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The Rutgers Scarlet Knights football team represents Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA). The team competes in the American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East), of which it has been a football member since 1991, however, Rutgers has announced that it will join the Big Ten Conference beginning with the 2014 season. Rutgers plays its home games at High Point Solutions Stadium, located on the university's Piscataway, New Jersey campus. The team is currently coached by Kyle Flood.
The Rutgers University football program is considered to be one of the most historic programs in the country. In 1869, Rutgers defeated Princeton University by a score of 6 to 4 in what is considered to be the first ever intercollegiate football game. For this reason, Rutgers has been affectionately described as "The Birthplace of College Football." The team currently holds an all-time record of 626–606–42, giving Rutgers the 38th most victories among NCAA FBS programs. Since 2005, Rutgers has appeared in seven bowl games, of which it has won five.
On November 6, 1869, Rutgers and nearby neighbor Princeton competed in the first ever intercollegiate football game. The site for the contest was a small plot of land where the College Avenue Gymnasium currently stands on Rutgers' campus in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The structure of the game resembled more of a rugby-style contest instead of modern day football, with players allowed to kick and bat the ball with their fists and hands. At the time, Rutgers was referred to as the Queensmen, a homage to the school's chartered name of Queen's College. The Rutgers squad was captained by William J. Leggett and donned scarlet kerchiefs atop their heads in an effort to distinguish between the two teams. Rutgers would go on to win the contest by a score of 6 goals to 4.
A week after the first game was held in New Brunswick, Rutgers would visit Princeton for a second matchup. This time, Princeton prevailed by a score of 8 goals to 0. Rutgers and Princeton had planned for a third game in the 1869 season, but the contest never took place due to fears that the games were interfering with the students' studies. Thus, both schools would end the season with a record of 1-1, theoretically tying for the first ever national championship in college football history. However, some consider Princeton to be the sole winner of the national championship since it outscored Rutgers by a total score of 12 goals to 6 on the season.
From 1929 to 1975, Rutgers was a member of the Middle Three Conference, which consisted of a round-robin against Lafayette College and Lehigh University. Starting in 1940, the 'conference champion' received the Little Brass Cannon. Following Lehigh's capture of the Little Brass Cannon in 1951, Rutgers became an independent team in 1952, though it still played Lafayette and continued the Middle Three round-robin in 1953. Although Rutgers continued to be a part of the Middle Three until 1975, the Scarlet Knights became a member of the Middle Atlantic Conference from 1958 to 1961. The college won the conference championship in three of those four years (1958, 1960, and 1961) and was awarded the Wilmington Touchdown Club Trophy. The 1961 season was particularly remarkable as it was the Scarlet Knights' first undefeated season (9–0)—with Alabama, one of only two undefeated teams in the nation—and the team was captained by future college football hall-of-famer Alex Kroll. In 1961, Rutgers was considered a contender for the Rose Bowl, but was not selected because university president Mason Welch Gross did not express interest with the Rose Bowl's organizers. The following year, Rutgers once again went independent, and remained so until it joined the Big East Conference in 1991. In 1976, Rutgers declined an invitation to play an unranked McNeese State University at the inaugural Independence Bowl, feeling snubbed by more prestigious bowls despite its undefeated 11–0 season.