Media Center: Football - A Timeline of Tradition

Media Center: Football - A Timeline of Tradition

Harvard possesses one of the longest and proudest traditions in college football. From the program's founding days in 1874, through seven National Championships, and now in the days of the prestigious Ivy League, Harvard has been a leader in the sport. Here is a look at some of the memorable events in Crimson football history:

May 14, 1874
-Football is born in Cambridge as Harvard accepts a proposal from McGill University for a two-game series at Jarvis Field. Harvard wins the opener, 3 goals to 0. The schools battle to a 0-0 draw the following afternoon.

June 4, 1875-Harvard plays its first-ever intercollegiate game, facing Tufts. Just as historic is that the Crimson is outfitted in a football uniform, believed to be the first time a team has been so identified. The squad is adorned in the school colors, with a uniform of white shirts and pants, with crimson trimming and crimson hose.

November 13, 1875-Harvard and Yale play for the first time. The Crimson wins this initial meeting, held at Hamilton Field in New Haven, with four goals and four touchdowns to no goals and no touchdowns for the Elis. A group of 150 Harvard faithful makes the journey on the evening train from Boston.

October 31, 1881-Harvard plays the first East-West intersectional football game ever as it hosts Michigan at the South End Grounds in Boston. The Crimson takes a bite out of the Wolverines, 4-0, as part of a 6-1-1 season.

January 6, 1885-Believing that the sport had degenerated into "modified mayhem", the Athletic Committee presents a report to the Harvard faculty which bans football from campus that coming fall.

November 3, 1886-Rule changes allow football to return to Harvard in 1886. The Crimson rolls to a 156-0 win over Exeter, its highest single-game total ever. Harvard will establish a national collegiate record for points, amassing 765 during its 12-2 campaign. The record stands to this day.

March 14, 1889-Harvard holds what is believed to be the nation's first-ever spring football practice when team captain Arthur J. Cumnock leads the team in drills on Jarvis Field.

November 22, 1890-Harvard captures its first of seven national championships! The Crimson finishes 11-0 and defeats Yale, 12-6, on the season's final day.

November 30, 1893-William H. Lewis becomes Harvard's first black captain when he is elected for the honor prior to the Pennsylvania game. He replaces B. G. Waters, who was injured a week earlier against Yale. Lewis, enrolled in the Harvard Law School, held a similar post while attending Amherst in 1891. Lewis goes on to be elected to the Cambridge City Council as a Republican in 1899, is elected to the Legislature in 1901, and named Assistant United States Attorney for Boston in 1903. In 1910, Lewis is appointed by President Taft as Assistant Attorney-General of the United States.

November 30, 1893-The first football scoreboard is used. The Harvard Athletic Association unveils this invention of Arthur Irwin, a Bostonian and a professional baseball player and manager, in the Crimson's 26-4 win over Pennsylvania on Thanksgiving Day.

October 1, 1898-An 11-0 win over Williams starts the Crimson on a 32-game unbeaten streak (31-0-1) that continues until the final game of the 1900 campaign. Along the way, Harvard captures national titles in 1898 and 1899.

October 31, 1903-Glenn S. "Pop" Warner, coach of the famed Carlisle Indians, introduces the hidden ball trick in a game against Harvard. The ploy is unleashed during the second half kickoff, and the resulting touchdown moves Carlisle ahead, 11-0. The Crimson delivers the Halloween day treat, however, winning 12-11.

November 14, 1903-Harvard Stadium, the nation's first permanent concrete stadium for athletics, opens when Harvard faces Dartmouth.

September 29, 1906-Harvard plays its first game since the introduction of the forward pass. The rule change was necessitated by the increasingly brutal nature of football as a way to open up the game. The configuration of Harvard Stadium, with its stands close to the playing field, forced the rules committee to opt for this innovation rather than widen the field by 40 feet.

November 7, 1908-The legendary Jim Thorpe and his Carlisle squad visit the Stadium. Thorpe is shut down and his squad blanked, 17-0, as part of Harvard's 9-0-1 season.

November 20, 1909-Hamilton Fish, a two-time All-American in an era when only 11 players earned the distinction, completes his career at Harvard. The rugged 6-4, 200-pound tackle graduated cum laude in 1910 and rose to the rank of Major in the Fourth Division Infantry during World War I. From 1920 until 1946, he was elected to the United States Congress as a representative from New York.

