Walter Chauncey Camp




Walter Camp was the first of many larger-than-life characters to be produced by the world of American college football. Camp captained the Yale varsity team for three seasons ending in 1881 when the game of football was in its infancy; the first ever American university game had taken place only five years earlier, between Yale and Harvard in 1876. When Camp began his collegiate career, the style of play and the rules of the game were far closer to English rugby than any other sport. At the time of Camp's death in 1925, college football was a vibrant national institution. Camp was acknowledged as the single greatest influence upon both the development of college football and its popularity with the American public.

Camp introduced more innovations to the sport than any other person in the history of football. The various rule changes and innovations introduced by Camp as to how football was played made it a unique athletic contest. Camp devised the concept where each offensive play began at a designated line of scrimmage, where the offensive and defensive teams were separated from one another until the ball was put into play. Camp created a related rule whereby the offensive team would be permitted four plays, or downs, to attempt to gain 10 yards of territory on the field. Camp regularized the rules respecting the number of players per side at 11, and he created the modern scoring system of six points for a touchdown, three points for a field goal, and two points for a safety. Camp was among the first college coaches to use set offensive plays and formations in an effort to disguise the intentions of his offense.

Camp also played a significant role in the formation of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 1909; the NCAA would ultimately become one of the most influential amateur sports bodies in the world. Camp also initiated the concept of the year end All-American awards to honor the country's best players. Camp was the selector of the annual All-American football team until his death.

Camp was also an influential national physical training leader. He was appointed to direct the physical fitness initiatives of the United States Army during World War I.

SEE ALSO Football (American); National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA); Sports Coaching.