Happy 163rd Anniversary, Harvard-Yale Rivalry

The 1852 regatta between the Ivy League schools was the first-ever intercollegiate sporting event, predating the invention of college football.

Photo via AP

Photo via AP

Harvard and Yale have been around for quite some time, and have spent sizable chunks of that time in fierce competition with the other. In fact, more than any other two schools—they invented intercollegiate sport.

On August 3, 1852, crew teams from Harvard and Yale dueled for the first time on Lake Winnipesaukee, in the first-ever sporting event between two colleges. Harvard’s boat Oneida bested Yale’s Shawmut and the Undine by four lengths in the two-mile race. Their prize? A pair of black walnut oars. Observing the spectacle was Democratic presidential nominee and Granite Stater Franklin Pierce, who would win election later that year.

It would be another three years before the two schools raced again, when Yale sought (and lost) a rematch. In 1864, the race became an annual event, with Yale finally capturing its first win on Worcester’s Lake Quinsigamond. The first Harvard-Yale baseball game was held in conjunction with the 1867 regatta, and has since been moved closer to Harvard commencement. No race was held in 1896 due to a “breakdown in relations between the two schools,” but resumed the following year.

The 1852 Harvard-Yale boat race predates the invention of (albeit much different looking) college football: a 1869 matchup between the New Jersey Tigers (now Princeton) and Rutgers Queensmen (now Knights). The Queensmen emerged victorious, 6-4. Harvard and Yale first met on the gridiron on November 13, 1875, with the Crimson squeaking by, 4-0. “The Game” is now the third most-played rivalry in college football history.

Outside of boating, Harvard and Yale have been two of sport’s great innovators: Yale founded America’s first college boat club in 1843; the first baseball catcher’s mask and fencing mask were used by Harvard athletes in 1877; Yale tied Johns Hopkins 2-2 in the first intercollegiate hockey game in 1896, and the following year, Yale played in the first 5-on-5 basketball game; Harvard played the first women’s field hockey game in 1901, and four years later, lost the first intercollegiate soccer game to Haverford, 1-0.