November 18, 1911-Harvard embarks on its school-record 33-game unbeaten streak with a 5-3 win over Dartmouth at the Stadium. The streak covers the entire 1912, 1913, and 1914 seasons and the first four games of 1915. The Crimson went 30-0-3 before Cornell finally put a halt to the streak with a 10-0 win on October 23, 1915.

November 21, 1914-The great career of Charlie Brickley '15 comes to a conclusion with a 36-0 rout of Yale in New Haven. Hampered by an injury for part of the year, Brickley still adds one extra point to the cause. He remains the Crimson's all-time scoring leader with 215 points.

November 25, 1916-Percy Haughton coaches his final game for the Crimson, as he and his entire staff enter the service for World War I. As head coach of the Crimson for nine years, Haughton posted an incredible 71-7-5 record. Harvard won three national titles in his tenure (1910, 1912, 1913).

January 1, 1920-Harvard wins the Rose Bowl and its last of seven National Championships. The Crimson finishes 9-0-1 by edging Oregon, 7-6, in the Tournament of Roses contest.

October 31, 1925-Number one defeats number two as Harvard, the oldest college in America, tops William & Mary, the second-oldest, by a 14-7 count at The Stadium.

November 22, 1930-Barry Wood '32 throws a pair of touchdown passes and plays the entire 60 minutes as Harvard finishes the season by blanking Yale, 13-0. In addition to being an All-American quarterback, Wood was a three-year letterwinner in hockey and baseball.

October 30, 1937-Vernon Struck '38 sets a school single-game record by rushing for 233 yards in a 34-6 win at Princeton. The mark stands until 1991. He also scores a pair of touchdowns in the win.

November 20, 1943-College football is again depleted because of war, but 45,000 fans turn out at the Stadium to see squads from Harvard and Boston College battle to a 6-6 draw. It is the first meeting between the schools in any athletic competition in 24 years.

October 11, 1947-Chester Pierce '48, a standout tackle for the Crimson, becomes the first black to play against a white college in the South when Harvard meets the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

November 22, 1947-Ken O'Donnell makes his final of eight interceptions on the season to set a school record. The mark has only been equaled once, by Cecil Cox in 1985.

October 30, 1948-Hal Moffie's school-record 89-yard punt return for a TD helps key a 20-13 Harvard win over Holy Cross at the Stadium.

November 17, 1951-Tom Ossman rushes for five touchdowns, setting a school record in the Crimson's 34-21 win over Brown.

October 11, 1952-Dick Clasby dashes for a 96-yard touchdown in the Crimson's 42-0 victory over Washington University of St. Louis, the longest run from scrimmage in school history.

October 31, 1953-QB Carroll Lowenstein throws for a school-record five touchdowns as Harvard routs visiting Davidson, 42-6.

November 20, 1954-Harvard wins its 500th game by tackling Yale, 13-9, at the Stadium.

October 13, 1956-The Ivy League begins formal play in football as Harvard crushes Cornell, 32-7, in Ithaca.

November 7, 1959-A 14-0 win at Princeton clinches the first winning season for head coach John Yovicsin. This begins a string of 10 straight winning years for the Harvard coach.

November 25, 1961-Harvard earns its first share of the Ivy football title, finishing 6-1 in the League after topping Yale, 27-0. Columbia also claims a portion of the coveted crown.

October 14, 1967-Place-kicker Tom Wynne opens the scoring against Columbia with a school-record 51-yard field goal. The kick helps inspire the Crimson to a 49-14 victory over the Lions.

November 23, 1968-The fabled 29-29 "win" over Yale enables Harvard to preserve a perfect 8-0-1 season, the school's first undefeated campaign since 1920. Harvard tallies 16 points in the game's final 42 seconds to knot the score.

November 17, 1973-Pat McInally '75 sets a
Harvard record with 13 receptions, including a pair of touchdown grabs, in a 35-32 win against Brown. It is Harvard's 600th victory.

November 23, 1974-Milt Holt leads the Crimson on a 95-yard touchdown drive over the game's final five minutes as Harvard surprises Yale, 21-16, to earn a share of the Ivy League title.

November 22, 1975-Harvard wins its first outright Ivy championship. Junior Mike Lynch '77 boots a 26-yard field goal in the final seconds to deliver the 10-7 victory over Yale at the Bowl.

November 17, 1979-Harvard is the final obstacle to a perfect season for Yale, and spoils the Elis' bid with a 22-7 upset at the Bowl. Yale was allowing just 65 yards on the ground per game, but the Crimson sets the tone early by gaining 64 rushing yards on its first TD drive.

