Oldest public university in the United States
The title of oldest public university in the United States is claimed by three universities: the University of Georgia, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and The College of William & Mary. Each has a distinct basis for the claim, with Georgia being the first to receive a charter to function as public university, North Carolina being the first to open to the public, and William & Mary having the oldest founding date of any currently public university.
University of Georgia 
Located in Athens, Georgia, the University of Georgia received its charter from the state in 1785, making the University of Georgia the first state-chartered public university in the United States. As a result of this distinction UGA brands itself as the "birthplace of the American system of higher education." A site was selected for the university, and it began admitting students, in 1801.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 
The state of North Carolina chartered the University of North Carolina in 1789, and construction on the campus began in 1793. The university was the first public university in the country to admit students when it opened in 1795. Graduating its first class in 1798, UNC was the only public institution to confer degrees in the 18th century.
The College of William & Mary 
Now a public university, The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia was founded by royal charter in 1693, making it the second oldest college or university in the United States, after Harvard University. The college severed formal ties with England after the colonies declared independence, but remained private until financial troubles forced its closure after the Civil War. It re-opened in 1888, but continued financial troubles forced it to accept funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia beginning in 1906. It has been public ever since.
Rutgers University 
While it does not actively claim being the oldest public university, Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey was founded as Queen's College in 1766. It is the eighth oldest of nine colonial colleges founded before the independence of the American colonies.
Founded by Dutch Reformed clergymen, Queens College received its first charter in 1766 from William Franklin, the last Royal Governor of New Jersey and illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin. It received a second, revised charter from Royal Governor Franklin in 1770. Queen's College later was renamed Rutgers College after Revolutionary War officer and benefactor Henry Rutgers in 1825. It became Rutgers University in 1924. Rutgers University became the state university of New Jersey by acts of the state legislature in 1945 and 1956.
Rutgers University does claim being the "Birthplace of College Football" because the first intercollegiate football game was played on 6 November 1869 in New Brunswick between students from Rutgers College and the "College of New Jersey" (now known as Princeton University).