By Hillary August
Harvard sucks, Princeton doesn’t matter.
Or does it?
In the exalted Harvard-Yale-Princeton rivalry, Princeton has traditionally been on the fringes, whereas the greatest adversaries have been Harvard and Yale. But whether it is truly fair to say that Princeton does not matter is questionable.
While Yale has defeated Princeton in football for the past two years and leads the all-time series 68-48-10, Yale head football coach Jack Siedlecki said completely ignoring the significance of the Tigers is incorrect.
“The vast majority of our alumni are from the era of HYP championships, and to them [HYP] is very important and both rivalries are significant,” Siedlecki said via e-mail. “While the Harvard rivalry is unsurpassed, I would not diminish the importance of the Princeton rivalry.”
Yale athletes are careful to point out, however, that the weight placed on the importance of a Yale versus Princeton match-up is nowhere near the emphasis placed on the storied contest between the Bulldogs and Cantabs.
Yale offensive lineman Jared Holst ’07, who is out with an injury this season, said while the Princeton game last year was important to the team, just as any game is important, the pressure to win was not as extreme as it was against Harvard. If the pressure to defeat Princeton is greater than for other Ivy games, it is just because the Princeton game is played so late in the season.
“In my year of being on the team, I found that Harvard was the only game where the coaches spoke about the rivalry,” Holst said. “From someone who plays against Princeton, it’s obvious that it matters, but nothing can compare to the Yale-Harvard game.”
For Princeton, defeating Yale is a matter of importance, but Princetonians recognize that they are not Yale’s greatest rival. Despite common misconceptions at Yale, Princeton does not care about beating Yale much more than Yale cares about beating Princeton. The Tigers focus their energy on their games against the University of Pennsylvania.
Michael Rudoy, a sophomore on the basketball team at Princeton, said as an athlete, he feels Penn is the team to beat.
“I think that our main rival, in terms of fan attendance at games, is probably Penn,” Rudoy said. “Yet I feel like the second rivalry that we still care about a lot is definitely Yale. I think that Penn and Princeton — at least for basketball — is our most intense rivalry, but Yale is always an intense game.”
While other Princetonians also feel that the Penn rivalry is the most competitive, overall, rivalries are not much of a concern for the Tiger student body.
“I feel like tempers never really get that heated at Princeton about any rivals,” Chris Steinbaugh, a Princeton senior and a member of the a cappella group the Nassoons, said. “At basketball games against Penn, Princeton kids bring signs that say “safety school” and stuff and definitely give [Penn players] a hard time, but I don’t think there are any conflicts. In general, the campus is pretty calm about those types of things. It sounds like Yale takes its rivalries more seriously.”
To some Princetonians, however, Yale’s intense rivalry with Harvard is something to envy.
Jeff Bullian, a senior at Princeton and another member of the Nassoons, said he wishes Princeton had its own rivalry as strong as the Yale-Harvard rivalry. He said that while the Princeton-Penn rivalry may be strong on the court and on the field, there are Princeton students who feel that Penn students do not pose a similar threat in the classroom. Thus, the intensity of the Princeton-Penn rivalry will never reach the level of the blazing Yale-Harvard battle.
“I see what [Yale students] do for the Harvard-Yale game, and I think that’s awesome,” Bullian said. “I think it’s really cool that you could draw 30, 35,000 fans to a game. But I think most Princeton students could care less.”
Bulldogs and Tigers alike recognize that they are not each other’s number one rivals. But when the two teams step out onto the field, there is no question as to whether or not each team is utterly set on winning.
“Princeton certainly matters in the win-loss column and is a very important game for us every year,” Siedlecki said.