September 25, 1982-Don Allard throws for a then Harvard-record 358 yards against Massachusetts in a 31-14 season-opening win. The victory starts Harvard's 40-game streak of scoring points, its longest in school history.

November 19, 1983-It's the 100th edition of "The Game" and the Crimson comes out on top, taking a 16-7 win in New Haven to earn a share of the Ivy League title.

November 9, 1985-Harvard erupts for 21 points in a 41-second span late in the fourth quarter to surprise host Holy Cross, 28-20.

November 21, 1987-With temperatures hovering below zero at the Yale Bowl, Harvard freezes out the Elis, 14-10, to win the undisputed Ivy League championship. The Crimson finishes 8-2 (6-1 Ivy), its best record under Joe Restic.

November 4, 1989-Head coach Joe Restic wins his 100th game at Harvard, as the Crimson tops Brown, 27-14, in Providence.

October 13, 1990-A nine-sack effort against Fordham is typical of the Crimson's defensive efforts, and leads the way to a 19-13 victory over the Rams. The Harvard defense finishes the fall with a school-record 49 sacks.

June 22, 1991-Harvard Stadium hosts the first Japanese collegiate football game played in the America. Keio University, coached by the Harvard staff, defeats Yale-led Waseda University, 21-19.

November 9, 1991-Senior fullback Matt Johnson rushes for a school-record 323 yards as Harvard defeats Brown, 35-29.

October 2, 1993-Harvard wins its 700th game, defeating Lafayette, 21-17, at the Stadium.

October 14, 1994-Thomas F. Stephenson '64, MBA '66 endows Harvard football's head coaching position with a $2.5 million gift. Tim Murphy becomes the first Thomas Stephenson Family Coach for Harvard Football.

March 29, 1997-Harvard plays an exhibition game against Japan's Kyoto University, after accepting an invitation to help celebrate the school's 50th anniversary of its football club. Team members take part in cultural exchanges throughout the week-long visit, then engage in an exciting match-up in front of 16,000 fans, where the Crimson pulls out a 42-35 victory.

November 22, 1997-The League title returns to Cambridge as Harvard's 17-7 win at Yale secures the program's first 7-0 Ivy season. The Crimson averages better than 30 points per game and its dominating defense surrenders just four TDs in League play. Two dozen individual and team records are shattered during the year, led by tailback Chris Menick '00, who sets the single-season rushing record (1,267 yards).

April 8, 1998-Defensive end Tim Fleiszer '98 is the first overall selection in the Canadian Football League draft. The Montreal native is selected by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Later in the month, offensive linemen Matt Birk '98 becomes a sixth-round choice by the NFL's Minnesota Vikings.

October 23, 1999-Eight school records are broken or tied in a 63-21 win over Dartmouth. Most notable are tailback Chris Menick '00, who becomes the all-time leading rusher, and flanker Terence Patterson '00, who sets the career reception mark. Menick will finish his career with 3,330 yards; Patterson ends with 146 catches.

April 22, 2000-Linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski '00, Harvard's all-time leading tackler, becomes the program's highest NFL draft pick when he's taken in the fourth round by the Seattle Seahawks.

September 23, 2000-QB Neil Rose '03, making his first collegiate start, throws for a Harvard record 412 yards as the Crimson defeats Brown, 42-37.

November 10, 2001-A battle of undefeateds takes center stage as Harvard hosts Pennsylvania with the Ivy title on the line. After spotting the Quakers a 14-0 lead, the Crimson rallies to claim a 28-21 victory. QB Neil Rose '03 throws three TDs on the day, two of them to Carl Morris '03.

November 17, 2001-With a crowd of 52,000 looking on, Harvard secures its first perfect season in 88 years by toppling Yale, 35-23. The game's key play comes in the third quarter on a 42-yard gain off a fake punt that set up the decisive score.

November 16, 2002-Harvard's "Ivy Title" game at Penn is the backdrop for ESPN's College Game Day program. The telecast marks the first time a Division I-AA game is featured and attracts the most viewers in the history of the program.

September 25, 2004-Harvard overcomes deficits of 21-0 and 31-10 to rally past Brown, 35-34, in the Ivy League opener in Providence. It is Harvard's greatest come-from-behind road win in school history.

November 13, 2004-Harvard clinches its 11th Ivy League championship in convincing fashion with a 31-10 win against Penn at Franklin Field. The win is Harvard's first in Philadelphia in 24 years.

