FOOTBALL: Yale set to host The Game in fall 2021
Harvard would have hosted the 2020 installment of the rivalry on November 21 in Boston. But with the COVID-19 pandemic putting a stop to fall-semester competition in the Ancient Eight, both teams and their respective fan bases are set to meet back in New Haven for the second consecutive time in fall 2021.
Daniel Zhao, Senior Photographer
If Ivy League athletic competition can occur in fall 2021, the 137th edition of the Yale-Harvard football game is set to occur in New Haven.
In 2019, the Bulldogs hosted The Game at the Yale Bowl, capturing a dramatic double-overtime victory over the Crimson in front of 44,989 fans. This November, Harvard would have hosted the 2020 installment of the rivalry on Nov. 21 in Boston. But with the COVID-19 pandemic putting a stop to fall-semester competition in the Ancient Eight, both teams and their respective fan bases are set to meet back in New Haven for the second consecutive time in fall 2021.
“We’re going to be following our 2021 schedule,” Yale football head coach Tony Reno told the News. “I just think from a big picture standpoint, and from the perspective of all eight teams in the conference, if you’re going to change the league scheduling, it would create a lot of inequity in home and away games. So for the athletic directors to just reset it and aim for what the original 2021 fall season would have looked like makes much more sense.”
Mike Gambardella, Yale’s associate athletic director for strategic communications, also confirmed to the News that the Bulldogs are set to host The Game in fall 2021. Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris and Harvard’s Associate Director of Athletics Tim Williamson did not respond to the News’ requests for comment.
The Ivy League Council of Presidents announced the cancellation of fall-semester intercollegiate athletic competition in early July, and the conference has not yet released an update on the status of competition after Jan. 1, 2021. The July decision left open the possibility that “fall sport competition would be feasible in the spring,” promising a decision “at a later date.”
According to Reno, the football team has mainly focused on preparing for fall 2021 this past semester.
“We’ve really just pressed the reset button because we would have finished our season next week,” Reno said. “So hopefully, in December, we’ll be back on track to play football in 2021.”
Last November, the Bulldogs’ dramatic 50–43 win over Harvard capped a 9–1 season and secured the Bulldogs an Ivy League championship. Quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 led the Elis with 417 passing yards and 101 yards on the ground in a game that lasted four hours and 36 minutes, delayed by halftime protesters and two overtimes.
Yale wide receiver Mason Tipton ’24, who hauled in a crucial touchdown for the Bulldogs with 1:10 remaining in the fourth quarter during last year’s edition of The Game, expressed excitement about being able to play in New Haven again next fall.
“I’m not complaining,” Tipton said. “The atmosphere at the Yale–Harvard game was pretty dope. So I’ll take it, I’ll take that again.”
Although fall-semester play has been canceled, Yale student-athletes enrolled in residence have been able to engage in limited training for most of the fall. Phase I weight training has given enrolled players the opportunity to get into the weight room in order to regain any strength that was lost during quarantine.
Punter Jack Bosman ’24, who is on a leave of absence, said there are weekly meetings for remote players to receive updates on Yale’s training and the University’s COVID-19 situation. He said the team breaks out into their position groups on Zoom, where unenrolled or off-campus students can discuss footage taken of the players enrolled. Bosman said he thinks a spring 2021 football season is unlikely.
“I don’t really see us playing in the spring because it would make it really difficult for future seasons,” Bosman said. “Then at some point you’d have to have a back-to-back season, which wouldn’t really make much sense for injuries and postseason surgeries.”
Bosman believes that starting when the players get back from winter break, the team will begin preparing like they would for a normal fall season. He thinks the coaches will have them in a regimen that is pretty much identical to other years’ postseason plans.
Although the future of athletic competition remains uncertain, Tipton is certain the group will be ready for next season, regardless of when it begins.
“I know the team,” Tipton said. “Whether we play in the spring or we play in the fall, everybody on the team will be ready when it comes. The guys have definitely taken advantage of the time we’ve gotten off.”
After 136 meetings with Harvard, Yale leads the series, 68–60–8.
Jared Fel contributed reporting.
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