Tex Noel, Executive Director of Intercollegiate Football Researchers Association, just requested information on the “first season and ‘score’ and season for a forfeit game.” Not having previously dealt with forfeits, I took Tex’s challenge. The first place I looked was, of course, in Spalding’s Football Guides. The 1883 book is the earliest one I have but it says nothing at all about forfeitures. The next earliest year in my collection is 1888. That book mentions forfeitures of games beginning on the bottom of page 98: “Either side refusing to play after ordered to by the referee, shall forfeit the game. This shall also apply to refusing to commence the game when ordered to by the referee.” However, it says nothing about awarding points or creating a score for a forfeited game. Similar language is present in the 1892 and 1893 Spalding’s Guides.
The 1899 Spalding’s Guide, page 145, lists the Nov 24, 1898 Alabama Polytechnic Institute score as “A.P.I., 18; Univ. of Ga., 0. Forfeited. Real score 18 to 17.” On page 155 the November 12, 1898 University Medical College game with Kansas U. was forfeited but no score was given. Rule 12(a) on page 181 adds an additional reason for forfeiting a game: refusing to play after the referee shortens a game that has started too late to be completed by the time it gets too dark to play. Another reason added is delaying the game by committing fouls when the opponent has the ball close to your goal line. Committing a second infraction close to one’s own goal line triggers the forfeiture.
The 1908 Spalding’s Guide is the first one to mention awarding points for a forfeiture. Page 181 contains the section, Alterations in the Rules for 1908. The fifth paragraph states: “The score of a forfeited game is made 1-0, in order to distinguish it from any other possible scores.” In 1908 safeties were awarded 2 points, field goals 4 points, and touchdowns 5 points. A goal after touchdown was awarded 1 point but could not be earned without having already scored 5 points for a touchdown. Thus a score of one 1-0 would clearly indicate a forfeited game.
Ironically, page 139 of the 1909 Spalding’s Guide, the issue that includes scores for the 1908 games, lists Cook Academy winning by forfeit over Binghamton H. S. by a score of 2-0. And the forfeiture rule stayed the same pointwise as it was in the 1908 book!