This is an installment in a series of historical articles published by CSN during its first decade of life. This piece was a part of the 2004 I-AA.org Fall Preview print magazine. The very first full size color cover preview magazine only about the highest level of NCAA championship football.
BY SEAN BRENNAN, JULY 2004, I-AA.ORG MAGAZINE
Did you know?
-That the 3 most played rivalries in all of college football are between teams currently in Division I-AA?
-That only 1 Division I-A rivalry even cracks the top 10 most-played?
-That Yale has played Princeton more often than Harvard?
Here we attempt the difficult task of ranking the top Division I-AA rivalries. The rankings are based on a combination of shear quantities of games played, the illustrious history and age of the series, the magnitude of the game itself, and of course the deep-rooted hatred these teams have for each other.
College Football’s Most-Played Rivalries
#1 Lafayette vs. Lehigh, 139 games
#2 Princeton vs. Yale, 126 games
#3 Harvard vs. Yale, 120 games
#4 Amherst vs. Williams, 118 games
#5 Albion vs. Kalamazoo, 117 games
#6 Knox vs. Monmouth, 115 games
Bowdoin vs. Colby, 115 games
#8 Richmond vs. Wm & Mary, 113 games
Minnesota vs. Wisconsin, 113 games
Coe vs. Cornell (IA), 113 games
#1 HARVARD VS.YALE
Games in Series: 120
First Meeting: 1875
Record: Yale leads 64-48-8
Claim to Fame: 3rd most-played rivalry in all of college football and one of the oldest.
There are many great stories in this rivalry. The 1968 edition of "The Game" has been ranked as one of the top 10 college football games of all time. Both teams entered that game with 8-0 records playing for the Ivy League title. But Yale had won 16 games in a row and was ranked #19 in the nation, so they were heavily favored. Trailing late 29-13, Harvard scored 16 points in the final 42 seconds. The fact that the resultant tie was a great triumph for Harvard and a bitter disappointment for Yale was expressed eloquently the following day by the Harvard school paper whose headline read, "Harvard Wins 29-29".
Another thing that makes this series great is the ancillary antics carried out by fraternities of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) during "The Game".
1990: Just as Yale lines up to attempt a field goal, a rocket shoots from under the turf, just inside the goal line and sails through the uprights towing an 8_ by 3_ ft. banner emblazoned with the letters "MIT". An MIT student in the stands, who actually used the metal bleachers to complete the circuit, ignited the rocket remotely with a battery. 1982: The final score was Harvard 45, Yale 7, but the day was won by MIT in the most glorious fashion with one of the most famous pranks of all time. Following a touchdown, a giant weather balloon appeared from under the turf at the 46 yard line with the letters "MIT" written all over it. It inflated to 6 feet in diameter before bursting. The weather balloon incident actually overshadowed two other major coups carried out by MIT during the same game. The MIT marching band, disguised as the Harvard marching band, managed to take the field at halftime and play the MIT fight song! MIT students in the stands also distributed cardboard papers that, when held up by the unwitting spectators, spelled out "MIT" in giant letters.
#2 LAFAYETTE VS. LEHIGH
Games in Series: 139
First Meeting: 1884
Record: Lafayette leads 72-62-5
Claim to Fame: Most Played Rivalry in all of College Football (139 games)
This game between the Lehigh Mountain Hawks (or Engineers for us traditionalists) and the Lafayette Leopards has been played more than any other college football game at any level. As you can imagine, this is the single biggest event of the season for these two schools. The largest margin of victory came in 1917: Lehigh 78, Lafayette 0. The game is carried by local television and nationally by DirecTV and Dish Network. Over 50 known, organized viewing parties are held in at least 24 different states.
Lafayette College is credited with two innovations that are still an integral part of the game of football today:
"Cauliflower Ears" was a common deformity among early football players caused by the heavy abuse inflicted by defenders grabbing and twisting anything they could get their hands on. Lafayette’s running back George "The Rose" Barclay protected his ears (and good-looks) by wrapping his head with strips of leather for an 1896 game. It was the first football helmet.
In 1924, new Lafayette head coach Herb McCracken heard a rumor that the Penn players had actually deciphered the Leopards’ play signals (the quarterback at the line of scrimmage called all plays audibly in those days). So, McCracken instructed his players to all gather together and call the play in secret before lining up for each play. Thus, the "huddle" was born.
#3 GRAMBLING STATE VS. SOUTHERN
"The Bayou Classic"
Games in Series: 48
First Meeting: 1933
Record: Southern leads 25-23
Claim to Fame: The Original HBCU Classic
With 48 games in the entire series, this is certainly not one of the most-played games in football history. But what this match-up lacks in depth, it more than makes up in breadth in a BIG, BIG way. At 70,000+ this is one of the single most attended games in all of Division I-AA football year after year (it was only recently overtaken by it’s younger brother, the Florida Classic) - and that’s just the football game!