November 20, 2004-Harvard wraps up its seventh unbeaten, untied season with a 35-3 win against Yale in front of a sellout crowd at Harvard Stadium. The win leaves Harvard as the only undefeated school in Division I-AA and marked Harvard's best season since the Crimson went 12-0 in 1901.

December 10, 2004-Tailback Clifton Dawson is named to the Walter Camp Foundation All-America first team, becoming the first Harvard offensive back to achieve first-team status since Barry Wood in 1931.

April 24, 2005-Quarterback Ryan Ftizpatrick is chosen by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the NFL draft. He becomes the first Ivy League quarterback to be drafted since Columbia's John Witkowski in 1984.

April 30, 2005-A natoinal television audience gets an offseason look at Harvard Football as the Crimson-White Spring Game is broadcast by ESPNU.

October 15, 2005-Harvard's 24-17 win at Lafayette gives the Crimson victories against the eventual Ivy (Brown) and Patriot League champions in the same season for the first time.

November 19, 2005-Harvard defeats Yale for the fifth straight year by rallying from a 21-3 second-half deficit to prevail, 30-24, in three overtimes at the Yale Bowl. It marks the first triple-overtime game in Ivy League history and the first Harvard-Yale game to go to extra periods.

November 11, 2006 —The Ivy League’s most hallowed record falls by the wayside as Clifton Dawson breaks loose for a 55-yard run against Penn to surpass former Cornell great Ed Marinaro as the Ancient Eight’s all-time rushing leader. Dawson runs for 119 yards against the Quakers to finish the game with 4,781 yards, bettering Marinaro’s longstanding mark of 4,715. Dawson would finish his spectacular career with 4,841 rushing yards and 60 rushing touchdowns, both Ivy League records.

September 22, 2007—The first night football game at Harvard Stadium takes place in front of 18,898 fans. The Crimson scores the first touchdown under the lights on its opening drive, going 80 yards in eight plays with Liam O’Hagan connecting with Corey Mazza on a 21-yard scoring pass. Harvard then uses three fourth-quarter interceptions to hold off Brown, 24-17.

November 17, 2007—In just the fourth meeting between two teams with undefeated Ivy records in the final week of the season, Harvard defeats Yale, 37-6, in front of 57,248 fans at the Yale Bowl. The Elis, looking for their first unblemished season in 47 years and first outright Ivy title in 26 years, enter the game ranked 11th and leading the nation in rushing offense and passing defense. Harvard limits them to just 66 rushing yards and 109 total yards and holds Yale QBs to only 43 yards on 22 attempts. Harvard QB Chris Pizzotti throws for 316 yards and four touchdowns as the Crimson hands Yale its worst loss to Harvard at the Bowl since 1914.

November 22, 2008 - The Crimson won its 13th league championship. The Crimson became just the eighth team in Ivy history to win the title after losing the league opener. An undefeated non-conference schedule propelled the Crimson to a 9-1 mark with four players being selected All-America.

November 21, 2009 —Harvard wins its fifth straight game at Yale Bowl by scoring two late touchdowns in a 14-10 thriller against first-year Yale coach Tom Williams. With Yale leading 10-0 late in the fourth, Harvard drove 76 yards in 1:50 on six plays to make it a 10-7 game. Yale got the ball back and converted a pair of first downs to move the ball to its own 37 as the clock crept inside the four-minute mark. Yale eventually found itself in fourth down with 22 yards to go from its 25 yard line at 2:40 on the clock. With the league's best punter in Tom Mante waiting to boot it down field, new Yale coach Tom Williams instead called an improbable reverse run on a fake punt. John Powers evaded a would-be tackler in the backfield and moved behind a wall of blockers along the left sideline but Collin Zych blew up a double team block and Anthony Spadafino stopped Powers seven yards shy, giving Harvard the ball at Yale's 40 yard line with 2:25 as a stunned Yale crowd looked on. It took Harvard just three plays to devastate the crowd again as Chris Lorditch cut across the middle of the field and then swiftly past two defenders up the seam as QB Collier Winters lofted a perfect pass over the inside coverage. Thirty two yards later, Harvard suddenly led 14-10 before linebacker Jon Takamura finished the victory with an interception.

November, 2009 - Among The Nation's Best
In 2009, Harvard football put the finishing touches on a decade that saw Harvard post the second highest national winning percentage in the Football Championship Subdivision and seventh highest in all of Division I. Harvard's .768 winning percentage from 2000-09 trailed only Montana while FBS schools Texas, Boise State, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Florida were the only school sto finish shead of Tim Murphy's Crimson. Rounding out the national top 10 in the decade was LSU, USC and Appalachian State.

