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Empire State Building lights recognize college football's 150th anniversary

empire state

The Empire State Building lit up in orange and red on Nov. 6.

Photo Courtesy of GoPrincetonTigers

The Empire State Building lit up orange and red on Nov. 6 in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the first-ever college football game, played between the University and Rutgers University.

Beginning at sunset, the structure was illuminated to honor the game, in which Rutgers defeated Princeton football 6–4 on Nov. 6, 1869. This display, expected to remain lit until 2 a.m. on Nov. 7, comes in the middle of a week of events commemorating the match, which began with a photo op in MetLife Stadium on Monday and will end on Saturday when the University football team takes on the also-undefeated Dartmouth in Yankee Stadium.


Associate Director of Athletics, Advancement, and Princeton Varsity Club Brendan Van Ackeren said that the Department of Athletics got official confirmation from the Empire State Building Lighting Partner in the afternoon of Nov. 5. He said the department would make efforts to let members of the University community know, “so when they leave their offices and their homes, they can look up … and know that that’s representing the tradition and legacy of Princeton football.”

With the “Battle of the Unbeatens” just three days away, Van Ackeren said the Empire State Building Lighting would not hurt efforts to sell tickets “by any stretch.” However, he noted that profit was not the Department’s primary intention.

“We really viewed this as an almost pinnacle celebration of that true anniversary date,” he said. “We certainly did not approach this as purely a marketing tool for driving ticket sales around the game, but a great way to highlight really everything under that umbrella of the 150th season of Princeton football and college football.”

In a message to people who purchased tickets for the Dartmouth game, Princeton Association of New York City (PANYC) President Rob Wolk ’91 wrote that PANYC was “excited for this highly visible opportunity to showcase Princeton and our part in college football history,” going on to encourage alumni to “capture and share the moment on social media to display their Tiger pride!”

The lighting of the Empire State Building was not the only high-profile public recognition of the anniversary that occurred this week. At MetLife Stadium on Monday night, prior to a game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, representatives from the National Football League, Rutgers, and the University exchanged game balls commemorating the 150th anniversary of college football and the 100th anniversary of the NFL.

ESPN’s Monday Night Football commentators also hyped up the upcoming game against Dartmouth, mentioning it while cameras pointed toward the Cowboys’ head coach and former Princeton football quarterback Jason Garrett ’89.


“I was talking to Jason yesterday. You know, Coach Bob Surace and the Tigers have a big showdown with Dartmouth coming up. The unbeaten Ivies going at it at Yankee’s Stadium this weekend,” one commentator noted. “That game’s on ESPNU, and Coach Garrett is all in every week on Princeton football.”

Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan ’91, Executive Associate Director of Athletics Anthony Archbald, and former Princeton and Giants football player Keith Elias ’94 were present at MetLife Stadium, and the Rutgers Marching Band also performed at halftime of that game. 

“That was kind of a great way to kick off the anniversary week and, again, celebrate that 150-year legacy and the partnership between Princeton and Rutgers,” Van Ackeren said.

In his message, Wolk also laid out the other University events occurring in New York City prior to the Dartmouth game, mentioning a “Tiger Entrepreneurs Conference” on Friday and an optimistically-titled “‘Tigers Crush Dartmouth’ Party” on Friday night.

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The game on Saturday will begin at 3:30 p.m., with stadium gates opening to the general public 90 minutes prior.