Daniel Zhao

Following an electric 2018 season, where an undefeated No. 11 Princeton squad claimed the conference crown, representatives from all eight Ivy League football programs united at the ESPN Headquarters in Bristol on Aug. 15 to generate hype for the upcoming 2019 campaign.

In the broadcast, which was televised on ESPN+ — a platform for Ancient Eight athletics since the league signed a long-term deal with the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” last summer — the head coach and two student-athletes from each team fielded questions from host Jack Ford ’72, a former player for the Bulldogs, and from the various media members in attendance. Yale, who is picked to finish first in this season’s preseason poll, was represented by head coach Tony Reno, quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 and defensive end Devin Moore ’20. Returning nearly every one of their starters from 2018, the Bulldogs are poised to reclaim the league title barring injuries to key players — such as the leg injury suffered by Rawlings last October — which plagued the squad last season. Despite boasting offensive and defensive weapons at various positions, Team 147 will continue to focus on its collective success rather than individual accolades or recognition — a staple of the program’s culture.

“We’ve got a great group of young men at Yale,” Reno said at the broadcast. “We look at things positionally. When we score 40 points, it’s not because of our great quarterback and our great running back, it’s because of the offense and the scout team that got them there. When our running backs gain 200 yards, it’s not because of our individual guys, it’s because of the position group and the [offensive] line, the scheme and all those things … we win and do things as a team. We learn as a team.”

In addition to highlighting each team with individual Q-and-A sessions, Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris, who inherited the position in 2009, touted the continued success of the conference.

The Ancient Eight has ranked at least sixth in the Learfield IMG College Directors Cup for the past five years, demonstrating the athletic excellence across the league. But more uniquely, the Ivy League leads the entirety of the NCAA in graduation success rates and academic progress rate scores.

“No other conference offers the experience and preparation for lifelong success that comes from an Ivy League journey regardless of the profession or endeavors our student-athletes seek,” Harris said in the broadcast.

Presentations from other ESPN personnel rounded out the day. John Dahl, the vice president of original content, laid out the programming plan for the duration of the season, which includes numerous documentaries — including some with a specific focus on the Ivy League’s contributions to the game — and top-11 countdowns regarding various topics ranging from the best plays of all-time to the best mascots.

A segment detailing ESPN+ and the streaming service’s plans for the near future was also on the agenda. Paul Melvin, senior director of communications for ESPN’s Digital Media, emphasized the Ivy League’s partnership with the service in addition to reannouncing Disney’s plan to package ESPN+ and Hulu with Disney+, a new streaming service coming Nov. 12.

With over one million viewers tuning in to Ivy League football on ESPN+ last season, the streaming service has been a gateway to reach new fans and grow interest in the conference. However, with the service priced at $5 per month, concerns remain related to expanding its subscriber base.

“Because we have our linear networks, and because we have our digital platform at large, and we have ESPN+, we use all of those things to bring people into the ESPN+ environment,” Melvin said. “We reach 120 million sports fans on digital platforms, which is the largest front door in all of digital sports.”

The Elis kick off the 2019 campaign against Holy Cross on Sept. 21.

Cristofer Zillo | cris.zillo@yale.edu