MIT Football: Gridders or Geeks?

A Saturday Special

With seven minutes and 45 seconds remaining in the second quarter of The Game in 1982, a huge black weather balloon swelled out of the ground at the 45-yard line of The Stadium.

The balloon--bearing the letters "MIT" inflated, rose and exploded in a puff of smoke. "The Blob," as it was called then, was one of many pranks pulled off that day by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Although the culprits--the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity--were never apprehended, the incident stamped an image on MIT that lingers to this day--pranksters too nerdy to field their own football team.

"There's no doubt we would like to be known as something besides football nerds," says Jason Vickers, a junior at MIT. "When I was a freshman, that's all I heard about. It would be refreshing for us to be known for something else."

At last, the Engineers may be ready to shed the nerdy football image. For the first time since 1901, the Engineers are fielding a varsity football team. MIT plays Division III football, playing such powerhouses as Bentley, Stonehill, and Assumption.


The sport was eliminated at MIT after the death of a student in an unrelated activity called the Cane Rush. The purpose of the game was to kill, or tackle, the man with the cane. Unfortunately, the players took the game too seriously--and a student was accidentally killed. And when MIT's president banned the game in response, he decided to away with football as well.

Football was nonexistent at MIT until 1978, when a group of students playing on the intramural team petitioned to have the sport brought back.

The group was granted club status, but to some, it still wasn't a real team.

"A lot of people used to say last year that if you wanted to play on the team," Anna Liu says, "all you had to do was try out, and you would make it."

When several of the club team's opponents went varsity this season, MIT followed their lead and expanded its program as well.

More than 1000 fans, parents, relatives and other curious souls watched the Engineers in early September as they successfully opened the season over Stonehill, 29-7. CBS broadcast segments of the game.

Although the Engineers have gotten a good share of media coverage for their move to varsity status, not everyone at MIT knew the team existed.

"No, I wasn't aware of it," says Lou Massie, a graduate student studying chemical engineering. "I did not know they had a team before this year."

The word has not spread to branches of the college either, such as the Lincoln Laboratory for Research in Lexington.

"There isn't much interest at Lincoln," says Ethan Bradford, a researcher at the the lab. "Really? They've become a varsity. I heard something about that, but I wasn't sure it was true."

Although not all of MIT is out waving banners at the games, the interest of fans has not fallen off. About 750 fans attended the squad's last home contest. In past years, MIT averaged about 200-300 fans a game.

"No, I haven't been to any of the games," senior Jay Fraser says. "I don't think most of us will be able to 5