History of the Program
Prestigious History of Princeton
On November 6, 1869, Princeton (then called The College of New Jersey) and Rutgers battled against one another; the game ended in a Rutgers win in which they scored six runs to Princeton’s four. Though played with a round ball, used Football Association (soccer) rules, and closely resembled rugby, this game marked the beginning of intercollegiate football. Two weeks after the inaugural game, Princeton handed Rutgers its first loss– eight runs to zero. Both Rutgers and Princeton were retroactively awarded the 1869 National Championship.
Since that time, the Tigers have won 28 National Championships (including 22 of the first 40). 10 Conference titles, and a Heisman Trophy (Dick Kazmaier ’51). Princeton’s record is 791-369-51 (.674).
Legacy of the Helmet
In 1935, Princeton head coach Herbert O. “Fritz” Crisler introduced to his team a black leather helmet with three stripes along its length and triangular “wings” meant to represent the folded-back ears of a tiger. The bold color combinations and distinctive design helped quarterbacks more easily identify receivers downfield. Crisler would later take this design with him to the University of Michigan after leading the Tigers to two of its record 28 National Championships. After 61 years of dormancy following Crisler’s departure from the University, the design was resurrected in coincidence with the opening of the new Princeton Stadium.
Richard “Dick” Kazmaier
Richard “Dick” Kazmaier led Princeton to its 28th and most recent National Championship in 1950. The 1950 Tigers (led by All-Americans Hollie Donan ’51, Reddy Finney ’51, and Dick Kazmaier ’52) were also awarded the Lambert Trophy as the top team in the East. Head coach Charles Caldwell was named coach of the year. In 1951, Dick Kazmaier became the third and most recent Ivy League football player to win the most prestigious individual honor in college athletics– the Heisman Trophy.
Kazmaier is Princeton’s only Heisman Trophy winner, and the first Ivy League winner since Yale’s Clint Frank in 1937. He earned a record-setting 1,777 points in the 1951 vote, won every section, had 506 first place votes (more than all other candidates combined), was the first Heisman winner to reach four figures in points, and the first to win by more than 1,000 points.
Even by modern standards, Kazmaier’s tenure with the Tigers was impressive; the 5’11 triple-threat tailback ran, passed, and kicked for a total of more than 4,000 yards, scored 20 touchdowns, threw 35 touchdown passes, and completed 62.3% of his passes as a senior. His offense averaged 38.8 points per game, and won 22 straight games from his sophomore through senior year.
Despite the accolades and success, Kazmaier remained humble.
The 1952 Chicago Bears’ first-round draft pick forwent a professional career in favor of Harvard Business school. He founded and ran Kazmaier Associates, Inc.– a marketing and financial services business with investments in the sports and leisure industry up to his death in August of 2013.
Kazmaier’s number (42) was retired in 2008.
“I was neither the greatest passer, nor the greatest runner, but in combination it fit very well. The system was sort of right for me. I always say that I was in the right place at the right time and with the right people.” - Dick Kazmaier