Thanksgiving postcard circa 1900 showing a turkey and football player.
American football is one of the many traditions in American culture that is associated with Thanksgiving Day. Virtually every level of football, from amateur and high school to college and the NFL (and even the CFL on Canadian Thanksgiving), plays football on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday) or the immediately following holiday weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).
High school football games played on Thanksgiving are often called a Turkey Day Game or a Turkey Bowl (not to be confused with Turkey bowling), as Americans typically eat turkeys on Thanksgiving, although the title varies with each game. Most commonly these games are between high school football rivalries although in many cases, when poor weather requires a shorter season, the game can be the culmination of league play among a high-school league, in which the winners of this game will be the league champions for the year. (Statewide playoffs were generally rare until the 1970s and 1980s, which allowed for longer regular seasons.) The custom dates back more than 100 years and is particularly prevalent in the Northeast. Until recently, it was not uncommon to see some of the more widely known games nationally televised on networks such as the ESPN Networks (see High School Showcase), but this no longer takes place since ESPN helped launch, and has aired in marathon format, two Thanksgiving Day college basketball tournaments (namely the Old Spice Classic and the 76 Classic) in 2006.
This list is sorted alphabetically, first by state, and then by school, with team leading the series listed first wherever possible. State and regional championship tournaments are listed ahead of rivalries. If the rivalry involves two states, the rivalry is listed under the school whose state comes first alphabetically (e.g. a New Jersey-Pennsylvania rivalry is listed under New Jersey).
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- San Jose Big Bone Game
- The only Thanksgiving high school rivalry game to be played west of the state of Missouri, this game dates to 1943 and is played in San Jose, California each Thanksgiving at 11 am The game pits Abraham Lincoln High School against San Jose High Academy. The "Big Bone" in question is the femur of a cow that was retrieved from a butcher shop. Lincoln leads the series 38–24. The game is preceded the week prior with the "Little Bone Game," played between the two junior varsity teams.
- San Francisco Turkey Bowl
- Also in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Turkey Bowl in San Francisco dates back to 1924, is in its 88 straight year and currently is played at Kezar Stadium each Thanksgiving at 11 am The Turkey Bowl is the city's public high school championship game. The most recent champion is Washington High School; Galileo High School has the most overall wins in the game (16) after breaking Lincoln High School's record four-game winning streak in 2009.
Connecticut has at least 47 Thanksgiving games. Some of the better known ones are as follows:
- Ansonia vs. Naugatuck
- Ansonia High School and Naugatuck High School have played each other since 1900.
- Guilford vs. Daniel Hand (Madison)
- Madison split out of what was East Guilford and since these two teams have begun playing annually Guilford has only won 7 of the match-ups, Guilford tends to be a below .500 team whereas Hand is typically a near perfect team. Hand is always favored, however Guilford always gets pumped up for this final game.
- St. Bernard vs. Montville
- These two teams only began playing annually around 10 years ago, but because of the recent success of both teams, and short distance from each other, it has become one of the most heated high school football rivalries in the state.
- Hamden vs. Notre Dame West Haven
- The annual Green Bowl game that takes place every Thanksgiving.
- Norwich Free Academy vs. New London High School
- Said to be the oldest high school football rivalry in Connecticut and, in terms of games, one of the longest in the country.
- Shelton vs. Derby
- Shelton and Derby have played each other since 1904.
- Stonington vs. Westerly, Rhode Island
- As of 2009, these two schools have met 150 times with Stonington leading Westerly 68–65–17. However, when strictly looking at Thanksgiving Turkey day games Westerly leads 47–40–11. The two schools at one time played twice a year; hence, these two schools have played more games than any other high school football rivalry.
- Wilbur Cross vs. Hillhouse
- New Haven's two largest high schools, Hillhouse High School and Wilbur Cross High School, meet every Thanksgiving in the "Elm City Bowl".
Masuk vs. Newtown: This game has decided the winner of SWC championship the past two years, with Masuk winning by a combined score of 88–7.
