Rutgers and Seton Hall once played a soccer game. It was a violent debacle.
It’s the one day of the year our state really cares about college basketball. And more often than not, the fighters tried their best to make it look like a football game.
Rutgers and Seton Hall are no strangers to over-physique on the pitch. Benches have emerged, clotheslines have been thrown, serious mistakes have been made. There was even a whimper – not great, mind you, just a little nudge, but enough to take notice.
But the two rivals – who resume hostilities at the Prudential Center in Newark on Sunday after taking time off last year amid controversy and a pandemic – have yet to produce a broken leg, to our knowledge. . Which brings us to the story of the one, and of course, the only time schools actually played football.
Seton Hall had a team. And 116 years ago, he traveled to New Brunswick to face Rutgers.
Literal carnage ensued.
“Play hard, Seton”
There is no definitive record of the first meeting between Rutgers and Seton Hall in a sports competition. The two schools were on each other’s baseball program in the late 19th century, so that’s a good guess. But the only football meeting between schools predates the basketball rivalry record by a decade.
Rutgers was struggling to return to respectability when the 1905 season began. The Queensmen had rehired Oliver D. Mann as head coach – he shot a Greg Schiano 61 before Schiano was even born, riding after a villainous 1-6-2 the year before – and Seton Hall was in his gold era, after a 7-2 record with a victory over Maryland in 1904 to follow an unbeaten 1903 season.
The match came with a bang. A large contingent of Rutgers students and a marching band marched to Neilson Field to support the Queensmen. And Rutgers gave them much to celebrate, rushing to a 10-0 lead behind solid defense and a pair of Adolph Brogger touchdowns.
Seton Hall supporters then demanded an in-game adjustment.
“Seton couldn’t stand this clean football and started playing his football style,” according to The Home News, “goaded by a few rooters who often shouted ‘Play Seton raw’.”
The Alerts, as the team was known at the time, complied.
“After every play, there was a knockout man, or a brawl,” according to The Home News.
“A rude game”
The match had become “one of the most disjointed ever,” and Gentleman Rutgers’ team simply weren’t up to the task.
The Alerts scored once before halftime and then three more times in the second half to claim a 22-10 victory in what was considered “a roughhouse game”. And it was in times of decline that disaster struck Rutgers.
Mann inserted half-back Daniel Safford – who moonlighted as manager of the basketball team – into the game towards the end. The second-year man took over.
Safford’s leg was broken at the ankle. A compound fracture. The Brooklynite was rushed to hospital. And the game ended early.
“The former Scarlet team weren’t trained for this kind of game,” according to The Home News, “And as the officials let him go, they couldn’t continue the winning game they started. . “
Safford recovered, but after a long hospital stay. He then graduated from Rutgers and New York Law School and served in the United States Army in World War I before a long career as a lawyer for the Chase Manhattan Bank.
The Queensmen also rebounded. The team had to cancel training the following Monday to recover from the grueling ordeal, but managed to rule Delaware out in a much-anticipated road game the following week.
But even with the victory, Seton Hall ultimately lost. The Alerts had emerged as a winning program, but their brutal style – and the accumulation of injuries it caused – shocked John J. O’Connor, Bishop of the Archdiocese of Newark. The sport was banned the following year, the start of a series of stops and starts for Seton Hall. The program was briefly relaunched twice – one season in 1913 as Rutgers grew into a powerhouse, then for a few years in the 1930s – before becoming a club team in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Seton Hall then re-established a college program for the third time in 1972. But Rutgers had already turned to major college football by then, and the teams never played again. The Pirates spent a decade playing what translates to a current level of Division III before quitting the sport for good in 1981, two years after Seton Hall became a founding member of the Big East (and Rutgers declined his invitation ).
Looking back, all was probably for the best. Just ask poor Dan Safford.
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James Kratch can be contacted at email@example.com.