Although the first varsity football game at Georgetown was not contested until 1887, the roots of the football program date to 1874, one of two intercollegiate sports founded by the remarkable John G. Agar.
Born to an immigrant Irish family in New Orleans in 1856, the young Agar was sent to Georgetown's preparatory program at the age of 13, graduating in 1872. As a student, Agar proved an exceptional student leader, serving as editor of the College Journal, a founder of the nascent Football Association, and among the leaders in forming the Georgetown University Boat Club, the earliest origins of the crew at the college.
For football, Agar was named vice-president of the group; by rule of the College, a Jesuit served as the president of all student groups. (That Jesuit, a 25 year old scholastic named Michael A. O'Kane, S.J., became president of Holy Cross in 1889, where that college fielded its first football team in 1891.) O'Kane, Agar, and Arthur J. Hood (C'1877) served as the executive committee at its founding meeting in November 1, 1874.
"A committee of three was appointed," noted the College Journal, "to draw up a code of laws, and another committee of ten was appointed to serve as referees. A small monthly collection from the students who wish to take part in the game will suffice for all expenses. The game is played only during the winter months."
If there were ten referees, it is likely that almost all of the College participated in the sport. Ten was a sizable number of any kind at this time; Georgetown graduated just seven students in 1875, and the entire preparatory (high school) and collegiate population numbered no more than 100 in any one year. The 1989 book "The Bicentennial History of Georgetown University, Volume I" notes that of 340 enrollees in the college from 1870-79, only 47 earned a baccalaureate degree.
One year later, with the students successfully grounded in the rules of the game, the Football Association scheduled three intramural games. (Intercollegiate contests were still a rarity in sports. In 1875, the number of colleges playing football numbered just ten, none closer than Princeton.) Agar served as vice president for a second term in 1875, with Enoch Abell (C'1877, G'1889) as secretary and Arthur Hood as Treasurer.
The College Journal reported the contests as follows:
"The first game of football between the Junior and Senior classes took place November 18. Victory perched on the banners of the Seniors. Despite the odds against them the Juniors fought or, rather, kicked nobly. Timmins captained the Seniors; Condon the Juniors.
There were two other games--on the 2d and 12th of December, the latter being indecisive. The championship remains unsettled. The opinion of our reporter about the game of the 2d is that it was the most earnest, the longest and the best contested game of football played within our knowledge for many years. There should have been three goals won to complete the game. "The first was won by the Seniors in 20 minutes, the second by the Juniors in 15. The third contest continued for an hour, or until darkness set it, without either of the determined antagonists being able to claim victory.
"If it had not been for the interference of [nightfall], kicks would certainly have settled the contest. On the part of the Juniors Condon, Hamilton, Slater and W. Agar, and on the part of the Seniors Timmins, McNeil, J. Agar, E. Dolan and James DeCourcey claim the thanks of their companions for their telling efforts.
"The game of the 12th, with the surging movement of the combatants, their outcries and the intensity of the whole action displayed would have made a fine study for one about to engage in reading an account of an old Homeric battle."
John Agar graduated from the College in 1876, and football apparently went dormant in his absence, at least in coverage. After studies in Europe and a law degree at Columbia, Agar returned to Georgetown just as football had returned, earning an M.A. in 1888 and a Ph.D in 1889. Twenty years later, he completed a doctorate in laws in 1910.