Maine has only one Thanksgiving football game
- Portland High School vs. Deering High School
- This is the only annual Thanksgiving game played in Maine. First held in 1911, this annual game pits cross town rivals Deering High School Rams and Portland High School Bulldogs against each other at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
Participants in a Baltimore area TurkeyBowl included attorney Warren Brown and Curt Anderson
- Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (Poly) vs. Baltimore City College (City)
- In 1889, the game was played between City and Poly, then located on Courtland Street just a short distance from City. This led to one of the longest continuous public high school American football rivalry in the nation. In the early 1900s the game was played on Thanksgiving Day and when Memorial Stadium was built in 1954 the game was played there until the stadium was demolished in 2000. The games played at Memorial stadium during the 1960s drew an average of 25,000 fans. In 1965, 27,500 fans saw quarterback Kurt Schmoke and team captain Curt Anderson lead City to a 52–6 win over Poly. The Thanksgiving tradition ended in 1993 when both City and Poly joined the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association which held its playoffs during the Thanksgiving week, requiring both schools to move their rivalry to a date three weeks earlier. The game is now played at M&T Bank Stadium, in downtown Baltimore the first week of November. Anderson (City) and Baltimore attorney Warren Brown (Poly) have kept the Turkey Day tradition alive between the two schools by sponsoring a flag football game at 9 am every Thanksgiving morning at Baltimore's Herring Run Park. For the past 30 years any former Poly student, football player or not, faces off against a team made up of former City students. Brown and Anderson no longer play, but their sons do.
- Calvert Hall College vs. Loyola Blakefield
- Calvert Hall College and Loyola Blakefield, two private high schools in Towson, Maryland have an annual football game played on Thanksgiving Day known as the "Turkey Bowl." The 92-year-old tradition is the oldest continuous Catholic prep-school football rivalries in the United States. It is broadcast locally on the local ABC affiliate, WMAR 2. The game is currently held in M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens. To date, The Dons of Loyola have the better Turkey Bowl record over the Calvert Hall Cardinals at 48–37–8.
In Massachusetts, where high school football is not nearly the draw it is in other parts of the country, the Thanksgiving Day game is a long-standing tradition that brings out thousands of alumni and other fans. Virtually every school in the Bay State has a traditional rival and the holiday game is a focal point for all of them, no matter how unsuccessful the regular season may have been.
- Abington vs. Whitman
- Abington High School and Whitman-Hanson Regional High School have faced off on Thanksgiving Day since 1910. The 100th meeting between these two schools was played at Whitman in 2010. Whitam-Hanson has won 57 of the one hundred games played.
- Andover vs. Central Catholic
- Attleboro vs. North Attleborough
- Beverly vs. Salem
- Salem High School and Beverly High School have played each other since 1891. The 100th meeting between the two schools in 1998 at Hurd Stadium attracted over 11,000 fans.
- BMC Durfee vs. New Bedford
- New Bedford High School and B.M.C. Durfee of Fall River have contested this rivalry since 1893.
- Chelmsford vs. Billerica
- Chelmsford High School and Billerica Memorial High School have faced off against each other annually since 1927.
- Chicopee vs. Holyoke
- Chicopee High School and Holyoke High School
- Cohasset vs. Hull
- Cohasset High School and Hull High School have played each other on Thanksgiving since the 1920s.
- Dedham vs. Norwood
- English High School vs. Boston Latin
- The rivalry between English High School of Boston and Boston Latin School dates to 1887. It is played annually at Harvard Stadium.
- Fairhaven vs. Dartmouth
- Fitchburg vs. Leominster
- Leominster High School and Fitchburgh High School have played since 1894. As of 2008, it has been contested on Thanksgiving 103 times, out of 125 total matches.
- Georgetown vs. Manchester-Essex Regional High School.
- Gloucester vs. Danvers
- Longmeadow vs. East Longmeadow
- Longmeadow High School and East Longmeadow High School
- Marlborough vs. Hudson
- Marlborough High School and Hudson High School have played since 1904.
- Medford vs. Malden
- This rivalry has been contested since 1889.
- Newburyport vs. Amesbury
- These two teams have played each other 88 times as of 2010 with Newburyport holding the edge 46–36–6.
Pentucket vs. Triton: Teams have played since the 1970s. Pentucket has won 11 of the last 13 contests, including on the way to winning the Super Bowl in 1999.
- Wilbraham-Hampden vs. Springfield
- Minnechaug Regional High School and Springfield Central High School
- Winchester vs. Woburn
- These teams have played each other, uninterrupted, since 1893.
