Occidental's tradition of winning football dates back to 1894, when Oxy fielded one of the first college football teams in Southern California. The Occidental-Pomona football game, first played in 1895, which is one of the oldest college football rivalry games west of the Mississippi River. Annually the two squads battle for the coveted "Drum", an Indian drum with the results of the yearly game displayed. (The upstart USC-UCLA game didn't begin until 1929.) The 1895 squad completed its season undefeated (including a 10-0 victory over USC), a feat repeated in 1912, 1913, and most memorably in 1948, when the Tigers went 9-0 and finished the season with a dramatic come from-behind victory over heavily favored Colorado A&M (now Colorado State University) in the 1949 Raisin Bowl.
Over the years, the Tigers have boasted such standout players as All-America quarterback Jack Kemp '57, who played in the NFL for San Diego and Buffalo before launching a successful political career; tight end Jim Mora '57, head coach of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts; quarterback and defensive back Bill Redell '64, inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this year; Rick Fry '78, who led the nation in receptions per game in 1976 and 1977; quarterback Tom Hamilton '78, the 1977 Division III leader in total offense and passing yards; Daniel Osborn '82, who led the nation in punting his senior year; and running back Vance Mueller '86, "Chevrolet Player of the Game" in Oxy's nationally televised 1982 victory over the University of San Diego, who went on to play six seasons with the NFL's Los Angeles Raiders.
Since 1973, Occidental Football has competed at the NCAA Division III level in the highly competitive Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which includes California Lutheran University, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Pomona College, The University of Redlands, The University of La Verne, and Whittier College. The Tigers' schedule also regularly includes Colorado College, Lewis & Clark College, Azusa Pacific University and, Chapman University.
Home field for the Tigers is 85-year-old D.W. Patterson Field at Jack Kemp Stadium which underwent renovations in the summer of 2005. It now features state-of-the-art artificial field turf.