‘Every Game Was a Fight’: A History of Big Green Football’s Greatest Hits


From the team’s first game in 1881 to winning the Ivy League Championship in 2021, Dartmouth’s football program has a rich history.

by Caroline York | 6 minutes ago

Source: Courtesy of Tyler Greene

This article is featured in the Freshman 2022 special issue.

With over 1,200 games under its belt, Dartmouth football is one of the College’s oldest and most popular sports. Not only is the sport steeped in tradition on campus, but it also carries a legacy of success. In recent years, Dartmouth have won the Ivy League Championship in two consecutive seasons: 2021 and 2019. From its inception to its current achievements, Dartmouth’s football program has enjoyed moments of great success.

According to the book “Dartmouth College Football: Green Fields of Autumn” by former Dartmouth athletic information manager Jack Degange, Dartmouth’s first football game was played in 1881, and a few years later , the Yale University football team traveled to Hanover to deliver Dartmouth’s first game. big loss, with a score of 113-0. Degange writes that the tides began to change in the early 1900s, when the 1903 Big Green team had a 9-1-0 record. Most notable was the victory over Harvard University in the first-ever game to be played at Harvard Stadium – the “first permanent arena for college athletics” in the United States, he wrote.

The 1925 team was one of the most successful teams in College history: the team finished the 1925 season with an 8-0-0 record and were crowned national champions, according to Degange. Degange also describes how early 20th century sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote, “Football’s main banner for the waning year goes to… Dartmouth, the College on the Hill.”

In 1926, Dartmouth had a winning record and was invited to the Rose Bowl against the University of Washington, Degange wrote. However, Dartmouth declined the offer because the players wanted to spend Christmas with their families, and the University of Alabama was chosen instead.

The Ivy League: academics first, athletics second

In 1946, the “Ivy Group”, consisting of Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Yale University, came together because of their concerns about the growing public interest in collegiate athletics, especially football, as entertainment. Administrators decided that the students attending their institutions would be first and foremost continuing students and not recruited athletes. The Ivy League was officially founded in 1954, but the eight universities did not engage in athletic competitions until 1956.

By combining rigorous academic programs with athletic competition, the Ivy League began to attract well-rounded individuals who excelled both in the classroom and on the field. Tackle Henry Paulson ’68, for example, was named to the All-Ivy and NCAA Scholar-Athlete first team and became the CEO of Goldman Sachs. President George W. Bush then appointed Paulson as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.

When asked what he thinks is the most successful football team in Dartmouth history, Degange mentioned the 1970 side, which went unbeaten and finished 14th in AP polls. Nineteen players won “regional and national” awards, and Willie Bogan ’71 was named an Academic All-American, NCAA postgraduate scholar, and Rhodes Scholar for academic excellence.

Dartmouth, with the smallest population of the eight Ivy League schools, also has the most Ivy League championship wins, with 20 titles since the league’s inception. Also noteworthy are Dartmouth’s five consecutive Ivy League Championship wins from 1969 to 1973.

Some Dartmouth football players have gone on to successful careers in the sport. After starting as a quarterback for three seasons and being named Ivy League Player of the Year in 1992, Jay Fiedler ’94 went on to have an outstanding career in the NFL. He competed for the football and track teams while in college, serving as a quarterback and decathlon athlete, respectively.

“[In order to keep up with the game], you have to sacrifice in other areas, whether socially or otherwise,” Fiedler said. “You have to prioritize what is important to you; athletics and studies were the two most important things I had to focus on while at Dartmouth.

Fiedler played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, and Jacksonville Jaguars and eventually found his footing as the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins from 2000 to 2004. He was Miami’s only quarterback to win a playoff game in over twenty years.

“I think a lot of people underestimate the competitiveness of the Ivy League, but we were an extremely competitive league and every game was a fight,” Fiedler said. “It helped prepare me to move up the ranks to become the starting quarterback in Miami.”

Recent achievements

Dartmouth football continued its tradition of excellence by winning the most recent 2021 crown. Bruce Wood, founder of Big Green Alert – a blog covering Dartmouth Football since 2005 – said he believes there are a variety of factors who have made the program so strong in recent years.

“Over the past decade, what has made the team successful is great recruiting, strong coaching and lots of help from friends of football in terms of budget,” Wood said.

Wood also cited the players’ commitment to the sport and the team’s ability to stay one step ahead of the competition as reasons for his accomplishments over the years.

“One of the things that is very impressive is the fact that there is very little turnover in the program,” he said. “The coaches are sticking around. Players don’t give up.

Another aspect of the football program at Dartmouth that “attracts players” is its emphasis on making the game as safe as possible, Wood said. He added that current head coach Buddy Teevens ’79 felt tired of watching players suffer from head injuries, which led to Dartmouth’s decision to ban tackles in training in 2011, before until the Ivy League officially passes a motion banning tackles in training in 2016. In 2013, Teevens, in conjunction with the Thayer School of Engineering, developed Mobile Virtual Player, a motorized tackle dummy that prevents contact with the head, according to ESPN.

“Dartmouth are certainly at the forefront of this with the mobile virtual player robotic tackling dummy, without a tackle in practice – the only team in the Ivy League to do so – [so] you will never tackle or be tackled by a teammate,” Wood said.

John Lyons, Dartmouth’s former defensive football coordinator from 1987 to 1991 and head coach from 1992 to 2004, attributed the program’s success to the school’s location, alumni support and the great tradition on which it is based. Dartmouth football.

“Dartmouth is a unique school because of its location where it’s easy to focus on the game of football with few distractions,” Lyons said. “There is also very strong support from the alumni, who have done an excellent job of modernizing the facilities; players feel the sense of tradition of the elders.


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