The Origins of the “Ivy League”

Q. Dear Mr. Mudd,

Where did the term “Ivy League” come from, and what schools are in it?

A. The eight universities belonging to the Ivy League are Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale. The idea dates back to October 1933 when Stanley Woodward, a sports writer for the New York Herald Tribune, used the phrase “ivy colleges” to describe these schools, which had common athletic programs. In 1936, the student newspapers of these colleges printed an editorial calling for the formal establishment of an athletic league for the “ivy colleges.”

Clip from NYHT

Clipping from New York Herald Tribune, October 16, 1933.

When initiated by administrators in the eight schools in September 1946, the “Ivy Group” was concerned about growing interest in college athletics as a form of national entertainment, especially football. The advent of televised college football games only intensified the colleges’ resolve to develop rules governing the sport. The Ivies were to be places where athletes were primarily students who participated in sports as a part of an overall educational program, not professionals who were recruited for their physical abilities nor students who were exploited for the material gain of their institutions. Continue reading

Men’s Basketball — Princeton vs. Georgetown, 1989: Who does not like a David versus Goliath matchup?

On March 17, 1989, in the opening round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Princeton University, seeded #16, faced national powerhouse Georgetown University, seeded #1 in the East Region. It was a classic David versus Goliath matchup. Since the tournament was expanded to 64 teams in 1985, a #16 seed has never defeated a #1 seed. There have been some close calls, but none closer than Georgetown’s narrow one point victory over Princeton.

The video below features four segments from the game. At the beginning of the broadcast (0.04), Dick Vitale, noted college basketball commentator and analyst, and John Saunders discuss the game. Vitale promises to don a Princeton cheerleader outfit if Princeton can beat Georgetown. He, like so many others, gave the Tigers little chance against the bigger, faster, and stronger Hoyas. Princeton took the floor as twenty-three point underdogs.

The starting line ups are presented in the second segment (0:28), and viewers can watch the first six minutes of the game (from 3:58), and see the final three minutes of play (from 12:03), including Vitale’s reaction to Princeton’s performance and near victory.
Georgetown, under head coach John Thompson, entered the tournament ranked #2 in the country and had recently won the Big East Conference title. They had a 26-4 pre-tournament record, and the team was loaded with talent, including freshman star and future NBA player Alonzo Mourning and senior captain Charles Smith, the Big East Player of the Year. Many predicted them to win the tournament.

Princeton, led by their famously colorful coach Pete Carril (left), was 19-8 overall, and as Ivy League champions had earned an automatic bid to the national tournament. They were a young team, with only one junior, Matt Lapin, and one senior, Ivy League Player of the Year and captain Bob Scrabis, on the roster. But, this was also a Princeton team that led the nation in defense, allowing only 53 points per game.

How could Princeton stay with Georgetown and keep the game close? The “Princeton Offense,” the hallmark of Carril’s coaching style, slowed down the Hoyas and forced an entirely different style of play. The “Princeton Offense” spread the floor, utilizing a three guard set, and made the contest a half court game. Clock management and patience were key.
In those days the shot clock was 45 seconds, and it was quite typical for Princeton to run the clock down for 30 seconds before they even began their offensive set. With constant ball movement and passing, the guards looked for players moving toward the basket, especially by back door cuts, which led to easy lay ups.
This style of play stymied Georgetown throughout the first half, and Princeton’s confidence seemed to grow with each basket. They picked up rebounds, scrambled for loose balls, limited turnovers, and generally frustrated the Hoyas. At half time, Princeton led 29-21, and there was a noticeable buzz of excitement in the arena.

Continue reading

Post-war Princeton football newsreels (1947-1956)

Today’s blog is written by Mark F. Bernstein ’83, author of Football: the Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession (2001).

The decade after World War II was a Golden Age of Princeton football. Under the leadership of coach Charlie Caldwell ’25, the Tigers were often nationally ranked and it was not unusual for newsreel cameras to film Princeton games. These Paramount newsreels give highlights from across that era, although the clips are not in chronological order.

The first game shown here, a 13-7 victory over Penn in 1951, was almost certainly broadcast on national television, as the Quakers had a lucrative contract with ABC to broadcast all their home games. Dick Kazmaier ’52, a triple-threat tailback in Princeton’s distinctive single wing offense, won the Heisman Trophy that year, graced the cover of Time magazine, and was named the AP’s athlete of the year, beating out such luminaries as Otto Graham and Stan Musial. Kazmaier showed off his passing skills here with a bomb to Frank McPhee ’53. (0:48)
The second clip shows a 42-20 loss to Yale in 1956, the first year of Ivy League competition. Although it is not known if this game was broadcast, one concession to television in those years was a recommendation that the road team wear white uniforms, which made the teams easier to distinguish on black-and-white TV sets. For generations before that, Princeton always wore black and orange, whether playing at home or on the road. Nineteen fifty-six was also Caldwell’s last full season as coach. He died of cancer the following year and was succeeded by his assistant, Dick Colman.
Caldwell was just beginning to build his dynasty in 1947, when the third clip was filmed showing a 26-7 loss to the Quakers. Dick West ’48 provided the lone highlight, connecting with George Sella ’50 for a touchdown. (3:40) West played for the Tigers in 1942 but interrupted his education to join the military. Sella, like Dick Kazmaier, was later drafted by the Chicago Bears but decided to pass up the NFL for Harvard Business School.
The final clip shows a hard-fought 24-20 victory over Navy during the undefeated 1951 season.   The win was Princeton’s fifteenth in a row. Their streak would eventually extend to 24 games before Penn snapped it the following year.

Continue reading