While most IM athletes consider the Tyng Cup to be the pinnacle of IM glory, it isn’t the only honor bestowed on standout IM teams. In fact, it isn’t even the only cup up for grabs. There exists a lesser-known trophy that also holds a storied place in Yale IM history — the Harkness Cup.
The Harkness Cup is an annual IM competition between Harvard and Yale. Each year, the best IM teams from Harvard and Yale compete against one another, and the college that emerges from Friday afternoon’s IM games earns the Harkness Cup. The tradition of the Harkness Cup dates back all the way to 1935.
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“This is a very long-standing tradition,” head IM secretary Peter Jasinski ’12 said. “Back in the day, tons of teams would play. I think in the ’60s and the ’70s it would be up at maybe 20 games a year. But the tradition has gone on, so each year we play a few games.”
The actual Harkness Cup was lost in the 1980s, and its whereabouts remain unknown. Because the Cup was lost, IM teams today play mostly for bragging rights, which historically belong to the Bulldogs. From 1935 to 2001 (excluding 1989, 1990, 1994 and 1998), Yale won the Cup 32 times, Harvard won it 20 times and the two colleges tied seven times. The Elis also have the advantage in overall IM championship victories during that span and lead the all-time series 214–190–16.
Current IM competitions between the two schools are limited to field sports that Harvard and Yale have in common. For the past two years those sports have been coed Ultimate Frisbee, men’s soccer and men’s football, according to Jasinski.
Yale residential college IM teams earn the right to compete in the Harkness Cup by winning the IM championship in their respective sports. While competing in the Cup is completely optional, most teams fully embrace the chance to play IM teams from Harvard.
“It’s a nice tradition and it allows the IM athletes to do our own little Harvard-Yale thing at the football weekend,” Jasinski said. “This season all three teams have been very overwhelmingly supportive of the idea, so they just want to go and play for Yale.”
In this year’s Harkness Cup competitions, the Saybrook coed Ultimate Frisbee team, the Jonathan Edwards men’s soccer team and the Branford men’s football team will represent Yale IMs and face-off against their Harvard counterparts.
Because coed Ultimate Frisbee is a spring sport, Saybrook actually won the Yale IM title last spring, but the opportunity to participate in the Cup carried over to this year. Jeremy Poindexter ’11, a member of the Saybrook coed Frisbee team, said that it has been difficult regrouping the team because some members of the team graduated and the remaining players haven’t played together since last year. Nevertheless, Poindexter acknowledged that the Harvard Frisbee team is probably facing the same situation, so he doesn’t expect his team to be at that much of a disadvantage.
“Our team was really good last year, so I’m cautiously optimistic,” Poindexter said.
The JE men’s soccer team earned the right to participate in the Harkness Cup this year, following a season where they compiled a 9-0-2 record en route to the IM championship.
Andrew Goldstein ’13, captain of the JE men’s soccer team, said his entire team is looking forward to competing against Harvard’s best at the Cup.
“A lot of us recognize that this is a really unique opportunity,” Goldstein said. “It might not come around again for me, even though I’m only a sophomore, because all the stars have to align in order to win an IM championship. So we’re all really excited about it.”
Goldstein added that he believes his team will perform well against Harvard, mainly due to their strong defense that, with the exception of a game that ended in a shootout, only allowed one goal in IM competition.
“I think we’re going to win, because we’re going to field the strongest guys that we have, and I really think that if we have our best team on the field we’re unbeatable,” he said.
Another team that was unbeatable this year was Branford’s men’s football team, which went 11–0.
However, initially the Branford squad only had its eyes set on the IM championship, according to co-captain John Lesnewich ’13.
“We definitely just wanted to win the championship,” Lesnewich said. “But once we started getting closer it was a really great incentive that we would get to play Harvard the night before The Game.”
Though Yale IM football is played in a razzle-dazzle style, the matchup against Harvard will be different because it will be a flag football competition, Lesnewich said. In preparation for the change, the Branford team has been designing plays to use against Harvard.
“It’ll be different because we haven’t played flag, but our defense looks really good, so we should be able to shut them down,” he said. “We have a couple really fast people, so hopefully we can sneak by once or twice.”
Though all three teams already won an IM championship title for their residential colleges, winning the Harkness Cup for Yale would be another special victory.
“Beating Harvard would be the cherry on top of the ice cream,” Goldstein said.
The Ultimate Frisbee, men’s soccer and men’s football teams will compete at 3, 4 and 5 p.m., respectively, at the Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium this Friday.