Harvard Comes Under Fire for Night Football Game

Game rescheduled to avoid conflict with Jewish holiday; Allston residents say Harvard did not inform them of night game

Harvard football coach Tim Murphy dreamed that the first-ever nighttime game in Crimson history would be one of the fall’s most popular outings.

But as the game approaches, it has triggered outrage from a handful of Jewish fans and left residents of neighboring Allston accusing the University of failing to address community concerns.

The game has been moved a day later, from the evening Friday, Sept. 21 to Saturday, Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m., because Jewish alumni and fans complained that the home-opener would conflict with Yom Kippur, one of the holiest holidays in the Jewish faith.

After the athletic department received a number of complaints about the scheduling, Nichols Family Director of Athletics Robert L. Scalise asked Murphy if he would consider moving the game to appease fans. He then approached Brown coach Phil Estes with the same proposal, Murphy said, and both coaches agreed.

Abram M. London ’57, a Jewish alum and a self-described longtime supporter of the Harvard football program, said that he was initially upset over the conflict but is pleased with the final outcome.

“I’m glad it was handled in such an amicable way,” London said. “I don’t think this would have happened in the 1930s. Harvard has come a long way.”

If the game remained on a Friday night, it would not have been the first instance of a Crimson football game conflicting with Yom Kippur. In 2004, the game at Brown fell on the holiday. The lone healthy Jewish player on the Crimson at the time, defensive tackle Michael L. Berg ’07, ultimately played in the game.

While the game-date shift placated those upset over the conflict with Yom Kippur, Harvard is still struggling to please neighbors who accuse the University of failing to address community concerns about the night game.

Residents of Allston, where Harvard Stadium is located, have recently voiced concern about what they are say is a lack of communication between the University and the neighborhood regarding night games.

"We're used to reading things in the Boston Globe and learning more about Harvard's plans that way instead of having people from Harvard come and talk to us," said a member of the Harvard Allston Task Force, Harry Mattison.

Mattison has argued that the University isn't sufficiently prepared to handle the large crowds and the heavy traffic that the game is likely to draw. Last season, Harvard averaged more than 15,000 fans, and Murphy has pledged to make the game one of the highest-attended of the year.

Harvard’s director of community relations, Kevin A. McCluskey ’76, stressed that the Harvard University Police Department will be working with Boston police to ensure that there is additional police coverage in Allston to help mitigate additional noise and provide additional parking spaces.

"We're going to ensure that there's a minimal impact from traffic or anything else associated with the game, so there are minimal impacts on our neighbors," McCluskey said.

And at recent task force meetings, other community members have said they were not notified about night football games when the lights were originally installed last year.

But according to McCluskey, community members were told in July of last year that the school would gain consent from the city’s licensing board before proposing any night games. McCluskey said they obtained permission for the football game earlier this summer and notified the task force on Aug. 6.

Paul Berkeley, the president of the Allston Civic Association and a task force member, said that regardless of when community members were notified, the necessary planning Harvard must do to minimize the game's neighborhood effect could pay dividends for future games, evening or otherwise.

"It's inevitable that this game is going to happen," Berkeley said.

"We can kind of sit around and gripe about it or sort of turn it into something positive," he added.

Harvard plans to make the evening opening game an annual event, Murphy said. In the future, Murphy said that he would like the team to play any night games on Fridays to maximize the chance of earning a spot on television. Only two of the Crimson’s games this season will be carried on television—afternoon contests against Lafayette and Yale. Last October, a Friday night game between Princeton and Brown was carried on ESPNU.

—Staff writer Malcom A. Glenn can be reached at mglenn@fas.harvard.edu.