Throwback Thursday: When Harvard Fans Declared ‘We Suck’

On the eve of another Yale-Harvard game, we revisit a fun prank with MIT origins.



There’s a fine pranking tradition at the Harvard Yale game, the second oldest, though certainly not the highest-caliber, college football rivalry in the land. The two schools will battle for the 130th time Saturday. Already, Harvard students are posing as Yale tour guides to make jokes at their rivals’ expense. Last year, we threw it back to the time MIT got involved, pranking both Harvard and Yale.

Today, this writer’s allegiances being decidedly against the locals, let’s revisit to a frequently cited prank in the annals of Harvard-Yale history. In 2004, according to a barely restrained write-up in the Yale Daily News, representatives of the Harvard pep squad ran throughout the home team’s side of Harvard Stadium in Allston, distributing red and white pieces of construction paper in a very specific order. If everyone held them up at once, the message “Go Harvard,” would be visible from the Yale side of the stands, they told curious sign-wielders.

These kids were not from the Harvard pep squad. There is no Harvard pep squad, as it turns out. They were Yale students. And when the signs went up, the Yale crowd erupted in cheers and chants of “You suck.” For indeed, an entire half-stadium of Cantabs were holding up paper that spelled out the words “We Suck.” Not realizing what had happened, the crowd threw up the signs several more times. Even days later, many Harvard students weren’t aware of the prank, the YDN reported.

That’s changed in the years since. The students behind the prank uploaded a website,, and a YouTube video documenting the prank’s execution. It’s become a frequently referenced moment of glory in Yale history—which hasn’t had much to celebrate in the way of actual wins in recent years. But once again, the real glory here goes to MIT. In 1982, according to the YDN, they pulled a similar prank, distributing signs on the Harvard side that said “MIT” on them. And long before that, CalTech pranksters hacked the Rose Bowl, getting the Washington Huskies to hold up a CalTech sign.

You could read this as Yale kids being unoriginal. But then, you could also say that Harvard fans ought to have known better. If there’s one thing even those of you who don’t care about this weekend’s outcome can learn from all this, it’s that no matter the credentials of the person giving you the sign at a sporting event, do not hold it up.