The Real History of America's Most Infamous Conference....


While football is where it started, the Ivy League today is nationally recognized for its level of success absent of athletic scholarships while rigorously maintaining its self-imposed high academic standards. The Ivy League has demonstrated a rare willingness and ability, given the current national pressures on intercollegiate success, to abide by these rules and still compete successfully in Division I athletics.


The Ivy League crowns champions in 33 sports and continues to sponsor intercollegiate programs of national prominence for women and men. Lacrosse, ice hockey, fencing, soccer, rowing and squash are some of the sports in which the Ivies have been synonymous with national excellence during the league's recent history. On the average, Ivy members boast of 25 varsity teams per campus, well above the national norm.


In 1998-99, a total of four Ivy teams and crews were crowned as national champions. Brown's women's crew won the League's only NCAA championship of 1998-99; it was the school's first-ever NCAA crown. The women's ice hockey team at Harvard won the first-ever sanctioned national championship, sponsored by the AWCHA. The women's squash team from Princeton won the national title as did Harvard's lightweight crew. One hundred five Ivy athletes earned All-America status, two were national players of the year in their sports, 17 were national Academic All-Americans, and another four were honored with NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships.


The designation Ivy League [is credited to] Caswell Adams of the New York Tribune in 1937. The tag, premature of any formal agreement, was immediately adopted by the press as a foreshadowing of an eastern football league which, at the time, was big news to everyone except the athletic directors involved.


For years, the Ivy members already had been allied in leagues in basketball, ice hockey, baseball and swimming. Further common competition was found in the Heptagonal Games Association, which included Army and Navy, in the sports of baseball, track and field, and swimming. Through these other scheduling arrangements, the Ivy athletic directors were used to dealing with each other in matters of administration or the exchange of calculated confidences.


As a result of these dealings, and through extensive presidential meetings and discussions, the first Ivy Group Agreement addressing only football was signed in 1945. While the 1945 statement did not address any scheduling issues, it did affirm the observance at the eight institutions of common practices in academic standards, eligibility requirements, and the administration of financial aid for athletes. These tenets are what still bind the Ivies together today and all continue to be based on the desire to secure competition with others having like philosophies. The athletic directors, at the direction of the presidents, were then more formally organized as a committee for cooperative endeavor in the details of athletic administration and a dean from each school was appointed to a committee to exchange information on eligibility and to act for the presidents in cooperation with the athletic directors.


In February 1954, what is more commonly accepted as the founding date for the Ivy League, the Ivy Group Agreement was reissued to extend its philosophical jurisdiction to all sports and to foster, insofar as possible, intra-group competition. In layman's terms, that meant a complete round-robin schedule in football, beginning with the 1956 season. Such an agreement assuring seven spots on an eight- to ten-game schedule to Ivy opponents required numerous concessions from each institution and marked a high point in intercollegiate cooperation. The basic intent of the original Ivy agreement was to improve and foster intercollegiate athletics while keeping the emphasis on such competition in harmony with the educational purpose of the institutions.


Cheering on Brown's soccer teams; the precision and artistry of Columbia's national powerhouse fencers; the speed and stamina of Cornell's cross country runners; the 17 League football titles won by Dartmouth; an early morning workout on the Charles River for Harvard's crews; basketball games at Pennsylvania's storied Palestra; Princeton's lacrosse teams; the beauty and challenge of the layout at Yale Golf Club. These are just some of the elements that have helped the Ivies foster a wonderful, rare spirit of competition, excellence, and camaraderie for athletes, spectators, and alumni.


Located on the campus of Princeton University, the Ivy League (still known officially as the Council of Ivy Group Presidents) continues to grow under the leadership and direction of Executive Director Jeffrey H. Orleans. Since taking the post in 1984, Orleans has become a respected voice on the national scene of intercollegiate athletics.


(Editor's Note: Portions of this text appeared in the first Ivy League Football Guide in 1954 and were written by William H. McCarter, Director of Athletics at Dartmouth College from 1937-54.)




1945 - The first "Ivy Group Agreement" was signed. It addressed only football and affirmed the observance of common practices in academic standards, eligibility requirements and the administration of need-based financial aid (no athletic scholarships). The agreement also created the Presidents Policy Committee - which included the eight Presidents; the Coordination and Eligibility Committee, made up of one senior administrator from each school to which the President or Provost would naturally turn for support and advice on athletics; and the Committee on Administration, comprised of the eight directors of athletics.


