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To this day, Tim Murphy and Buddy Teevens have never agreed on if Murphy was safe.
It was a 1969 Little League all-star game, and Harvard football’s head coach was trying to score from second base. Trying to prevent him was Eugene F. “Buddy” Teevens III, the legendary Dartmouth football coach who passed away Tuesday at the age of 66 following injuries he suffered in a March 16 bicycle accident in St. Augustine, Fla. The two boys collided at home plate, and Murphy was called safe. More than 50 years later, Teevens continued to dispute the call.
“It’s so silly that we’ve talked about it so many times. ‘I was safe!’ ‘No, you weren’t!’,” Murphy recalled with a laugh.
The resilient, competitive nature that Teevens displayed in that moment exemplified the close bond that Murphy built over the years with the man he described as arguably the most impactful coach in Ivy League football history.
“Early on, I recognized Buddy not just as a friend and a teammate but as a role model,” he said. “His work ethic, his competitiveness, his loyalty to his friends and family were impressive and commendable.”
A few weeks after that fateful little league game, Murphy and Teevens started seventh grade together. Throughout high school, they became, as Murphy described, “connected at the hip”, bound by their shared experiences as student-athletes. Growing up, Murphy spent significant time in the Teevens household, training with him in his barn, which had a squat rack and Olympic weights and which they nicknamed “Teevens Spa”. He also developed a close relationship with his mother, Mary, and eight siblings.
“She was absolutely another mother to me, and I had a great mom,” he said of Mary Teevens, laughing. “[Teevens’ siblings] used to get mad that Murph was her favorite child.”
The two parted ways temporarily for college. Murphy had a successful four-year career as a linebacker at Springfield College (Mass.), as the Pride finished with a 7-3 record his senior year, its best record in a decade. Meanwhile, Teevens excelled for the Big Green, completing 117 of his 194 passes (.603) for 1396 yards and five scores, adding 178 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. He led Dartmouth to a conference title in 1978, becoming the second Big Green player to earn Ivy League Player of the Year honors. To this day, Teevens’ 59.5 percent career completion percentage remains the eighth-highest mark in school history.
After their successful playing careers, Murphy and Teevens ended up coaching together at Boston University, as the Terriers hired Teevens to be their offensive coordinator and Murphy to coach the offensive line. In their three seasons coaching together on Rick Taylor’s staff, BU compiled a 23-13 record, tying for three consecutive Yankee Conference championships.
“To have the opportunity to be on the same staff with Buddy was phenomenal,” Murphy recalled. “On many levels, on friends, as professionals, socially, it was a wonderfully enjoyable couple of years.”
In 1985, the University of Maine gave 28-year-old Teevens an opportunity, making him the youngest head coach in Division I football. He recruited his childhood friend to come along, and Murphy agreed to serve as his offensive coordinator.
“At the end of the day, I couldn’t say no to Buddy,” Murphy recalled. “It was a promotion to be the offensive coordinator and call the plays, which was great, but if it wasn’t Buddy, I wouldn’t have gone.”
Across two seasons, Teevens led the Black Bears to a 13-9 record before departing for his first stint at Dartmouth, where he went 26-22-2 over five seasons, culminating in consecutive Ivy League titles in 1990 and 1991. Meanwhile, Murphy took the reins at Maine for two seasons, claiming a 15-8 record and winning the Yankee Conference in 1987.
“Buddy was a tremendous all-around coach, fantastic recruiter and motivator,” Murphy said. “Being able to be around Buddy, I continued to learn. We were fortunate to have success.”
In 1994, the Crimson hired Murphy as head coach after a five-year stint at Cincinnati, where he turned a struggling program around, finishing with an 8-3 record in his final season. In his 29-plus seasons on the sideline at Harvard Stadium, he has compiled a 193-87 record, becoming the winningest head coach in Ivy League history. The Crimson has finished with a losing record just four times in Murphy’s tenure, including only once since 2000, winning nine Ivy League titles in that span.
