Celebrating 150 Years of College Football

Celebrating 150 Years of College Football

The year 2019 marks a special milestone for college football, as we celebrate 150 years of our great game. Teams across the country recognize the birth of college football with a national all-division celebration among nearly 900 schools.

The game of football has been played longer than almost any sport in America. College football had its first contest in 1869, just four years after the civil war. The sport touched millions of lives both on and off the field.

The NAIA has hosted college football since 1956 when the first NAIA Championship was played. Little Rock (Ark.) and Montana State/St. Joseph’s (Ind.) played in what was then called the Aluminum Bowl. The game resulted in a 0-0 tie.

Since then, 63 national championships have been played in cities across North America. The Red Raiders of Northwestern (Iowa), one of the longest standing football programs in the NAIA appeared in the 1972 and 1973 championship game. . The school out of Orange City, Iowa is ranked22nd in program wins with 414, has played in 20 national championships, earned two national titles and three runner-up titles.

Saint Francis (Ind.) is another historical football team in the NAIA. The Cougars have made 18 national championship appearanceswith two red banners and three runners-up titles. The team is led by NAIA legend, head coach, Kevin Donley. Donley has become heavily decorated in his 41 years as a coach with 22 of those seasons in Fort Wayne, Ind.

“NAIA football energized the USF campus as well as the Fort Wayne Region when we started the program in Fort Wayne at the University of Saint Francis in 1998,” Donley said. “Some told me we would only draw a couple hundred fans, but our community embraced the program right away and the support we’ve had has been crucial to building a winning program, so it has truly been a rewarding and satisfying process of making a difference in the lives of so many young men at USF who have rewarded everybody with five trips to the NAIA Championship Game and back-to-back championships in 2016 and 2017.”

As the NAIA makes the final arrangements for the 64th national championship in Ruston, La., fans may look forward to many more records broken, traditions set and history made.

"The NAIA loves college football and is proud to join all divisions in celebrating the anniversary of the sport. The number of NAIA football programs has steadily increased and we’re excited about the continued success,” said NAIA President & CEO Jim Carr. 

For more information on how your institution can participate click here!


Championship Information

NAIA Football Championship

November 23, 30, Dec. 7, 2019
Football Championship Series
Campus Sites

December 21, 2019
Eddie G. Robinson Stadium
Grambling, La.