Foundation, Parke Davis 9–0
1886 Parke Davis, Billingsley Report 7–0–1
1889 Billingsley Report, Helms, Houlgate, National Championship Foundation, Parke Davis 10–0
1893 Billingsley Report, Helms, Houlgate, National Championship Foundation 11–0
1894 Houlgate 8–2
1896 Franklin Morse Billingsley Report, Helms, Houlgate, National Championship Foundation 10–0–1
1898 No coach Parke Davis 11–0–1
1899 Parke Davis 12–1
1903 Art Hillebrand Helms, Houlgate, National Championship Foundation, Parke Davis 11–0
1906 Bill Roper Helms, National Championship Foundation 9–0–1
1911 Helms, Houlgate, National Championship Foundation, Parke Davis 8–0–2
1920 Boand System, Parke Davis 6–0–1
1922 Boand, College Football Researchers Association, National Championship Foundation, Sagarin-ELO), Parke Davis 8–0
1933 Fritz Crisler Parke Davis 9–0
1935 Dunkel System 9–0
1950 Charlie Caldwell Boand, Poling System 9–0

Conference championships[edit]

Princeton has won eleven conference championships, with three outright and eight shared.

Year Conference Coach Overall record Conference record
1957 Ivy League Dick Colman 7–2 6–1
1963† 7–2 5–2
1964 9–0 7–0
1966† 7–2 6–1
1969† Jake McCandless 6–3 6–1
1989† Steve Tosches 7–2–1 6–1
1992† 8–2 6–1
1995 8–1–1 5–1–1
2006 Roger Hughes 9–1 6–1
2013 Bob Surace 8–2 6–1
2016 8–2 6–1

† denotes shared championship



Princeton has an historical rivalry with Rutgers (1869–1980).[7]

Stadium and facilities[edit]

Palmer Stadium[edit]

In 1914, Princeton built Palmer Stadium, the third college football stadium ever built and what was the second oldest standing college stadium until its demolition in 1996. Palmer Stadium was modeled after the Greek Olympic stadium and seated 45,750 spectators. In the 1990s the university decided to demolish it for a new stadium rather than undertake a long and expensive renovation process, as Harvard had with its stadium in 1984.

Princeton University Stadium

Princeton University Stadium[edit]

During the construction of the new stadium, the Tigers played a season of nine away games, plus a homecoming game against Yale at Giants Stadium in 1997. Princeton University Stadium opened on September 19, 1998 and seats 27,773. After eight years of natural grass fields, FieldTurf artificial playing surface was installed for the 2006 football season and named "Powers Field" in honor of William C. Powers, Princeton class of 1979, who was an All-Ivy punter for the Tigers and donated $10 million to the football program that year.

Practice facilities[edit]

The Finney-Campbell practice fields to the east of Princeton University Stadium have been outfitted with FieldTurf. They consist of nearly 1,600 square feet (150 m2) of playing surface, with two full football fields and lines for men’s and women’s lacrosse.


  1. ^ Guide to Princeton University's Graphic Identity (PDF). Princeton University Trademark Licensing. December 15, 2010. Retrieved March 14, 2017. 
  2. ^ Elliott, Len (1969). One Hundred Years of Princeton Football 1869–1969. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Athletic News, Princeton University. p. 3. 
  3. ^ Princeton Office of Athletic Communications, Princeton Football Media Guide 2009
  4. ^ "College Football". Archived from the original on 2007-06-30. 
  5. ^ Mark F. Bernstein, Football: The Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession
  6. ^ "Bob Surace '90 named new head football coach". Retrieved April 3, 2018. 
  7. ^ White, JR, Gordon S. (January 22, 1979). "Princeton-Rutgers to end football rivalry". The Day. New London, CT. Retrieved September 13, 2015. 

External links[edit]