Eleven years later, after stops at Tulane and Stanford, Teevens rejoined the Ivy League, being named the Dartmouth head coach in 2005. Like he had in his previous stint, he turned a largely unsuccessful Big Green program into a juggernaut, winning Ancient Eight titles in 2015, 2019, and 2021, and finishing as the runner-up four additional times. Teevens’ 117 coaching wins are tied with Harvard’s Joe Restic for the eighth-most ever amongst Ivy coaches.
“He came back again [in 2005] when the program was a bit on the rocks, and brought them back,” Murphy said. “It’s unprecedented. It’s amazing.”
There have been many tight games between the Crimson and Dartmouth over the course of the sixth-oldest rivalry in the sport. But Murphy and Teevens evidently had a flair for the dramatic whenever their teams met on the gridiron. Despite Harvard winning 14 of the 17 matchups between the two coaches, the Crimson has triumphed by an average of just 2.4 points the nine times the teams have met since 2013.
Arguably the most dramatic game occurred in 2019, when the undefeated Big Green, marching to a conference championship, wrenched the hearts of Harvard fans by scoring a 43-yard touchdown on a desperation pass by quarterback Derek Kyler as time expired to notch a 9-6 victory. Despite the dramatic result, Murphy recalls, Teevens was as classy as ever in victory.
“He was the same way to me that I was to him,” he said. “It was a handshake, a man-hug. When you won in that game, whether it was Buddy beating us or us beating Buddy, you weren’t necessarily showing any pride at that moment.”
It was Teevens’ character and the respect he displayed for opponents that defined him throughout his coaching career. Off the field, he was known to be an advocate for player safety, directing Dartmouth’s engineering school to invent a tackling robot called the Mobile Virtual Player (MVP) and eliminating live tackling in practice, leading to an 80 percent decrease in injuries to Big Green players. The MVP device was subsequently adopted by several college and professional teams.
On a tribute posted to the Dartmouth Athletics website, Teevens’ family wrote, “To those in his orbit, he was known simply as one of the most thoughtful human beings they had ever met.”
To Murphy and his family, he was more than that. Teevens and Murphy were part of each other’s weddings and the godfathers of each other’s children. The families continued to develop a tight-knit bond, frequently golfing and vacationing together.
“Buddy always had my back, and he knew I always had his back,” Murphy said.
Shortly before Teevens’ tragic accident on March 16, when he was struck by a truck while riding his bicycle, Murphy’s family had been vacationing in Naples, Fla. with Teevens’ family and that of Teevens’ brother Chris. Shortly after the accident happened, Murphy and his wife, Martha, drove up to Jacksonville to visit Teevens in the hospital. Over the subsequent six months, Murphy continued to lend his support to his family.
“It was just one of hope and of positivity,” recalled Murphy of the messages he shared with Teevens’ wife, Kirsten, after his injury. “That’s just who Buddy is, and that’s the way it was with his family.”
A week before Teevens’ passing, Murphy missed the first in-season practice of his career to spend five hours with his friend, who was in critical condition in a Massachusetts hospital. When he returned to practice the next day, he spoke to the team about Teevens’ legacy.
“I brought the team together and talked about why I had missed practice and how powerful the sport of football can be, in terms of your connection for life,” Murphy recalled. “I think we all have our Buddy Teevens.”
“You may not see them for ten years. You may not see them for 20 years, or even 30 years. But when you do get together, maybe it’s at a reunion, maybe it’s at weddings,” he continued, “it’s like walking out of a time warp. The relationship is, in a good way, and in the best of programs, that relationship is like family.”
The Ivy League announced on Thursday that there will be a moment of silence to honor Teevens in advance of every home game this weekend, including the Crimson’s 7 p.m. clash against Brown (1-0, 0-0). And, at Harvard’s suggestion, every team will wear BT decals on the back of their helmet for the remainder of the season. It’s one way, says Murphy, to honor Teevens’ legacy.
“It means that, ‘Buddy, you’re not forgotten’,” he said.
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