The History of College Football

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In 1968 Arnold Friberg was commissioned by the Chevrolet, a division of General Motors, to paint a series commemorating the 100th anniversary of American intercollegiate football. He created four paintings, each representing major turning points in the intercollegiate game. Starting with the first American intercollegiate game, Rutgers vs. Princeton in 1869, and finishing with a classic USC vs. UCLA struggle in 1969 Friberg captured both the physical and emotional highlights of 100 years of the game.

In "The First Game: Rutgers vs. Princeton, 1969" the artist shows players with no protective clothing, utilizing the "Flying Wedge." In this offensive strategy, players positioned in a "V" pattern drove down field leveling everything in their path. Those first games were so brutal that some players were trampled to death. At one time even the rugged Theodore Roosevelt condemned the "sport" as too brutal.

In "The Coach: Knute Rockne in the Locker Room at Notre Dame," Friberg shifted his perspective to a locker room of the 1920’s. Rockne, a master at helping team members refine their skills, is probably most often remembered for his ability to motivate his players and generate team spirit. Former Notre Dame players of the Rockne-era upon seeing this work exclaimed that Friberg’s painting captured "exactly where and how Rockne stood."

"The Passing Game: Alabama vs. Tennessee, 1934," marks the beginning of a new offensive era. The forward pass was used so effectively in this game that thereafter it became an increasingly important part of college football. This painting shows Alabama’s Don Hutson, still considered one of the all-time greatest receivers, about to haul in a strike from quarterback Millard "Dixie" Howell. Playing at end for Alabama in this game was Bear Bryant, long before he made his mark as the coach of the "Crimson Tide."

The final painting , "O.J. Breaks for Daylight: USC vs. UCLA, shows a clash of modern football titans, still containing all the hard-charging excitement of the first game a century before. USC’s star halfback of the era is shown completing an unusually long and spectacular run to clinch another victory for the Trojans.

The First Game:
Rutgers vs. Princeton, 1869

The First Game

The Passing Game:
Alabama vs. Tennesse, 1934

The Passing Game

O.J. Simpson Breaks for Daylight:
USC vs. UCLA, 1969

USC vs. UCLA 1969

(The third in this series, "The Coach: Knute Rockne in the Locker Room at Notre Dame," is shown on the previous page.)

All four paintings are oil on canvas and each measures 37.5" x 60". Although two are shown here in black and white, all four paintings are full color.

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