Category Archives: Sports

Q&A with Dave Revsine, Author of ‘The Opening Kickoff: The Tumultuous Birth of a Football Nation’

Dave Revsine (Courtesy Dave Revsine)

Dave Revsine (Courtesy Dave Revsine)

When Princeton football hosted Yale last November, the Ivy League-leading Tigers drew nearly 15,000 fans to Princeton Stadium. But that turnout pales in comparison to the frenzy surrounding the 1893 Princeton-Yale game, a clash between two undefeated powerhouse programs. In his new book, The Opening Kickoff, author and sports broadcaster Dave Revsine opens with a chronicle of that Thanksgiving Day game in Manhattan, which drew an estimated 50,000 spectators and illustrated how “football had become a big business.” Even before the turn of the century, the sport’s headlines had a distinctly modern feel: disputes about eligibility and improper benefits, concerns about the safety of the game, and coaches who aimed to use their celebrity status to stay on top. Revsine spoke with PAW in July about the role that Princeton and other prestigious institutions played in the early history of college football.

Your book begins with the 1893 Princeton-Yale game, which followed a decade of rapid growth in the popularity of college football. What was behind this explosion of interest?

There are a couple of factors. From the schools’ point of view, I think they very quickly understood that it was a great public-relations vehicle and that it was a way for them to make money. So, you had this huge explosion in the number of colleges … and you had this period where people were founding colleges and then searching for students to serve. Obviously this wasn’t a problem with the Princetons, Yales, and Harvards of the world, but it was certainly a problem with other schools: How are we going to differentiate ourselves? And they quickly saw football as a way to do it.

From the fans’ point of view, I think the newspapers play a huge role. People had some leisure time on their hands that they hadn’t had before, and football gave people an entree into the social elite because these teams were associated with these universities. You might not be a Yale or a Princeton grad, but you could be a Yale or a Princeton fan — and being a fan, by association, made you a part of Yale or Princeton. I think that was appealing to a lot of people.

The powers of college football then were academically distinguished institutions — Harvard, Yale, and Princeton — yet the game then was exceptionally brutal and bloody. How did the leaders at these places reconcile the brutality of the sport with the larger mission of their universities?

It depended on the school. Harvard, for years, was sort of the conscientious objector — but the conscientious objector who still participated. The president of Harvard was adamantly opposed to football and resisted getting into the fray with Yale. Yale was the first football factory, and as I say in the book, Walter Camp was the foreman. At times [Yale] would deny the brutality of football. They would say that while it might be brutal the way that it’s played out in the hinterlands, the way that we play it — the science of the sport — is not very brutal. Continue reading

Ratcliffe ’16 Wins NCAA Title, a First for Princeton Women’s Track and Field

Julia Ratcliffe ’16 (Beverly Schaefer)

Julia Ratcliffe ’16 (Beverly Schaefer)

Record-setting hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe ’16 made history June 11, winning her event at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., and becoming the Princeton women’s program’s first individual national champion. Ratcliffe, a native of New Zealand, outdistanced the field by nearly seven feet with a winning toss of 219 feet, 5 inches (66.88 meters).

Ratcliffe has set school records in the hammer throw (outdoor) and weight throw (indoor). She also holds two Ivy League Heptagonal titles in the hammer and was named to the Bowerman Trophy watch list.

By winning the championship, Ratcliffe extended a notable streak for Princeton athletics: In 43 consecutive years, at least one Tiger team or individual has won a national title. Track and field winners in recent years include the men’s indoor distance medley relay team in 2013 and men’s steeplechase star Donn Cabral ’12 in 2012.

Merwin ’48, Bradley ’80 Featured in New Films

Bob Bradley ’80 (Courtesy PBS)

Bob Bradley ’80 (Courtesy PBS)

Two Princeton alumni will be featured in documentary films released this month: W.S. Merwin ’48, a former poet laureate of the United States and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, is profiled in Even Though the Whole World Is Burning, which premieres June 8 at the Maui Film Festival; and Bob Bradley ’80, a former coach of the U.S. men’s soccer team, is the central figure of American Pharaoh, a film about Egypt’s national team that will air on PBS stations beginning June 16. Continue reading

Quick Takes: Women’s Open Crew Wins Ivies

Kelsey Reelick ’14 (Office of Athletic Communications)

Kelsey Reelick ’14 (Office of Athletic Communications)

At the Ivy League Championships on the Cooper River, Princeton women’s open crew avenged a season-opening loss to top-ranked Brown, beating the Bears by 4.3 seconds in the varsity eight final May 18. It was the third Ivy title in four years for the Tigers; stroke Kelsey Reelick ’14 has rowed for each of the three championship boats.

In the men’s heavyweight crew varsity eight, Princeton earned bronze — its first Eastern Sprints medal since 2011 — and collected additional medals in the second- and fourth-varsity eights. Continue reading

Women’s Tennis Makes History in NCAA Tournament

Freshman Alanna Wolff won the clinching singles match against Arizona State. (Beverly Schaefer)

Freshman Alanna Wolff won the clinching singles match against Arizona State. (Beverly Schaefer)

When the women’s tennis team arrived in Tuscaloosa, Ala., to compete in the NCAA Championships, it was the Tigers’ fifth appearance in the tournament in program history. No Princeton team had ever won a match on the national stage before. Across the court stood Arizona State, back for its 27th consecutive year.

The Sun Devils’ No. 25 ranking and longstanding NCAA tradition, however, did not daunt this year’s Ivy League champions, who came into the competition riding a 10-match winning streak.

“It was a great draw for us and we knew we were capable of beating them,” junior Katie Goepel said. “Knowing how far we had already come, I think all of us had the belief that we could win if we went into it with the same mentality that we had throughout the entire Ivy season, which we definitely did.”

Despite a hard fought win from sophomore duo Emily Hahn and Amanda Muliawan on the court, Arizona State took the doubles point after Princeton’s remaining matches could not rally. Continue reading

Defensive Lineman Reid ’14 Prepares for the NFL Draft (and Sings Sam Cooke)

Caraun Reid ’14, left, made an impression on Ivy League quarterbacks. He’s hoping to do the same in the NFL. (Beverly Schaefer)

Caraun Reid ’14, left, made an impression on Ivy League quarterbacks. He hopes to do the same in the NFL. (Beverly Schaefer)

Always respected by the football community for his skills, defensive lineman Caraun Reid ’14 has used his fifth year as a Tiger to develop as a vocal leader on and off the field, as well as thrive as a leader among the campus Christian and arts communities. Known for his faith and his singing voice (see below) in addition to his ability to put pressure on the quarterback, the pro-football hopeful will be waiting to hear his name called during this week’s NFL draft, which begins May 8.

Reid credits his work ethic for allowing him the opportunity to take on his initial leadership role on the football team; those leadership responsibilities, he said, were heightened over the past year.

“I definitely stepped up more in terms of vocal leadership.  Granted I was one of the better players on the team so everyone always saw my work ethic and being able to make plays on the field as leadership, but I took more responsibility over the lives of my teammates and how they developed,” Reid said.  “I think more and more it just drove me to work harder knowing, if I’m doing a lot of talking then I have to be at the level where no one can question my work ethic. … That’s what I want to bring to the pros, just being one of those guys that always stands out, on and off the field.” Continue reading