The “Harvard Pep Squad” ran up and down the aisles of Harvard Stadium at The Game Nov. 20. They had megaphones in hand and their faces were painted as they encouraged the crowd to hold up the 1,800 red and white pieces of construction paper they had handed out. It would read “Go Harvard,” they said.
But the 20 “Pep Squad” members were actually Yale students. And when the Harvard students, faculty and alumni held up their pieces of paper — over and over again — they spelled out “We Suck” in giant block letters the whole stadium could read.
The brainchild of Pierson students Michael Kai ’05 and David Aulicino ’05, the “We Suck” prank was originally designed for the 2003 Harvard-Yale Game. But rather than hand out the paper in person to the crowd, they taped the paper to the stadium seats before the game began. The prank derailed when security guards, trying to clear the stadium out during a pre-game bomb scare, asked Kai, Aulicino and their cohorts to leave.
Rather than forget the prank, though, the pair became only more determined to have it succeed as seniors.
“We knew we only had one more chance at it,” Kai said. “To have to think about it for an entire year was really painful.”
But the elapsed time also gave the devious duo an opportunity to rethink logistics. Rather than tape the papers to the seats, they created a system to have the Harvard crowd pass out the 1,800 cards themselves. The “Harvard Pep Squad” went to each row and handed out a pre-ordered stack of the red and white papers. In five minutes, Kai and Aulicino said, all the papers were passed out.
It took a great deal of planning, however, including a road trip to Boston. Kai and Aulicino attended the Oct. 9 Harvard-Cornell football game in Cambridge, simply to scout out the stadium and count the number of rows.
And then there were the disguises, which included “Harvard Pep Squad” T-shirts the Yale students designed themselves and red and white face paint. Cohort Dylan Davey ’05 said they even had Harvard student identification cards, created by a fellow Piersonite. Kai and Aulicino declined to say exactly how much money they spent on the prank, except that it was “too much.” Davey estimated it to be a few hundred dollars.
“If it didn’t work, it would have been pretty sad that we put so much effort and money into it. But all that money was totally worth it,” Kai said.
Without the expenditures, the leaders said, Harvard suspicions may very well have won out, especially because many in the crowd had heard of a similar prank at the Harvard-Yale Game of 1982. MIT students tricked Harvard fans into holding up cards that spelled out “MIT.” Kai and Aulicino were unaware of that prank when they designed theirs, they said.
The first student to whom Aulicino handed a paper was suspicious, he said. First, he asked Aulicino, wearing a Harvard Pep Squad T-shirt, whether Harvard had a pep squad. He then asked if Aulicino was from MIT.
Security guards also approached “Harvard Pep Squad” members several times, they said, but between the Harvard student ID’s, T-shirts and red and white face paint, the guards were convinced.
“It was almost sad,” said Davey. “There were all these grandfather and grandmother types — and they all had big smiles, saying, ‘Oh you’re so cute, I’m so glad you’re doing this.’ I felt bad for about two minutes. Then I got over it.”
The Harvard side first held up the signs 4 minutes, 47 seconds before halftime. Then they held them up several more times, Aulicino and Kai said, as the “Harvard Pep Squad” ran up and down the aisles, cheering them on.
“We had more Harvard spirit than any Harvard student ever has,” Kai said.
The “We Suck” prank was not the only prank at the game. The senior class hired an airplane to fly over the stadium, trailing a sign that read “Too Many Can Tabs, Not Enough Kegs. Love, Yale ’05.” Another group of students orchestrated a plan to steal the Harvard flag. This plan had its complexities as well, involving a decoy running around with a residential college flag to distract security guards and police officers.
Whether Harvard launched a prank is still unknown.
“See, we’re really above that sort of thing,” Lisa Goodrich, a Harvard sophomore, said jokingly. “Harvard doesn’t do pranks.”
The absence of pranks shows something about Harvard’s school spirit, Davey said. A “genuine difference” between her high school friends who go to Harvard and those who go to Yale, she said, is that people are just happier at Yale.
“I think that came out in this prank,” Davey said.
The “Harvard Pep Squad” has launched a web site commemorating the prank at harvardsucks.org. The site, which Kai designed, went online at 2 a.m. Sunday morning. As of 10 p.m. Sunday, it had 5,560 hits. And a handful of 18-by-24-inch posters of the Harvard side holding up “We Suck” have already been sold, Kai said.
Even so, Harvard students still aren’t very aware of the prank, Goodrich said.
“I’ve gotten wind of it from a couple of e-mails,” she said. “But it’s not something that’s widely discussed right now.”