Yale may be facing its historic rival Saturday, but the Bulldogs are also gearing up to take the field against an even stronger team — Army — in three years, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Yale Bowl.
Yale and Army have signed the paperwork for a game that will bring the Cadets to the Yale Bowl in Sept. 2014. The game, which has been in the works since 2009, will match the two schools together for the first time since 1996. Yale has not played a school from the Football Bowl Subdivision, more commonly referred to as Division I–A, since the Bulldogs faced UConn in 1998.
“There’s a long history and tradition between the two institutions,” said Senior Associate Athletics Director for Varsity Sports Tim Ford. “The idea for the 100th anniversary of the Bowl to have Army here – both institutions were excited about that.”
Athletics Director Tom Beckett first conceived of the Yale-Army matchup, Ford said, and the idea quickly gained support from two schools’ athletic departments. For Army, the decision to play Yale comes with a risk because a victory against Yale might not count toward qualifying for a bowl, a post-season game in Division I–A. A Division I-A school must win six of their 12 games to qualify for a postseason bowl game. Because those wins must come against teams who award at least 56.7 percent of their players full scholarships, a victory against Yale would not count as one of Army’s six necessary wins.
Army plans to apply for a waiver that would count a win against the Bulldogs toward bowl eligibility, Ford said, but schools cannot apply for the waiver until a year prior to the game. With the ink on the contract dry, Army would not be able to change their 12-game schedule if the waiver did not go through.
“[The game is] going to happen regardless of whether the waiver is accepted or not,” Ford said.
Since 1893, Army and Yale football have played each other 45 times. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 21–16–8.
The teams first met in 1893, one year after Walter Camp, recognized as the father of American football, left the Bulldogs to coach Stanford. In a time period when touchdowns garnered only four points, Yale still held off Army 28–0, and the Elis ended the season national champions. Yale dominated throughout the early years and compiled a 11–1–4 record against Army in the first 16 games. As the years passed, Army became more competitive, and Yale’s string of dominance ceased. These opposing trends, along with the growing popularity of American football, produced a number of memorable games.
In 1923, Yale beat Army 31–10 in a Yale Bowl filled with 80,000 fans, the largest crowd in Yale history. The Yale Bowl capacity at the time was 60,614. Sam Rubin ’95, author of “Yale Football,” a comprehensive guide to Yale football history, told the News Tuesday that pictures of the game show fans very close to the field. Fans either sat in temporary seats or stood to watch the game, Rubin said.
Perhaps Yale’s greatest game against Army came in 1929 when the Bulldogs came back from trailing 13–0 to beat the Cadets 21–13. According to documents in Yale’s sports archives, Albert “Abbie” Booth ’32, standing at five-feet-six-inches and 144 pounds, scored two touchdowns, ran back a punt for another and kicked all three extra points to give Yale the win in front of 73,281 spectators.
In 1955, the Elis pulled off another surprising win. A heavily favored Army squad came into the Yale Bowl having trounced the Bulldogs 48–7 the year before. The Elis got off to a 7–6 advantage, and running back Al Ward ’57 capped a 56-yard drive in the third quarter as he scampered around the right side for the touchdown. The shocked Cadets fell to the Bulldogs, 14–12.
The 1955 game would be the last time to date the Bulldogs would conquer the Cadets.
As the years passed, Army and Yale have seen less of one another. At their last meeting, at West Point in 1996, the Cadets took the match 39–13. Only 17,898 fans saw Yale’s last home game against Army in 1988.
While the rivalry has diminished, Rubin said Yale-Army history remains an integral part of Yale football lore.
“You look at the crowds and you can kind of do the math,” Rubin said of the excitement around Army and Yale’s early matchups. “You look back, and you see the photos of all the cadets marching, and you just know that it was something that was special.”
Fifty-six years after Yale’s last win against Army, the team is ready for another game, said head coach Tom Williams.
“The idea about playing a I-A opponent is something that’s always exciting if you’re a competitor which all of our guys are,” Williams said.
Staying true to the game’s history, the current plans are for the Cadets to take the train to Union Station and then march the remaining three miles to the Yale Bowl. In a season sure to be filled with festivities surrounding the Yale Bowl’s 100th anniversary, the game against Army stands out as a return to a part of Yale’s football tradition, Ford said.
“Obviously the bowl is a landmark institution and to be able on the 100th anniversary to have an institution like West Point come to play a game is tremendous for Yale, for New Haven, and for college football,” Ford said.
The game against Army is tentatively scheduled for September 27, 2014.