Division I Winning Percentage
Football Championship Subdivision
Winning Percentage

Division I (FBS & FCS)
Winning Percentage

1. Montana 120 24 .833 1. Texas 109 13 .893
2. Harvard 76 23 .768 2. Boise State 112 17 .868
3. Appalachian State 102 33 .756 3. Montana 120 24 .833
4. Northern Iowa 80 29 .734 4. Oklahoma 110 24 .821
5. Penn 69 29 .704 5. Ohio State 102 25 .803
6. McNeese State 82 35 .700 6. Florida 100 27 .787
7. Colgate 81 34 .701 7. Harvard 76 23 .768
8. San Diego 73 33 .689 8. LSU 99 31 .761
9. Furman 83 39 .680 9. USC 85 27 .759
10. Hampton 73 36 .669 10. Appalachian State 102 33 .756

November 12, 2011 - Number 14 and a First
On November 12, 2011, Harvard recorded its 14th Ivy League championship with a resounding 37-20 victory over Penn at The Stadium. Noteworthy in the accomplishment was that the Crimson clinched the outright championship in Week 9 of the season - a first in program history.

November 23, 2013 - Seven in a Row
Paul Stanton, Jr., scored four touchdowns, leading the Crimson to a 34-7 victory at the Yale Bowl, Harvard's seventh straight win over the Elis. Harvard's victory gave the Crimson a 9-1 record for the year, as the squad earned a share of the program's 15th Ivy League crown. 

November 22, 2014 - Perfection
With its 31-24 victory over Yale, the Crimson capped a perfect 10-0 season by winning the outright Ivy League title before a home crowd of 31,062 at Harvard Stadium. The Ivy crown was the 16th in program history and eighth under head coach Tim Murphy. Harvard also completed its 17th perfect season and first since 2004, while topping the Bulldogs for a program record eighth-straight season. Harvard also became the second Ivy League school to ever host ESPN's College GameDay as 1.9 million viewers watched the nation's preeminent college football preview show.

November 7, 2015 - 22-Straight
Harvard topped Columbia in New York on this date, giving the Crimson its 22nd-straight victory, tied for the third-longest win streak in program history.

November 21, 2015 - Three-Peat
By downing Yale, 38-19, before more than 52,000 fans at the Yale Bowl, the Crimson captured its third-consecutive Ivy League title, marketing the first three-peat in program history. Harvard also extended its win streak over Yale to a program-record nine games and won its 15th-consecutive road game, also a school record.

November 17, 2018 - Victory at Fenway
In its 135th playing of The Game, Harvard capped the season by defeating Yale. Senior quarterback, Tom Stewart, led the Crimson to a commanding 45-27 historic victory over the Bulldogs with three TD's and a combined 312 yards as the offense totaled 605 yards. Senior Zach Miller secured a Crimson victory with the game-ending interception.

Harvard’s Greatest Catches
Two of the greatest catches in Harvard football history helped deliver Ivy League championships to the Crimson.

In 1968, tight end Pete Varney caught a two-point conversion with no time left on the clock that completed Harvard’s 16-point comeback in the final 42 seconds against Yale and gave the Crimson a 29-29 “win.” Both teams finished the season undefeated at 8-0-1.

In 2001, Carl Morris’s thrilling 62-yard catch and run for a touchdown came during a showdown of unbeatens against Penn as the Crimson rallied from a 14-point deficit to win, 28-21. The victory was part of Harvard’s 9-0 campaign, the first perfect season for the Crimson in 88 years.

National Championships
National collegiate champions in football have been selected every year since 1889. The choice was based on the Helms Athletic Foundation from 1889-1923, the Rissman Trophy winner from 1924-30, Knute Rockne Memorial Trophy winner from 1931-35, Associated Press poll of sportswriters from 1936 and the UPI poll of coaches from 1950. Since 1978, national champions in Division 1-AA have been determined through a play-off system. Harvard has won seven national championships.
YEAR    W-L-T    PF    PA
1890    11-0-0    55    12
1898    11-0-0    257    19
1899    10-0-1    210    10
1910    8-0-1    155    5
1912    9-0-0    176    22
1913    9-0-0    225    21
1919    *9-0-1    229    19
*includes Rose Bowl victory