- Show-Me Bowl
- The state championships of Missouri high school football are held on the Friday and Saturday following Thanksgiving at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis under the name "Show Me Bowl." There are seven games, one to decide the championship for each class, ranging from "Class 1" to "Class 6" and an eight-man football class.
- Webster Groves vs. Kirkwood Turkey Day Game
The oldest current Thanksgiving Day football rivalry west of the Mississippi River (the University of Missouri-University of Kansas Border War Game being the oldest), the "Turkey Day Game" in Missouri between the Kirkwood High School Pioneers and the Webster Groves High School Statesmen celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2007. Newly found evidence shows that 2007 also celebrated the 100th known football game since 1898 between the two schools (whether or not there were games played during the 1899, 1900, and 1905 seasons still remains unknown) and the 77th game played on Thanksgiving Day between the varsity teams of the two schools. In addition to the unknown seasons of 1899, 1900, and 1905, there was no game in 1904 because Kirkwood did not have a team; there were four cancellations of the game in 1911, 1914, 1918, 1988; two games held in 1906; three games held in 1907; two games held in 1908; two games held in 1983; five years in which only the junior varsity squads played on Thanksgiving Day due to a playoff schedule conflict (see below) in 2002, 2003, 2006, 2009, and 2010; fourteen games postponed or not scheduled on Thanksgiving Day since 1907–1909, 1910, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1923, 1975, 1980, 1985, and 2010. The game was suspended for four years – 1924, 1925, 1926, and 1927 – after a melee occurred on the field in 1923 that involved spectators from the stands. A referee called back all three of Kirkwood's touchdowns due to penalties, allowing Webster Groves to win the game 7–0. The win gave Webster Groves its eighth consecutive win and a 14–7–2 lead in the varsity series since 1898. The game resumed in 1928 and was played continuously on Thanksgiving Day until 1975. The game site alternates between Moss Field (Webster Groves) on even years and Lyons Field (Kirkwood) on odd years. In the event that either Kirkwood or Webster Groves advances to the Show-Me Bowl state championship game, the non-varsity members of the junior varsity and freshman squads play instead as part of the 1988 Turkey Day Agreement. The Agreement has so far been utilized in 2002, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2011 and in 2010, the last of which was the result of an unusual situation: the Kirkwood and Webster Groves varsity teams met in the Class 5 semifinals the weekend before Thanksgiving, assuring one of them would advance to the Show-Me Bowl; Webster Groves won the game, 28–0. In addition to the pre-Thanksgiving matchup, the junior varsity teams played on Thanksgiving itself.
Since 1952, a 400-pound bell from a retired locomotive, donated by the Frisco Railroad Company, has been used as the trophy for the Turkey Day Game. The winner of the game takes possession of the Frisco Bell until the next game. The Bell was first awarded to Kirkwood, despite the game ending in a tie, because Webster Groves had lost the previous year's game. Since 1940, the loser has received the Little Brown Jug, which originally had painted the years and scores of the game on its back, but now has been replaced with the Centennial Jug, with the history of the coaches painted on it.
The term Turkey Day in both Kirkwood and Webster has grown to encompass not only the football game itself, but the festivities in the week prior to Thanksgiving Day. Both schools participate in extensive activities surrounding Turkey Day during Thanksgiving week. The Friendship Dance is held every year at the high school not hosting that year's game, as a gesture of friendship between the schools. Each school names a Friendship Court and selects a Friendship Queen and King from the court. In addition, each grade level at both schools decorate a hallway in a unique theme, and are then judged. At both schools, the activities culminate in respective pep rallies both on the last day of school of that week (Tuesday) and the Wednesday night before the game. At both Kirkwood and Webster, there is a bonfire after the Wednesday night pep rally. Drawing thousands of people every year, the game itself has grown in popularity to the likes of the local news and cable broadcasts of the game. As well as being recognized by ESPN, the game has garnered a multi-page exclusive article in Sports Illustrated.
In 1975, when the then-St. Louis Cardinals hosted NFL games on Thanksgiving, the city resisted the move, because the Kirkwood-Webster Groves rivalry had already established itself. The Cardinals gave up on playing Thanksgiving games in 1977 after three games, and the hosting reverted back to the Dallas Cowboys. For similar reasons, the St. Louis Rams, since relocating from Los Angeles to Missouri in 1995, have never played on Thanksgiving.
The Kirkwood Webster rivalry is the third-oldest high school rivalry west of the Mississippi River.
