While Chris Berman and his fellow sportscasters have long enjoyed wisecracking about the anticipation surrounding the start of the Ivy League football season, which arrives three weeks after the rest of collegiate football. If Ivy League coaches have their way, the pundits may have less material to mock in the near future.
This summer, the coaches of the eight Ivy League schools voted unanimously to scrap the annual scrimmage — held two weeks before opening day — in favor of an 11th regular season game. The Ivy League Policy Committee tabled the vote, but the coaches remain hopeful that this change will soon be enacted.
When Yale opens its season Sept. 20 against Towson, the Tigers will be playing their fourth game of the season. The NCAA allows teams to compete in up to 12 regular season games, and by adding an 11th, the Ivy League would bring itself one step closer to the longer schedules of top Division I-AA programs.
A problem came this season in the form of the scheduling of the scrimmage.
“With the expansion to 12 games by the NCAA, it is hard to find people to scrimmage,” Princeton head football coach Roger Hughes said.
Last season, Yale scrimmaged Division III Union, but the Dutchmen did not want a rematch this autumn. This backout left the Elis with no recourse other than playing Ivy League rival Princeton, a team Yale will face again this November.
Other Ivy League teams face similar problems. Brown scrimmaged Ivy League counterpart Dartmouth, and Columbia and Cornell faced weaker Division III competition. Harvard scheduled Stony Brook, the only Division I-AA team not to commence its regular season. But to achieve this matchup, the Crimson had to travel five hours each way for a mere scrimmage.
“Why not turn the scrimmage into a revenue-generating event?,” Hughes said.
Many coaches relish the prospect of adding another game to bolster finances.
“Eliminating the preseason game scrimmage in favor of an 11th game would make all the sense in the world,” Harvard head football coach Tim Murphy said. “We are already scheduling 11 contests, but formalizing the 11th contest would improve things logistically, give us much more flexibility in scheduling, and quite possibly improve the bottom line financially.”
As far as this season goes, Princeton’s Hughes said he is not concerned that the Yale-Princeton scrimmage will detract from the regular season contest when the Tigers host the Elis Nov. 15.
“Scrimmaging Yale makes our situation much like NFL teams who scrimmage each other periodically during training camps,” Hughes said. “Both teams protect each other’s QB and get to work against a quality opponent. The scrimmage will have little effect on our game later in the season, because we play each other so late in the year.”