Princeton: A Second-Class Power?

Was Treated as Such the Roaring Twenties

There's nothing quite like a Harvard- Princeton football game," we can reflect of the game tomorrow in the Stadium- 54th H-P clash since the series began in 1877.

"But on the other hand," somebody's going to answer "there's nothing better than a Harvard game."

This raises a rather touchy problem: To the Harvard and Yale games are most important; to Harvard and Yale, the Yale game is most important. So that leave Princeton? At little bit of cold, feeling that perhaps "three's a crowd."

Certainly Princeton deserves its membership in the "Big Three," that distinguished games eternal triangle whose members can't help being close, proud, and competitive. On the academic level, where it's school against standard, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are rightfully close and proud. And the athletic level, where it's school against school, the Big Three are outstandingly competitive.

But it has not been easy for Princeton to compete with two teams that hog the show "THE" game at the end of every football season. In football, unlike track or cross country, only two teams can play at a time. And when it's always Harvard and Yale in the Ivy League's extra-nostalgic season finale, wonders whether it's getting its full third of the Big Three prestige.


For over half a century the Harvard-Yale predominance has frustrated, and, at times infuriated Princetonians, whether they admit it or not.

Not too long ago they admitted it, and even something about it....

In 1926 when William J. Bingham '16 was appointed Harvard's first Director of Athletics, numerous changes were made in policy. On Oct. 18th, for example, the Athletic Committee decided that Harvard could make no guarantees to play any one really in football except Yale. There is no Ivy League then, and the Crimson felt obliged to nobody but Yale. Most of all, Harvard wanted to free its schedule so that it could play teams in other parts of the country.

In, which had helped form the important "Three Presidents' Agreement" on eligabilty in 1916 with Harvard and Yale--had a revised "Triangle Agreement" in 1923- took the Harvard decision as a shocking result. A short time later, thanks mainly to the Lampoon, Princetonians found an excuse off about it and protest directly to Harvard.

On the morning of the Princeton game on November 8, 1926, the Lampoon published football issue featuring a cartoon of two pigs wallowing in the mud with the caption, "Come, brother, let us root for dear old Princeton."

According to one report, "The Princeton stands reacted with sullen rebellion; it was into this mood that the 'Poon injected a fake Crimson extra at halftime. Headed BILL ROPER, PRINCETON COACH, DIES ON FIELD with the explanatory crossline HELD BREATH TOO LONG, the issue left Mrs. Roper in a dead faint and football relations between the schools with an eight-year gap."

While many people chuckled over the Lampoon's double-barrelled joke, others steamed. Among the latter was the Princeton Board of Athletic Control, which two days later voted unanimously to sever athletic relations with Harvard in all sports for an indefinite period of time.

A major contributing factor in the committee's decision was, unsurprisingly, Harvard's then-recent change in football scheduling. In his impatient letter to President Lowell, the chairman of the Princeton board concluded, "I may also add that Princeton, so far as she is concerned, would never accept the implications of the athletic policy recently adopted by the Harvard Committee set forth in their resolution of Oct. 18th."

Thus Princeton broke off all athletic relations with Harvard. It didn't matter that the Tigers had won the game, 12 to 0; their pride had been hurt.

RUST and dirt slowly buried the hatchet for the next eight years. Finally, in 1934, Princeton resumed play with Harvard in football and most other sports. But despite the obvious spirit of "let's be friends again," the Princetonian conscience could not easily forget the "Yale-only" implications of the Harvard Athletic Committee's decision and the excessive anti-Princeton ridiculing by the Lampoon. It would take much longer than eight years for those two wounds to heal, for they had injured Princeton where it hurt most--the Big Three relationship, in which it felt neglected.