It's not every year that Harvard plays Princeton in football. Take 1927, for instance. Or 1928. Or any year until 1934. For those seven years, the two institutions were not on speaking teams athletically because of certain incidents connected with the 1926 game.
The relationship between the two was not exactly perfect beforehand, however. Princeton had established a winning habit, outpointing the Crimson, 70-0, in the 1924 and 1925 contests. This clear superiority was apparently a bit much for a Harvard student to put up with, and undergraduates here sought an explanation.
Naturally, it was the Lampoon which came up with the most exciting reason for the inequality, and the supposed revelation appeared in an issue published November 6, the day of the 1926 Harvard Princeton game. The Crimson, incidentally, lost that one, too, 12-0.
The Lampoon suggested that Old Nassau's players might be sporting menacing signet rings on their fingers in order to carve up the faces of their Harvard opponents. The editors intended it to be amusing, and were amused Princeton partisans, who as a rule seemed to take things rather seriously, were not. Nor were they amused by a Lampoon story claiming that Princeton coach W. W. Roper had died. "I think Princeton took it pretty hard, pretty hard," offered Carroll F. Getchell this week. Getchell was athletics business manager at the time.
One explanation for the tenuous relations between the two which did not get much attention was Harvard's alleged slighting of Princeton in Big Three matters. First of all, the Crimson was interested in playing Michigan instead of the Tigers in 1927. Princeton was further irritated when a suggestion that it be Harvard's final game every other year, and Yale the Crimson's final game every other year, was quickly rebuffed. Harvard officials did not disguise their feelings that Princeton was least important member of the Big Three, and the Lampoon incident was enough to upset the tender balance.
The Harvard community was surprised four days after the game when it received word that Princeton had decided against all sports with Harvard for an indefinite time.
"We have been forced to the conviction that it is impossible at present to expect from athletic competition with Harvard that spirit of cordial good will between undergraduates of two universities which should characterize athletic sports," the Princeton telegram read in part.
Harvard's athletic officials responded with the usual "regret" but did not go out of their way to be apologetic or to attempt a reconciliation. And so matters sat until 1933, when the two schools decided that the break had been long enough. Impatient oarsmen at the both institutions were reportedly the ones who exerted the pressure which led to the renewal of relations.
Forrester A. Clark '29, a football player who, like most Harvard men of that era, now has trouble recalling the specifics of the situation, remembers well how disappointed he was not to play the Tigers his junior and senior years.
"We were all terribly disappointed." he reminisced Wednesday. "We had great friends at Princeton. They liked to play good, tough football, and we did, too. My senior year we might've given 'em a lickin'," he added.