The first known college football game was played in 1869 and it wasn’t long before rivalries began to develop between the earliest football teams.
Here are the 19 oldest rivalries in Division I college football, across the FBS and FCS, beginning with Yale vs. Princeton in 1873. These are taken from official NCAA record books, which you can find here on NCAA.org:
|South Dakota St.-South Dakota||1889|
|North Dakota-North Dakota St.||1894|
|William & Mary-Richmond||1898|
|Illinois St.-Eastern Ill.||1901|
|North Dakota St.-South Dakota St||1903|
|Western Ill.-Illinois St.||1904|
Here’s more on the oldest rivalries:
Yale vs. Princeton
The Yale-Princeton rivalry is the oldest in college football, dating back to 1873. Yale and Princeton dominated the college football scene when this rivalry began, with Yale claiming 13 outright national titles and Princeton claiming eight between 1869 and 1894.
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Yale vs. Harvard
One of the more well-known rivalries, simply called “The Game,” has been around since 1875.
Princeton vs. Penn
Princeton’s third-oldest college football rivalry with an Ivy League opponent is the Princeton-Penn series. This one began three seasons after their rivalry with Yale was born, in 1876.
Princeton vs. Harvard
As you can tell, Princeton takes part in a lot of the oldest rivalries. This one, versus Harvard, has been going on since 1877.
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Yale vs. Brown
This rivalry between the Bulldogs and the Bears began in 1880 and adds another to the list of Ivy League matchups that make up the oldest rivalries in college football.
Harvard vs. Dartmouth
This rivalry, which started in 1882, is played between the Crimson and the Big Green. Dartmouth faced an extremely rocky start to the rivalry, not posting a win until 1903 (21 years into the rivalry).
Lafayette vs. Lehigh
The rivalry between Lafayette and Lehigh isn’t the oldest one in college football, dating back to 1884. But the game known as “The Rivalry” is the most-played rivalry across both the FCS and the FBS. These two teams have played 158 times as of this writing (Nov. 22, 2022).
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North Carolina vs. Wake Forest
This North Carolina rivalry started in 1888.
Miami (OH) vs. Cincinnati
The rivalry between Miami of Ohio and Cincinnati is known as the “Battle for the Bell.” The in-state, non-conference game was originally played in 1888.
Cornell vs. Columbia
The final Ivy league rivalry in the 15 oldest in college football is the Cornell-Columbia game. The rivalry was born in 1889.
South Dakota State vs. South Dakota
Known as the “South Dakota Showdown Series,” this rivalry got its start in 1889.
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Navy vs. Army
Army and Navy have been meeting since 1890. This rivalry (in addition to Air Force’s performance against these teams) is one factor in who will take home one of the more regal trophies in college football — the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy.
Wisconsin vs. Minnesota
Every season, the Badgers and the Gophers play for one of the stranger rivalry trophies in college football — Paul Bunyan’s Axe. Although it’s not the oldest rivalry overall, it has been played more than any other rivalry in the FBS.
Minnesota vs. Iowa
The Gophers and the Hawkeyes have been meeting in this rivalry since 1891. The winner takes away a bronze pig trophy called Floyd of Rosedale.
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Purdue vs. Indiana
This rivalry between the Boilermakers and Hoosiers began in 1891, and also boasts a somewhat strange trophy. Each year, the winner of the rivalry takes home the Old Oaken Bucket.