Back in 1876, Theodore Roosevelt attended his first football game as an 18-year old freshman at Harvard University. He and his cronies traveled to New Haven, Conn., to watch the second ever Harvard-Yale game. Although his school lost, Roosevelt was hooked on the game and the sport. To him, football had a social purpose — it helped turn boys into men. But not everyone felt that way …
A group of progressives thought football was too violent and they sought to ban it. In 1905, when the violence of football seemed to be getting out of hand, Roosevelt called together the coaches of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton and asked them to reform the game. They created an organization to help regulate the game — an organization that eventually became the NCAA — and invented the forward pass rule which allowed for the game to be spread across the field and minimized the amount of pushing and shoving — and slugging — that normally transpired.
After a few years, the violence dropped and football was saved. So thank you, President Roosevelt. And Happy Presidents Day!
Here’s more on the story of how Teddy Roosevelt saved football, featuring Inside the NFL’s own Susannah Collins: