Tim Tai, Senior Photographer

Despite a canceled 2020 season, the Bulldogs won two of the three Ivy League football championships over the last four years.

During their time at Yale, graduating seniors have seen two Ivy League Championships, a canceled season, student protests, controversial ticket policies and changing lodging decisions at the annual Yale-Harvard football game in November. 

The Game — Yale’s annual football matchup against Harvard — came down to the final minute in 2022, but Yale came out on top. Star linebacker Hamilton Moore ’24 came up with an interception in the last 24 seconds of the game, sealing the win and the 17th Ivy League Championship for the Bulldogs. 

“This is what we dream of,” Moore told the News after the 2022 Championship win. “We have been working day and night. It’s a surreal feeling, but this game wasn’t anything different. It’s the same thing we’ve been doing the last 10 weeks. We’ve come in and gotten better every single day to get ready for this Saturday and it paid off.” 

In their first year, graduating seniors of the class of 2023 saw a triumphant comeback from the Bulldogs when they won The Game and the Ivy League Championship in 2019. Yale beat Harvard 50–43 in a match that went into double overtime and saw Yale trailing by as much as 19 points during play.

The 2019 Game lasted four and a half hours, extended by overtimes and a halftime protest in which students demanded that the two universities divest from fossil fuels, private prisons and Puerto Rican debt.

A majority of protestors left the field after half an hour, but a small number of students and alumni were arrested after they refused to give up ground. In total, 42 protestors were issued misdemeanor summons for disorderly conduct.

The traditions of the Game were put in flux in 2020, when the Ivy League suspended all fall sports because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In the first year without a Yale-Harvard football game since World War II, the Yale College Council and the Harvard Events Board hosted a “Harvard-Yale Roast-Off” as a comedic substitute for the usual athletic festivities.

The Game returned in 2021, and students protested again — this time ahead of the match outside the Yale Bowl. Students called for action on the Uyghur genocide taking place in China. 

Yale lost the match after a stunning Harvard touchdown in the last 22 seconds.   

“It’s definitely an incredible opportunity to play in a game like this,” captain John Dean ’22 said following the loss. “Definitely a huge reason why I came here, playing big games that are competitive with talented football players on the field. You walk into that stadium you know you can win or lose, and today it’s heartbreaking it didn’t go the way we want.”

Despite the loss, the 2021 iteration of The Game brought back old traditions and marked historic milestones. The 2021 Yale-Harvard matchup was the first time both schools were represented by female athletic directors, and it was also the first Game of Handsome Dan XIX’s tenure as the Bulldogs’ living mascot.

Ahead of the game, head coach Tony Reno also made history as the sixth coach in Yale’s history to win over 50 games.

The 2021 Game barred Harvard students from staying in Yale dorms — the pre-pandemic tradition — and New Haven hotels became fully booked for the weekend.

In an attempt to increase student turnout at other sporting events, Yale Athletics started to give out tickets to The Game as a reward for students attending other sporting events — including field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s hockey — in 2019.

​​“We have many successful, strong and fun programs to watch here at Yale so we are always trying to find different ways to get the word out about our Bulldogs and entice people to support our teams at different events and venues,” Mike Gambardella, associate athletic director for strategic communications, told the News at the time. “The Game is always a huge draw and a great way for fans and students to see more of our teams. At the women’s hockey game this past weekend, 400 students picked up their tickets at Ingalls [Rink].”

This year, tickets sold out after Yale Athletics accidentally released the tickets early, causing a frenzy among the student body.

Students looking to get tickets were met with a variety of error messages as people flooded the website. Eventually, some students were able to get tickets, though they sold out within an hour of the accidental release.

Despite the ticketing issues, the 2022 Game marked a return to normalcy for many historic traditions. Yale students were allowed to stay in Harvard’s residential colleges, and the “Saybrook Strip” took place in the third quarter in 30-degree weather.

As the Game came to a close, students rushed the field at Harvard Stadium, chanting and celebrating the players who won the 138th rendition of the Game.

“It was electric,” Declan Finn ’26 said. “So much more energy than I expected. The cheering, flag-waving, pounding. I honestly didn’t know Yale had that much school spirit in them.”

The first Yale-Harvard game was played in 1875.