In the fall of 1876, when football was evolving from the game of rugby and rules were uncertain, a group of Dartmouth students erected the first goal posts on the campus green. They remained in place for several months but were removed before commencement in 1877.
Students arriving as freshmen in 1878 brought with them experience with the new game. In 1880, another freshman, Clarence (Cap) Howland '84 joined them and proved to be the catalyst for the sport that sought recognition on campus. Football suits were purchased from Princeton and a season of practice unfolded.
On November 16, 1881, Dartmouth football began when Amherst visited Hanover. After scoring the game's only touchdown for Dartmouth, Charles Oakes '83 was carried across campus, the center of a jubilant celebration. On November 25, Thanksgiving Day, the teams met again in Springfield, Mass. The game was scoreless when play was terminated due to snow. Dartmouth's newest sport was established and its first football team finished undefeated.
Dartmouth immediately sought out the nation's best teams to learn the intricacies of the game. In 1882, the Green lost to Harvard (53-0). In 1884, Yale visited Hanover (they would not make a return trip until 1971) and tutored Dartmouth to the tune of 113-0. During the next 20 years, against teams with comparable experience, Dartmouth usually won in equally convincing fashion.
The event that thrust Dartmouth football to national prominence came in 1903--the dedication game of Harvard Stadium. Winless in 18 previous meetings with the Crimson and scoreless in the first 16, Dartmouth won, 11-0.
Dartmouth's winning tradition over the past 124 seasons is measured in achievement on the field and contribution by those who have played and coached at Dartmouth, many of whom took their gridiron experience to other colleges across the country.
The Green's overall record--638 wins versus 395 losses and 46 ties--is among the best in the nation and includes nine undefeated seasons, a national championship and 11 inductees in the College Football Hall of Fame.
The Great Eras
There has been a succession of great eras in Dartmouth football:
From 1901-09, Dartmouth had a record of 58-9-7 under the coaching of Walter McCornack, Fred Folsom and John O'Connor.
From 1911-16, Frank Cavanaugh guided Dartmouth to a 42-9-3 record, then became known as the "Iron Major" for his heroics in World War I. One of his best players, Clarence (Fat) Spears, continued the success as the war ended but it was Jesse Hawley who took Dartmouth to unparalleled heights from 1923-28.
Under Hawley, Dartmouth went 22 games without a loss from 1923-26, including the undefeated (8-0-0) national championship team in 1925 led by two Hall of Fame inductees, Swede Oberlander and Myles Lane, and a Rhodes Scholar, Captain Nathan Parker.
Though the Green had a record of 27-14-3 under Jack Cannell from 1929-33, eight losses in his last two seasons prompted a search for a new coach. President Ernest Martin Hopkins's choice was Earl Blaik who would guide Dartmouth to a record of 45-15-4 over the next seven seasons, then moved on to lead West Point. Blaik's teams at Dartmouth produced another 22-game unbeaten streak from 1936-38. The 1937 team was undefeated but Dartmouth declined an invitation to play in the Rose Bowl. The Blaik years included Dartmouth's first-ever win over Yale (1935) and the famous "Fifth Down" game in 1940, a 3-0 win over previously undefeated Cornell.
The post-World War II years under Hall of Fame coach Tuss McLaughry included the first years of an exclusively "major" schedule.
The Ivy League Years
In 1955, as formal Ivy League play was about to begin, another Hall of Fame coach, Bob Blackman, succeeded McLaughry and launched a 16-year tenure at Dartmouth that included: 104 wins, three undefeated seasons, selection twice as the East's best team, and seven Ivy League titles. Blackman's last team, in 1970, was undefeated, ranked 14th in the nation, and shut out six opponents en route to outscoring nine teams, 311-42. Jake Crouthamel, a standout halfback under Blackman (1957-59) and later one of his assistants, became head coach in 1971 and led Dartmouth to three straight Ivy titles and missed an undefeated season in 1971 by two points.
The championship tradition has continued over the past quarter-century. Under Joe Yukica (1978-86), Dartmouth won three Ivy titles, including in 1978 when Yukica's successor as coach, Buddy Teevens, was named the Ivy League's player of the year.
Teevens revitalized Dartmouth football during his five seasons (1987-91), leading the Green to Ivy titles in 1990 and 1991. When Teevens departed, his defensive coordinator, John Lyons, took the reins.
During 13 seasons, Lyons added two more Ivy championships, the first in 1992 and another in 1996 when Dartmouth finished with a 10-0-0 record, the centerpiece of another 22-game unbeaten streak that ran from 1995-97.
Since formal Ivy League round robin play began in 1956, Dartmouth has won the second-most league games (219) and most championships (17 outright or shared). The Big Green has the Ivy’s second-best league won-lost record and has produced the second-most All-Ivy first team players (188).
In 2005, Buddy Teevens returned as head coach to continue the great tradition of championship football at Dartmouth.