[photo of Queen's Golden Gaels football team running onto the field in 1955]

Queen's Golden Gaels football team, 1955. Courtesy Pete Owen and Queen's Archives.

For generations of students, Saturday afternoon football games at Richardson Stadium have been a fall ritual.

The game was first played in a rudimentary form at Queen's in the late 1870s as informal matches of "Association Football" [soccer] with catching.

In 1882, two brothers from Ottawa, Fred and Jackson Booth, introduced Queen's athletes to the game of "rugby football," an older version of modern rugby and the game from which football at Queen's evolved.

The game was referred to as rugby football until well into the 20th century and was quite different from the modern game of football - for example, it was not until the 1930s that the now-crucial element of forward passing was permitted.

Up until the 1930s, Queen's teams played not just against university teams, but against the best football squads in the country. Queen's won its first National Rugby Football Championship in 1893 and by the early 1920s, its teams were virtually unbeatable. Led by Canadian hall-of-famers Harry "Red" Batsone and Frank "Pep" Leadly, Queen's won consecutive Grey Cups in 1922, 1923, and 1924 and went undefeated for a stretch of 26 games. An indication of Queen's strength was the score of the 1923 final in which Queen's beat the Regina Roughriders 54-0.

Shortly after these triumphs, the big-city teams took over the game and universities restricted themselves to intercollegiate play.

[photo of Queen's senior Ontario Hockey Association team, 1929-1930]

Modern day Richardson Stadium during football game, 2018.

Queen's played for years in a league with traditional rivals McGill University, the University of Toronto, and the University of Western Ontario. But the growing number of universities in central Canada led to realignment and Queen's played in the Ontario-Quebec Intercollegiate Football Conference (OQIFC) from 1980 to 2001. In the 2001-2002 season, the Golden Gaels were shifted back into the Ontario Universities Association (OUA) conference.

Numerous Queen's players have gone on to play in professional leagues, including CFL great Ron Stewar - a star for Ottawa in the 1950s and 1960s and Canadian male athlete of the year in 1960 - and Mike Schad, one of the few Canadian-trained players drafted in the first round by the National Football League (fourth overall in 1986).

The Queen's team has won the Vanier Cup in 1968, 1978, 1992, and 2009.

Learn more about Queen's Football...