Although some Crimson football fanatics believed first-year coach Tim Murphy could turn the groggy Harvard program around immediately, The team's 1994 season added further testimony to one of the oldest cliches around.
Quite simply, Rome wasn't built in a day, Harvard Stadium's architectural resemblance to a Roman coliseum notwithstanding.
Murphy, fresh off five successful seasons at the helm of Division I-A University of Cincinnati, never imagined that Joe Restic's sinking ship would become buoyant again in one season. But alumnae and students were quick to buy the Murphy Messiah metaphor and expected immediate returns.
Although the receipts (on the field and at the gate) did not amaze in 1994, Murphy invests for the long-term and seems to have laid the foundation for many profitable quarters to come.
Some profitable quarters are exactly what Harvard (4-6, 2-5 Ivy) needed in The 111th Game but couldn't find. Ravaged by injuries, the Crimson fell victim to three second-half Eli touchdowns en route to a 32-13 thrashing. With starting quarterback Vin Ferrara hobbled by a knee injury, Harvard's offense could only generate a meager 22 yards passing and relied exclusively on the talents of sophomore Eion Hu and junior Kweli Thompson.
Before The Game, Harvard's season seesawed back and forth; the Crimson would be brilliant one week but mediocre the next. After seven consecutive weeks of wins then losses, the wheels finally fell of the wagon. Harvard dropped its final three games, to Brown 23-17, to Penn 33-0 and to Yale, of course.
Despite the end-of-season flameout, the 1994 season was full of positive. Harvard had a junior quarter back in control of the offense (Ferrara ) and sophomore second-in-command (Hu). The Crimson prominently featured freshmen Colby Skelton, Jeff Compas and Jason Huse.
Halfback Hu, a powering, up-the middle force who contributed 11 touchdowns and 1,038 yards to the Harvard running game, was the Crimson's shinning star of the offense. He nearly broke the Harvard single season rushing record and grabbed ECAC I-AA and Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors.
Quarterback Ferrara had flashes of brilliance before a injury to his right knee sidelined the junior in the fateful 33-0 loss to Penn in week nine. Before that point, the mobile Ferrara had delivered 10 touchdown passes and ran for three more on the season.
Junior Steve Kezirian emerged from the bench against Colgate to lead the Crimson to victory and stepped into Ferrara's shoes for The Game.
Murphy deftly summarized the team's lot after Harvard Yale.
"The sort of improvement this program needs is not the sort that you can get from one season," he said. "We need long-term improvement--thousands of hours on the recruiting trail, thousands of hours in the weight room. Turning a program around is a long, long process."
After the up (524 total yards in a 32-12 flogging of Dartmouth) and down (Penn and Yale) 1994 season, Harvard fans finally realize these words of wisdom.