You see, the Bayou Classic is so much more than a football game. It’s a weekend-long party and celebration of black culture hosted by the city of New Orleans each year. In fact, it is estimated that over 200,000 visitors to the city pump more than $30 Million into the local economy during the Bayou Classic. This game was first called the "Bayou Classic" in 1974. The game was held in Tulane Stadium. Every year since, the game has been held at the Louisiana Superdome. Yes, the Superdome!
It starts Friday afternoon with the annual Job Fair. Then at night, it’s the Greek Step Show and the world renowned "Battle of the Bands" where Southern’s "Human Jukebox" and Grambling’s "Marching Tigers" try to out-do each other in musical combat on the playing field. Saturday morning kicks off with the Fan Festival, then in the afternoon it’s the HBCU College Fair, the Academic All-Star Challenge, and oh yeah, there’s a sold-out football game at the Superdome. This is I-AA football, right?
Many other HBCU rivalries have borrowed from this "Classic" winning formula for success, but the Bayou is the original - the Classic of all Classics.
#4 MONTANA VS. MONTANA STATE
"The Brawl of the Wild"
Games in Series: 103
First Meeting: 1897
Record: Montana leads 64-34-5
Trophy: Great Divide
As the saying goes, throw out the record books when these two teams meet. Even in the lowest of O-for campaigns, a victory in the Cat-Griz (or Griz-Cat) game translates to a successful season. The games haven’t always been close, in fact they’ve been rather lopsided affairs in most years, but the spirit of the old West has always been alive and well in both camps. The fact that this is an in-state rivalry merely adds fuel to this already red-hot fire. It’s been a "streaky" series with one team or the other enjoying years of dominance before the pendulum inevitably swings. The longest streak in the series was a 16 game stretch won by the Grizzlies that MSU finally broke in 2002.
Perhaps the most exciting game in this wild affair came in 1997 when the Bobcats scored the apparent game-winner with 22 seconds remaining. UM’s streak of (then) 11 straight wins was in jeopardy, but quarterback Brian Ah Yat lofted a 46-yard pass to Justin Olsen, which carried him to the 18 yard line. As time expired, Kris Heppner’s 37-yard field goal sailed true. Montana 27, Montana State 25.
The Great Divide trophy is a relatively new addition to this old series. It was first presented in 2001. The 3-foot bronze statue features a football perched upon a mountain peak. A bobcat and a grizzly bear are climbing up opposite sides of the mountain.
By strange coincidence or just dumb luck, the 46th meeting occurred in 1946 and the game has been played every year since. So it’s easy to remember which game of the series it is. Simply subtract 1900 from the current year and you’ll have the game number.
NFL and MSU all-star Jan Stenerud kicked a (then NCAA record) 59-yard field goal against the Griz in the 1965 "Brawl of the Wild".
#5 BETHUNE-COOKMAN VS. FLORIDA A&M
"The Florida Classic"
Games in Series: 57
First Meeting: 1925
Record: Florida A&M leads 43-13-1
Claim to Fame: At least last year- The Biggest Game
in I-AA (Attendance: 73,358)
Like most Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Classics, the Florida Classic is a weekend-long cultural celebration. The series received a real boost when it moved from Tampa to Orlando in 1997. The event now has the backing of Walt Disney World and is held at the Florida Citrus Bowl. The game has steadily grown in popularity since the move, and this past year it surpassed its predecessor, the Bayou Classic as the largest single I-AA game of the year.
The teams first in 1925, but the game was not called the "Florida Classic" until 1978. FAMU has enjoyed a dominant lead in the series, but the last two decisions have gone to smaller Bethune- Cookman College.
The game has always had a "David vs. Goliath" flavor to it as B-CC (enrollment 2800) is much smaller than FAMU’s (enrollment 12,784). That gap threatened to become even more pronounced this past year when FAMU announced it’s intentions to reclassify it’s football program as NCAA Division I-A. This would mean not only is the school much bigger, but could offer 22 more scholarships than B-CC. The Florida Classic, it seemed, was doomed to become an embarrassingly lopsided affair in a few short years, which could put an end to the series. Thankfully, the A&M administration has reconsidered that move and what it might mean to this event, deciding to stay I-AA. The Florida Classic lives on!
#6 THE CITADEL VS. VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE
"The Military Classic of the South"
Games in Series: 63
First Meeting: 1920
Trophy: The Silver Shako
Record: The Citadel leads 31-30-2
Claim to Fame: I-AA’s version of the "Army-Navy" Game
Cadets in full dress uniform parade into the stadium. Fighter jets flyby the stadium as parachutists slowly drift down unto the field. All the pomp and circumstance of full military regalia means one thing, it’s the Military Classic of the South featuring the Citadel Bulldogs and the VMI Keydets – I-AA’s version of the Army- Navy game.