- Keene vs. Monadnock Turkey Tussle
- In southwestern New Hampshire, Keene High School and Monadnock Regional High School have had a rivalry for over 50 years. However, the two schools did not play football against each other from the 1960s until 2005, because of the schools' different sizes and hence sports divisions. In 2005, the two schools agreed to play each other in an annual match called the "Turkey Tussle". The first game was played at Keene High's Alumni Field, with the venue alternating between schools in each succeeding year. After words the players at Monadnock Regional asked the Keene players to take it easy on them, and the game was called off right then and there due to the Keene players not wanting to hurt or injure the Monadnock players.
- Manchester city championship (Turkey Bowl)
- Gill Stadium in Manchester, New Hampshire hosts an annual turkey bowl between the city's two top ranked teams in the regular season.
Hackensack High School vs. Teaneck High School have played annually every Thanksgiving morning since 1931.
Don Bosco Prep vs. Paramus Catholic: Don Bosco Preparatory High School in Ramsey, one of the top high school football programs in the United States, and Paramus Catholic High School in Paramus are traditional Thanksgiving rivals.
- Phillipsburg vs. Easton, PA
- Phillipsburg High School and Easton High School have been playing each other since 1905. The first Thanksgiving Day meeting was in 1916 and the schools have played each other annually ever since. The winner of the game is presented with the Forks of the Delaware Trophy, as both schools are located from different states (Phillipsburg from NJ, Easton from PA) on opposite sides of the Delaware River. The game is played each year at Fisher Field located on the campus of Lafayette College as a neutral site. The game has been nationally televised.
- Ridgewood vs. Paramus
- Ridgewood High School and Paramus High School is played every Thanksgiving morning annually.
- East Orange vs. Barringer
- East Orange High School and Barringer High School have played since 1897.
- Millville vs. Vineland
- This rivalry has been contested since 1894.
- Westfield vs. Plainfield
- Westfield and Plainfield has been played since 1900 and celebrated its 100th game in 2005.
- Watchung Hills vs. Ridge
- A game formally played the day before Thanksgiving, as the two rivals weren't in the same division for football. When they both became members of the same division in 2008, they began regular-season play. The venue alternated between the two schools' stadiums every year, with the last game in 2007 played at Ridge.
- North Plainfield vs. South Plainfield
- The game is played on Thanksgiving morning each year.
- East Brunswick vs. Old Bridge
- East Brunswick High School and Old Bridge High School compete annually in the Battle Of Route 18 football game. The rivalry began in 1994 when Cedar Ridge High School and Madison Central High School merged into Old Bridge High School, and has since played East Brunswick every year on Thanksgiving morning. The contests alternates home field advantage each year, and each side awards an offensive and defensive MVP.
Salem vs. Woodstown: Played Thanksgiving Day every year at 10:30, started in 1911, next year will be the 100th year anniversary.
- Madison vs. Millburn
- Alternates fields each year. The mayors typically make bets, with the losing team providing the winners with a platter of sloppy joes. Also, the loser must wash the other team's cars without pants on.
- Red Bank Catholic vs. Rumson Fair-Haven
- Game played annually since 1921. Presents Peninsula Trophy to winner
- New Providence vs. Berkeley Heights
- This rivalry has been contested for only a few years, but is very popular in the surrounding areas of New Providence, Summit, and Berkeley Heights. The Turkey Bowl is usually saved by NPHS stand out athlete Vincent Fuschetto.
- Middletown South vs. Middletown North
- Middletown High School South and Middletown High School North varsity teams play annually, with the home team alternating every year. 2010 marked the 35th game played between the two schools, with Middletown South beating Middletown North 20–7. Middletown South leads the rivalry with a record of 23–11–1 over Middletown North.
New York State
- State championship weekend
- The New York State Public High School Athletic Association, which sanctions all public high school football in the state, holds its statewide football championships over Thanksgiving weekend at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. Five divisions (ranging from the largest schools outside the five major cities to the smallest districts) each have their own state title decided on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Buffalo Public Schools, representing the second-largest city in the state, joined the NYSPHSAA beginning in 2009, allowing them to contend for state championships, but abolishing their local Thanksgiving Day city championship (see below).
