A Rutgers-Princeton football game: why not?
It was 1969. I was a freshman at all-male Rutgers College. I was not a "first year student" as they term it now. It was September 27, and I was sitting in the south endzone on temporary seating, getting ready to watch the Centennial Game of college football.
Rutgers-Princeton. On ABC television. I always thought it was a national telecast, but apparently it was regional. My aunt in Pennsylvania swore that she saw me on TV. Rutgers won 29-0, a solid thrashing of the Tigers, putting the Knights at 2-0 on their way to a 6-3 season.
The last football game between the two teams that started it all was in 1980. That last game, a 44-13 Rutgers victory, marked the end of a series that was markedly in favor of our neighbors to the south. Princeton held a 17-53-1 record over the Knights, although that was not representative of the series once Rutgers started to realize you needed to play for real. Since 1969, RU was 8-3-1 over the Tigers, with a five game winning streak to end the series. That meant we were 9-50....9 and 50...for the first 100 years. The two schools had made a decision and were heading in different directions.
Well, it's 2015 and we're a mere four years away from the sesquicentennial of college football. And I ask - as have others - why not have Rutgers and Princeton play again to mark the occasion?
Now, this isn't my brainchild. My classmate - and unofficial RU football historian - Ron Kish, told me about this idea. Others have put forth the idea in other venues. And apparently there are a good number of people who are, more or less, on board with it. Apparently including Kyle Flood; his counterpart in Orange and Black isn't as enthusiastic. As you might expect, the folks down Route 27 aren't gung ho about it. Princeton alum and head coach, Bob Surace:
"Our previous AD, Gary Walters, talked about it back in January  but it didn't really go anywhere,'' Surace said. "When our new AD, Mollie Marcoux, got the job, I guess she spoke with (Rutgers AD) Julie (Hermann) about it. (Marcoux) actually sat down with me about it, and I shared my concern that it doesn't make a lot of sense to play a team that has several more games under their belt than we have. It's a Big Ten team. There's nothing to gain for us from a football perspective.
But someone as venerable as former Tiger hoops mentor Pete Carrill, who is still a fixture around the Princeton campus, thinks it's a great idea.
Ron Kish and Princeton coaching legend Pete Carrill (photo by Ron Kish)
But why play it? What is gained by Rutgers in playing another FCS school? Well, for starters, here's our current 2019 schedule:
Sept. 7 @ Iowa
Sept. 14 Open
Sept. 21 @ Miami FL
Oct. 5 Maryland
Oct. 12 @ Indiana
Oct. 19 Minnesota
Oct. 26 @ Michigan
Nov. 2 @ Illinois
Nov. 9 Open (FYI: that first game was Nov. 6, 1869....hint, hint)
Nov. 16 Ohio State
Nov. 23 Michigan State
Nov. 30 @ Penn State
We still need two games - two home games - to complete the schedule, and I'd say it already looks pretty stout as it is. One FCS game, against an historic rival, would be a great story. Hey, who is our current rival?
Playing Princeton might just bring out (bring back?) some folks who are nostalgic for the old days of the Ivies and small, eastern schools. Just look at that 1969 schedule:
@ Lafayette W 44-22
Princeton W 29-0
Cornell W 21-7
Lehigh L 7-17
Navy W 20-6
Columbia W 21-14
@ Delaware L 0-44
@ Conn. L 22-28
Holy Cross Cancelled
Colgate W 48-12
Those folks might just be reconnected with a game like this. And reconnection might just mean donating. But, I digre$$.
This is an historic moment. It's here and then gone. If you don't do it, you can't come back a year or two later and say, "Hey, let's play the 150th anniversary game." Too late!
Over the next five seasons, we have non-conference games scheduled against Norfolk State, Howard, Morgan State, and Eastern Michigan. How is playing Princeton any less attractive than those games? Spoiler alert: it's not. And at least the Princeton fans will help to fill up the place. And think of the marketing and media? I'm pre-ordering my commemorative t-shirt now.
I don't see this as anything but a win for everyone. Princeton gets a check as the visitor (snicker... chuckle...guffaw). We honor our history; that's something we don't do enough. We satisfy, or at least give an acknowledgement, to those who would prefer RU to be among the Ivies. And we create a great story for fans and the media (and hope that it doesn't become the wrong story after the game is over).