Yale University senior linebacker Jordan Haynes says he can’t move around campus this week without being asked about “The Game,” as the Bulldogs’ annual football showdown with Harvard University is known.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the Crimson wrapped up the Ivy League championship last weekend, the 128th matchup between the schools is more important than any of the previous six league games the team has won this season.
“This is always, and will always be, the biggest game on our schedule,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy, 55, said in a telephone interview. “All rivalry games are more about pride than anything else.”
Haynes, 20, the Bulldogs’ captain, said in an interview on the school’s athletics website that he has been approached by students, dining hall workers and professors wishing him luck in the game tomorrow at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut.
“You try and treat it during the week just like any other game, but in the end it’s not just any other game, it’s Yale-Harvard,” Haynes said.
Harvard and Yale met for the first time on Nov. 13, 1875, the visiting Crimson winning. The rivalry trails only Lehigh-Lafayette (146 meetings) and Yale-Princeton (134) in Division I college football.
None of the eight elite northeastern U.S. schools in the Ivy League offers athletic scholarships or participates in the football postseason. The schools playing tomorrow are more likely to produce a U.S. president -- eight studied as undergrads at the two schools -- than a Heisman Trophy winner; Yale players won college football’s top individual award in 1936 and 1937, while no one from Harvard has.
Harvard is the richest school in the U.S. with an endowment of $32 billion as of June 30, and Yale is second at $19.4 billion.
The rivalry stirs the same feelings as those between schools that contend for national championships, even though it gets far less attention, Murphy said.
“This game means as much to these kids and the alumni as it does to people at Alabama and Auburn, or Michigan and Ohio State,” he said.
Yale leads the series 65-54-8. Harvard has won nine of the past 10 meetings. The Crimson is 8-1 on the season, losing to non-league opponent Holy Cross 30-22 on Sept. 17. Yale is 5-4, including 4-2 in the league.
A Harvard victory would mark the 21st time since 1956, and eighth in the last 11 years, that the Ivy League champion finished 7-0 in conference play.
Tomorrow’s game will be televised on Comcast Corp.’s Versus network and is expected to have more than 50,000 fans in attendance, Yale spokesman Steve Conn said in an e-mail. The Yale Bowl has a capacity of 61,446.
Led by senior quarterback Collier Winters and junior running back Treavor Scales, Harvard averages 36.6 points a game, more than a touchdown better than the next best Ivy League team, Cornell, at 29.4.
Yale’s offense is led by senior quarterback Patrick Witt, who owns Bulldogs career passing records for attempts (874), completions (525) and yards (5,807). Last week, Witt withdrew his Rhodes Scholarship application because the scheduling of the final round of interviews would have kept him from playing.
“I have a commitment to this team, first and foremost, before I ever applied and was even a candidate for the Rhodes,” said Witt, 22. “These guys are my brothers and I don’t want to let them down.”
Murphy said that he never considered that Witt, who threw for 379 yards and three touchdowns last week in beating Princeton 33-24, wouldn’t be on the field tomorrow.
“This is our postseason game, being on national TV in great stadiums,” Murphy said. “The intensity makes it like a bowl game for us.”