- Buffalo Harvard Cup (abolished)
- In Western New York, Thanksgiving was the day of the annual Harvard Cup, the city of Buffalo's high school football championship game. It ran for 106 years. Games were held at All-High Stadium on the campus of Bennett High School in Buffalo and broadcast on local radio station WJJL. However, the Harvard Cup was abolished after the 2009 season when Buffalo Public Schools joined the NYSPHSAA.
- Fordham Prep vs. Xavier High School
- The Xavier/Fordham Prep annual "Turkey Bowl" is one of the oldest high school football rivalries in New York history. Their very first game against one another took place in the late 1800s when the game was called due to darkness and ended in a tie. Xavier and Fordham Prep used to play many of their famed Thanksgiving Day "Turkey Bowl" Games, at Manhattan's Polo Grounds, until it was demolished following the construction of Shea Stadium in the borough of Queens. For many years, the game was played in Downing Stadium (now Icahn Stadium) on Randall's Island or on the campus of Fordham University in the Bronx. Most recently, in years Fordham has the home-field advantage, the game is played at Jack Coffey Field on the campus of Fordham University. When Xavier has the advantage, the game is played at the Aviator Sports and Events Center on the grounds of Floyd Bennett Field, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area in Brooklyn.
- Stepinac vs. White Plains Turkey Bowl
- This game between the Catholic high school Archbishop Stepinac High School and public school White Plains High School has been played continuously since 1971. Since the annual game's inception it has traditionally been played at a "neutral" field in White Plains, Parker Stadium, except for 2008, when it was played at White Plains High School. White Plains, being a public school, forfeits any regional consolation playoff appearance it may have earned, due to a limit of 10 games for high school football teams in the NYSPHSAA, but does not have to forfeit its appearance in the state championship tournament.
- Mt. St. Micheal vs. Cardinal Hayes
- Bronx Turkey Bowl: Mount St. Micheal High School vs. Cardinal Hayes High School. It's been a tradition for the last 66 years. Since 1942 Mount St. Michael and Cardinal Hayes have met on each Thanksgiving Day a storied CHSFL rivalry showdown.
Though high school games are not traditionally played in Ohio on Thanksgiving due to playoffs, the regional sports networks serving the area often replay the annual game between the Canton McKinley Bulldogs and the Massillon Washington Tigers. The Canton-Massillon rivalry, pitting two teams in Stark County, Ohio, is one of the oldest in all of high school football, and was even the subject of a feature film documentary (Go Tigers!). In Ohio, each High School football team's goal is to practice on Thanksgiving Day.
- Catasauqua vs. Northampton
- Catasauqua High School and Northampton High School play a non-league game against each other every Thanksgiving dating back to 1925. The two schools are no longer within the same league, and thus the game is not sanctioned and does not count as a win/loss for official standings with regard to playoff consideration within the PIAA. The game is always considered to be Homecoming for Catasauqua, regardless of whether the game is played at home or away from their perspective.
- Chichester vs. Sun Valley
- These two high schools from Delaware County have played each other a total of 83 times, and now the rivals face each other every Thanksgiving. Sun Valley narrowly has more wins than Chichester as the series record is currently 42–41. Sun Valley has won the past three years.
- Easton vs. Phillipsburg, NJ
- Easton High School and Phillipsburg High School have been playing each other since 1905. The first Thanksgiving Day meeting was in 1916 and the schools have played each other annually ever since. The winner of the game is presented with the Forks of the Delaware Trophy, as both schools are located from different states (Easton from PA, Phillipsburg from NJ) on opposite sides of the Delaware River. The game is played each year at Fisher Field located on the campus of Lafayette College as a neutral site. The game has been nationally televised.
- East Stroudsburg vs. Stroudsburg
- East Stroudsburg South High School (formerly East Stroudsburg High School) and Stroudsburg High School have been playing annually since 1945 and began their Turkey Day tradition in 1953. With the advent of district playoffs, the game was moved to the regular season for four years, then the schools agreed to play once during the season and again on Thanksgiving if neither team is in the playoffs. A little more than 2 miles separate these public high schools which allows the victor to walk home with the Little Brown Jug Trophy.
- Emmaus vs. Whitehall (no longer played on Thanksgiving)
- Emmaus High School and Whitehall High School played an annual game on Thanksgiving from 1927 until 1995. They still play each other annually, but the game is now contested during the regular season and not on Thanksgiving.
