Ivy League

Ivy League is the name generally applied to eight universities (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale) that over the years have had common interests in scholarship as well as in athletics. Stanley Woodward, New York Herald Tribune sports writer, coined the phrase in the early thirties.

In 1936 the undergraduate newspapers of these universities simultaneously ran an editorial advocating the formation of an ``Ivy League,'' but the first move toward this end was not taken until 1945. In that year, the eight presidents entered into an agreement ``for the purpose of reaffirming their intention of continuing intercollegiate football in such a way as to maintain the values of the game, while keeping it in fitting proportion to the main purposes of academic life.'' To achieve this objective two inter-university committees were appointed: one, made up primarily of the college deans, was to administer rules of eligibility; the other, composed of the athletic directors, was to establish policies on the length of the playing season and of preseason practice, operating budgets, and related matters. Two other inter-university committees on admission and financial aid were added later.

As President Dodds pointed out at the time, the general principles agreed on by the eight universities were essentially the same as those set forth in the Harvard-Yale-Princeton Presidents' Agreement of 1916 (see Big Three).

The first step toward organizing full league competition came in 1952 with the announcement that, beginning with the fall of 1953, each college would play every other college in the group at least once every five years. This plan was superseded in 1954 when the presidents announced the adoption of a yearly round-robin schedule in football, starting in 1956, and approved the principle of similar schedules in ``as many sports as practicable.''

Thereafter, the Ivy Group (as the league was called in the Presidents' Agreement of 1954) established schedules in other sports, including some in existing leagues with non-Ivy members. As of 1977, the Ivy League colleges competed, round-robin, in football, soccer, basketball, and, with certain variations as noted, in baseball (also Army and Navy), fencing (except Brown and Dartmouth), ice hockey (except Columbia), squash (except Brown, Columbia, and Cornell), swimming (except Columbia, but also Army and Navy), tennis (also Army and Navy), and wrestling (except Brown and Dartmouth). Ivy championships in cross-country and track were determined at the annual Heptagonal Meets, in golf at an Ivy championship tournament, and in rowing at the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges Regatta.

The mid-seventies brought the inclusion of women's teams in the Ivy League program with the institution of championship tournaments in basketball and ice hockey, and a move toward round-robin competition in field hockey, lacrosse, and other sports.

Other instances of increasing formalization of the Ivy League occurred in the seventies -- two of them involving Princetonians.

Since 1971, the Bushnell Cup has been awarded to the Ivy football player of the year, who is selected by vote of the eight coaches. This trophy, presented to the Ivy League by the Eastern Association of Intercollegiate Football Officials, was named in honor of Asa S. Bushnell '21, the first commissioner of the Eastern College Athletic Conference, in appreciation of ``his great contribution to the advancement of college athletics.''

In 1973, to provide greater coordination of the athletic interests of the eight universities, the post of executive director of the Council of Ivy League Presidents was created, and Ricardo A. Mestres '31, financial vice-president and treasurer of the University, emeritus, was elected first incumbent. Mestres served in this post until 1976, when he was succeeded by James M. Litvack, visiting lecturer in economics and public affairs in the University.


From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

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