Step back to a time when the game was played by the officers and gentlemen, when good sportsmanship was more important than winning, and then-.WAKE UP SOLDIER! THIS IS WAR!!!!!!!
It’s all a part of basic training. Students at these two schools are actually conditioned to hate each other and no game is more important than this one. The two schools do have that unwritten, unspoken respect for each other that comes with mutual service to one’s country, but they would never outwardly admit it.
Both schools use "shako" hats in their full military dress. The Silver Shako Trophy was created in 1976 to award annually to the winner of this football game. The trophy has both school emblems on the front, and the scores of past games on the base. VMI was first to take home the Silver Shako, but The Citadel owns a 17-10-1 record in Shako games. Sadly, the two teams will miss each other this season for the first time since 1956.
#7 NORTHWESTERN STATE VS. STEPHEN F. AUSTIN
"The Battle for Chief Caddo"
Games in Series: 60
First Meeting: 1924
Trophy: Chief Caddo
Record: Northwestern State leads 38-19-3
Claim to Fame: Largest trophy in college football
Carved from a solid black gum log, weighing over 320 pounds and standing 7_ feet tall; The Chief Caddo Trophy is the largest in all of college football. There was no real Chief Caddo. The trophy is named in honor of the Caddo tribe of Native Americans who were friendly and helpful to early European settlers of the gulf regions of what is now Louisiana and Texas. The cities of Nacogdoches, TX (home of Stephen F. Austin) and Natchitoches, LA (home of Northwestern State) are both Caddo Indian words, but there is some dispute over how they got their names. Each is the oldest settlement in their respective state.
The two schools agreed to the creation of a trophy prior to the 1961 football game to honor the tribe with which they share a common bond. The loser would supply the wood log and the winner would carve the statue. Northwestern State won the game that year and so a 2000 pound black gum log was sent from Nacogdoches to Natchitoches. A local woodcarver, Harold Green, was commissioned to carve the statue.
#8 RICHMOND VS. WILLIAM & MARY
"The Oldest Rivalry in the South"
Games in Series: 113
First Meeting: 1898
Record: William & Mary leads 58-50-5
Claim to Fame: Oldest Rivalry in the South (and 4th oldest in Division I)
There were many early years when this game was played twice or more in a single year. Richmond started their proud program in 1881, making it one of the oldest football programs in the nation. In 1898, they first played the College of William & Mary and won 15-0. 112 more games have been played since then, the 4th most-played rivalry in Division I. The game has been played every year since 1920 with the lone exception of 1943 (no games due to WWII).
Richmond is the only college team to use the name Spiders as its mascot. The name has been used continuously since 1894 (they were the Colts before that). A local sports writer nicknamed the Richmond baseball team the Spiders due to the exaggerated motions of their lanky pitcher. The name stuck and was quickly adopted for use by all of Richmond’s athletic teams.
#9 APPALACHIAN STATE VS. WESTERN CAROLINA
"The Battle for the Old Mountain Jug"
Games in Series: 68
First Meeting: 1932
Trophy: The Old Mountain Jug
Record: Appalachian State leads 50-17-1
These two schools in the Great Smoky Mountains have a longstanding and rather one-sided rivalry. Former WCU Sports Information Director and current color commentator, Steve White, first proposed the Old Mountain Jug for the 1976 season. White approached the ASU authorities and both agreed to a trophy along the lines of a moonshiner’s jug to celebrate the region’s infamous past-time. The jug itself was donated by ASU bookstore manager, Roby Triplett. His wife hand-painted the Mountaineer logo on one side of the jug, and the Catamount logo on the other side. For the first nine years of the series the teams were evenly matched. However, since 1985, Appalachian State has claimed the jug 18 times in 19 attempts. The only Western Carolina victory during that span came in 1998. The jug series stands at 22-6 ASU, but the Catamounts are ever hopeful of reclaiming this elusive prize.
#10 EASTERN KENTUCKY VS. WESTERN KENTUCKY
"The Battle of the Bluegrass"
Games in Series: 79 or 80 (depending on whose records)
First Meeting: 1914
Record: Western leads 43-33-3 or 44-33-3
Here is a traditional in-state rivalry that was broken up a few years ago when Western left the Ohio Valley conference to join the Gateway Football Conference. For whatever reason, the schools didn’t schedule each other – it didn’t happen automatically anymore now that they are in different conferences. All of that changed in this past season as the Hilltoppers and Colonels met for the first time since 2000. The home team won, defending national champion Western got the better of Eastern that day 36-3, but spirits were high on both sides. It was a great day for Kentucky; now that the state’s oldest rivalry was reborn. This season, the teams square off again, this time in Richmond, home of the EKU Colonels. What’s a good rivalry without a little controversy? Western’s records show one more game (and one more Western victory) than Eastern.