- Hatboro-Horsham vs. Upper Moreland
- Hatboro-Horsham High School and Upper Moreland High School play each other on Thanksgiving, alternating between each school as the home team.
- Mount Carmel vs. Shamokin (no longer played on Thanksgiving)
- Mount Carmel High School and Shamokin High School first played each other in 1893, and annually since 1934. They began playing each other on Thanksgiving in 1951. The rivalry continues, but the game is no longer contested on Thanksgiving and is instead played during the regular season.
- Nazareth vs. Wilson (no longer played on Thanksgiving)
- Nazareth High School and Wilson High School played annually on Thanksgiving morning from 1926–1975. From 1945–68, the game was played at Easton's Cottingham Stadium as a neutral site, and from 1969–73 it was played at Taylor Stadium on the campus of Lehigh University. In 1974 the game was played at Nazareth High School, and in 1975 it was played at Wilson High. The game has not been played on Thanksgiving since 1975 and the two schools have not met at all since 1993. Discussions between the two schools are in the works to renew this rivalry.
- Northeast vs. Central
- This game pits two schools from the city of Philadelphia, Northeast High School and Central High School, against each other; the rivalry dates to 1892.
- Pottsville vs. Reading (no longer played on Thanksgiving)
- Pottsville High School and Reading High School have been playing each other since 1893, and played annually on Thanksgiving from 1923 to 1977. They no longer play on Thanksgiving, but still play each other during the regular season.
- Upper Darby vs. Haverford
- Upper Darby High School and Haverford High School, two public schools that are located less than three miles apart, have contested a game since 1921.
- Portsmouth vs. Middletown
- The two teams have played every year since 1965 with Portsmouth leading the all time series 26–2–16–2
- East Providence vs. La Salle
- South Kingstown Rebels vs. North Kingstown Skippers
- West Warwick vs. Coventry
- Barrington Eagles vs. Mount Hope Huskies (formerly Bristol)
- Burrillville vs. Ponaganset
- Central vs. Hope
- Central Falls vs. Lincoln
- Chariho vs. Exeter/West Greenwich
- Classical vs. Mount Pleasant
- Coventry vs. West Warwick
- Cranston East vs. Cranston West
- Cumberland vs. Woonsocket
- East Greenwich vs. Narragansett
- Hendricken vs. Toll Gate
- Johnston vs. St. Raphael
- North Providence vs. Smithfield
- North Smithfield vs. Scituate
- Pilgrim vs. Warwick Veterans
- Rogers vs. Tiverton
- Shea vs. Tolman
- Westerly vs. Stonington (CT)
- District championship game
- The District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association holds its annual city high school championship game on Thanksgiving weekend.
- Gonzaga vs. St. John's
- An annual game occurs between Gonzaga College High School and St. John's College High School, two Catholic high schools in the Washington, DC area. The rivalry dates to 1893.
Unorganized groups have also been known to partake in American football on Thanksgiving. These informal matches are usually known as a Turkey Bowl (not to be confused with some high school football games that also use the name "Turkey Bowl", see above, and with Turkey Bowling). These games are usually unofficiated with a flag football, street football or touch football format.
While the games themselves are not generally nationally known, Turkey Bowls hold importance for those who participate and it is not uncommon for rivalries to last for decades. Turkey Bowls are played by a variety of people including extended families, college fraternities, volunteer fire departments, and local churches across the country which use the day and the game to have fun, exercise and renew old acquaintances.
College and professional games played over Thanksgiving weekend are usually referred to as a Classic.
The University of Michigan made it a tradition to play annual Thanksgiving games, holding 19 such games from 1885 to 1905. The Thanksgiving Day games between Michigan and the Chicago Maroons in the 1890s have been cited as "The Beginning of Thanksgiving Day Football." In fact, Yale and Princeton began an annual tradition of playing against each other on Thanksgiving Day starting in 1876.
The Turkey Day Classic, a college football game between Alabama State University and Tuskegee University, has been played on Thanksgiving Day annually since 1924. It is also the oldest black college football classic, since the two colleges first played each other in 1901. Another popular black college football classic played on Thanksgiving weekend is the Bayou Classic between Grambling State University and Southern University, which is held the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Other prominent college football rivalries that take place over Thanksgiving weekend include:
The frequent changing of conferences stemming from an ongoing realignment of NCAA teams and conferences has complicated the numerous rivalries that traditionally play Thanksgiving weekend.
