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A Rutgers Football history: Will this one ever happen again?

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It has been 36 years since the two teams that started this craziness met on the gridiron. Will it ever happen again?

rvc73

We gave you one 1980 game earlier. Here’s another football story from that year.

When I started at Rutgers, the stadium held around 23,000. And it was called Rutgers Stadium.

Those 23,000 seats were seldom all filled. But on the afternoon of September 27, 1969, the university had added another 4,000 temporary bleachers in the south endzone - where I was seated - for a televised game. The Centennial of College Football. Against archrival Princeton.

Of course, the “rivalry” had tended to be rather one-sided in its 100-year history. Coming into that September game at the end of the 1960’s, Princeton held a 49-9 series lead. It would become 49-10 by the end of the game, after which there were numerous celebrations and I vaguely remember walking up to the fourth floor of Brett Hall - either the elevator was out of order or I was in no condition to push buttons - and waking up to find blood - mine - on my shirt. Don’t worry, it was just a simple nosebleed, no violence had ensued.

Over the next few years, the winners of the games actually went back and forth. But then Rutgers, at the behest of President Edward Bloustein, decided to go “bigger time” in athletics, theoretically leaving Princeton behind. By 1980, Rutgers had won six of the last 10 games - including an unprecedented four in a row - and would then push the scarlet boot down one more time on the Tigers’ throat with a fifth straight win in 1980.

It would be the last win for the Scarlet. It would be the last Rutgers-Princeton football game.

Yes, there was a trophy! And we have it!

As recently as 1977, there was only a four-point margin of victory for the Knights. But then came 24-0, 38-14, and 44-13. Princeton cried “no mas!”. Or, as those smarty pants might have said in Latin, “Non ego dabo!” Which roughly translated means, “Dabo Swinney, leggo my Eggo!”

Princeton saw the handwriting on the wall and ended the series that had been played every year since 1952. And the New York Times story in January 1979 announced the action:

The 38‐member Princeton board of trustees made the final decision, “a decision that was very difficult,” according to Athletic Director Royce Flippin.

John R. Martin, a Rutgers vice president, said: “The decision was reached reluctantly on our part. We are sorry to see it come to the end.”

Governor Byrne of New Jersey, a Princeton graduate and member of the board, said after the board meeting yesterday that one reason the trustees had gone along with a recommendation to end the series was that Princeton suffered “six or seven serious injuries” in the Rutgers game last fall.

Flippin, captain and running back on the 1955 Princeton team, said, “Our move was based on Rutgers’ decision to play the top state schools such as Penn State and Alabama, which were ranked one and two for a while last season.

“This is in no way a criticism of Rutgers, however. We applaud what they are doing. But it is a trend and we cannot go in that direction. We have to recognize the things that go into a bigtime football program.

“There is absolutely no animosity between the schools. It was with great reluctance that we came to this decision.”

That last game in 1980 - a rare home game for Rutgers in the series - drew 26,219 fans. It was the largest crowd at the Stadium since the 1969 game. Ed McMichael threw four TD passes, the Knights built a 21-0 first quarter lead, and the rout was on.

Box score from the last Rutgers-Princeton game

Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve written about Rutgers-Princeton football. It was almost two years ago that I first talked about renewing the game, albeit for one shot to celebrate the 150th anniversary of college football in 2019. The circumstances haven’t changed: Rutgers is in the Big Ten and Princeton is in the Ivy. There aren’t a lot of those match ups on the schedule. But, for the record, Rutgers still has a couple of early season openings in 2019. It would be challenging....certainly for Princeton. If their players were, as Governor Byrne said, getting hurt in 1978, what might happen against Big Ten size players?

Still, it is an interesting thought. And it would honor tradition and legends, something the Big Ten loves. And, of course, there’s a petition to get it to happen. What do you think?