Just like its well-known counterpart, intercollegiate lightweight football is a full-contact sport played on a regulation field, under NCAA rules. It is fully officiated and has its own conference. The big departure, of course, is the weight limitation. At the sport's inception, the weight limit was 150 pounds as recorded at weekly weigh-ins of players prior to each game day. Over the years, the weight limit has gradually increased to its present limit of 172 pounds.
Varsity lightweight football in the U.S. traces its origins to the early 1930s, when Harvard and Yale fielded teams of 'undersized' players for exhibition games before the varsity game kickoff. It was meant to be a form of pre-game entertainment. The then weight ceiling was based on the approximate size of the average adult male of the era; it was also a carryover from the sport of rowing, which used 150 pounds as the line of demarcation between lightweight and heavyweight crews.
The enthusiastic reception the 150-pound exhibitions received convinced school officials that this brand of football not only had entertainment value, but provided an opportunity for average-size football players to compete at the college level. Soon the Harvard and Yale 150's began to organize games against nearby prep schools, such as Choate, Hill and Roxbury. Then Princeton organized a lightweight squad, followed by Rutgers with Penn, Lafayette and Villanova following suit. That critical mass lead to the formation of the Eastern 150-Pound Football League, which survives to this day as the Eastern Sprint Football Conference. In its heyday, the sport was popular nationally and boasted teams fielded by major universities such as Michigan (coached by legendary NFL head coach George Allen), Ohio State, Wisconsin and the University of Virginia.
Extreme speed, wide-open play, and high-impact hitting have long been hallmarks of the sport. Indeed, lightweight football is remarkable for its pace. Because a vast majority of its athletes cut their teeth playing high school football as backs and receivers, there is a high degree of player parity on the field in terms of speed, strength and athleticism that is unmatched at even the elite Division I level. Consider: since all players weigh approximately the same, there's a special fearlessness to the hitting. The result is that from kickers looking to make touchdown saving tackles to quarterbacks running naked bootlegs to cornerbacks taking on pulling guards, no one backs down from a potential big collision in lightweight football
This is the unique brand of fast and ferocious football that Rutgers lightweight teams installed on the Banks at the dawning of this sport -- and helped to enshrine it in the pantheon of intercollegiate sports of the era.