Of these, no current Division I FBS college football game is played on Thanksgiving Day itself. All of the current traditional Thanksgiving weekend college football games listed above are played on Friday or Saturday, although this was not the case from 1998 to 2003 or from 2008 to 2011. From 2004 to 2007 one game was generally played between two teams, neither of which had a permanent place on Thanksgiving; the 2012 ESPN schedule (ESPN has usually televised Thanksgiving-night college football games) includes one Thanksgiving game, Texas Longhorns vs. TCU Horned Frogs.
Professional football teams and leagues have played on Thanksgiving from the start, with pro leagues and teams having played on Thanksgiving since the 1890s. It carried over when Buffalo and Rochester, two members of the New York Pro Football League which had held its championship on Thanksgiving 1919, and the Ohio League, which traditionally held its marquee matchups on Thanksgiving, combined into the NFL upon its founding in 1920, and as such, the NFL has played on Thanksgiving ever since. The Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys have played home games on Thanksgiving since 1934 and 1966, respectively, in a series called the Thanksgiving Classic. Beginning in 2006, the NFL added a third game on Thanksgiving night with a rotating host team.
The rival American Football League also played on Thanksgiving in the 1960s, as did the All-America Football Conference in the 1940s and the original AFL in 1926.
In the Canadian Football League, where games are played on Canadian Thanksgiving, the CFL hosts two games in the Thanksgiving Day Classic; it is one of only two weeks each year in which the CFL plays on a Monday, the other being the Labour Day Classic. The difference between the Thanksgiving and Labour Day games is that the Thanksgiving Day games do not have the same matchups each year; however, like its American counterpart, one of the games has a regular host (in the CFL's case, the Montreal Alouettes). Coincidentally, both the Grey Cup, the CFL's championship game, and the Vanier Cup, the championship of Canadian college football, are both traditionally played on the fourth weekend in November, which amounts to the week before or the week after American Thanksgiving.
The World Football League originally planned to hold its 1974 championship game, World Bowl 1, the day after Thanksgiving in 1974; the business failures of the 1974 season led to the league reorganizing the playoff structure and pushing the World Bowl one week back. Similarly, the United Football League, which began play in 2009, held its first two UFL Championship Games over Thanksgiving weekend; this was not the case for the trunacted 2011 UFL season and current plans are for the championship game of the 2012 UFL season to be held December 1.
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- ^ St.Louis Public Library – Turkey Day Game
- ^ Announcement of 100th Anniversary activities. Kirkwood Special Events
- ^ Amos, Darius. "From the Sidelines: Comets' senior moments", Hackensack Chronicle, December 1, 2010. Accessed March 27, 2012. "EIGHTEEN placards hung along the north fence at Della Torre Field, each marked in Hackensack gold with the name and number of a senior football player. The 79th annual Thanksgiving Day game against Teaneck was supposed to be a triumphant sendoff for one of the finest groups of seniors that Comets football has seen."
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- ^ http://articles.mcall.com/2009-02-03/news/4301695_1_easton-thanksgiving-morning-thanksgiving-tradition
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- ^ Williams, Preston (November 23, 2006). "Talking Turkey , Remembering Their Roots". The Washington Post. http://docs.newsbank.com/openurl?ctx_ver=z39.88-2004&rft_id=info:sid/iw.newsbank.com:NewsBank:WPIW&rft_val_format=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:ctx&rft_dat=115962E112A92D08&svc_dat=InfoWeb:aggregated5&req_dat=0D0CB579A3BDA420. Retrieved July 29, 2009.
- ^ "Pass the Turkey and the Football" – USA Today
- ^ "Football on Thanksgiving: A Brief But Comprehensive History". Midwest Sports Fans. November 23, 2011. http://www.midwestsportsfans.com/2011/11/football-on-thanksgiving-a-brief-but-comprehensive-history/.
- ^ "Yale vs Princeton (NJ)". College Football Data Warehouse. http://cfbdatawarehouse.com/data/div_iaa/ivyleague/yale/opponents_records.php?teamid=2637. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
- ^ "College Football Thanksgiving Day and Weekend Schedule for 2010" Midwest Sports Fans from November 8, 2010
- ^ Thanksgiving Classic official page at NFL.com. Retrieved July 21, 2011.