February, 1954 - The Ivy Group Agreement was reissued to extend its philosophical jurisdiction to all sports. This is most commonly accepted as the league's founding date; however, the first competitive season did not take place until 1956-57.


December 21, 1969 - Clayton Chapman, Assistant Athletic Director at Cornell, was named the first Executive Secretary. The Executive Secretary's assignment was determined by whoever was the Chair of the Ivy Presidents.


March 9, 1971 - The Presidents of the Ivy Group institutions unanimously approved freshman eligibility on varsity teams except in the following sports: baseball, basketball, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, rowing and soccer.


December 15, 1971 - The Presidents approved unanimously the motion forwarded by the Ivy Deans: "The Ivy Group rules of eligibility shall not be construed to discriminate on grounds of sex."


July 7, 1973 - The Policy Committee agreed to appoint a full-time coordinator for the Ivy Group.


December 12, 1973 - Ricardo Mestres, a Vice President at Princeton, attended his first Presidents meeting as the permanent Executive Director of the Ivy Group.


December 18, 1974 - The prohibition against freshmen playing on varsity teams was removed for lacrosse, crew and soccer.


May, 1974 - The Ivy Group officially begins League championships in women's sports. Radcliffe-Harvard women crew won the first official women's Ivy championship.


March 25, 1975 - Freshman eligibility in ice hockey is approved on a three-year trial basis.


March 27, 1976 - James Litvack, a Princeton faculty member, became the second Executive Director of the Ivy Group. A joint committee was formed to make specific recommendations so that Ivy rules could be applied equitably to both men and women. The joint committee also considered rules for number of contests, length of seasons, etc., for women's teams.


February 16, 1977 - The Presidents approved a 10th game for football, which had a limit of nine until that point.


August 24-26, 1977 - The Presidents adopt the name Council of Ivy Group Presidents. The Coordination and Eligibility Committee became the Policy Committee.


December 7, 1977 - The Council accepted the Policy Committee's recommendation of a four-year extension of freshman eligibility in hockey and a new four-year period of freshman eligibility in basketball, beginning with the 1978-79 season. Following that four-year period, freshman eligibility in those two sports was made permanent.


December 4, 1981 - A special convention of the NCAA creates the I-AA football division. Ivy League members began play in that division the following September.


September, 1984 - Jeffrey Orleans, a Yale graduate and legal counsel for The University of North Carolina, was appointed the third Executive Director of the Council of Ivy Group Presidents.


June 17, 1986 - Orleans announced the appointment of Constance Huston as the Group's first Assistant Director. She headed the Group's compliance and public information functions.


June 20, 1989 - The Council approved the creation of the position of Assistant Director. That allowed the functions of compliance and public information to be split. Constance Huston (Hurlbut) was promoted to Associate Director and continued her compliance duties. Later that summer, Charles Yrigoyen III was named Assistant Director, and assumed information and championships duties.


June 19, 1990 - The Council approved an annual all-star game in football. Later that year, a team of 40 Ivy League seniors played in the first officially sanctioned Epson Ivy Bowl in Yokohama, Japan. The Ivy League team played a team of Japanese college and university all-stars. (The annual game ceased after 1996).


June 28, 1991 - The Council agreed to freshman eligibility in the sport of football, beginning with the 1993 season.


December 17, 1991 - The Council approved the Policy Committee's recommendation for 12 sessions of spring practice in the sport of football, beginning in 1994. Previously, Ivy teams were allowed only one day of practice in the spring.


February 24, 1993 - Carolyn Campbell was hired as Senior Associate Director when Constance (Huston) Hurlbut left to become Executive Director of the Patriot League.


June, 1994 - The Council approved the appointment of a Senior Women's Administrator to the Policy Committee.


May, 1998-April, 1999 - The Ivy League held a year-long celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Women's Championships. Among the many aspects of the celebration during the school year were campus events to commemorate the anniversary, a traveling photographic mural with an accompanying timeline that visited all eight schools and a two-day symposium in April at the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Marriott with almost 300 invited guests. The League's Silver Anniversary will be remembered in print with the November, 1999 publication of Silver Era, Golden Moments, a coffee-table book with more than 200 pages of written and photographic history.




Whence The Name "Ivy League"?


This article is reprinted from Columbia College Today with the permission of the editors and of the author, Robert Harron, Former New York City newspaperman and more recently assistant to the president of Columbia. Cas Adams, mentioned here, died in 1957.


Have you ever wondered how our American language grows? Sit still for a minute and I'll give you an example.


The time was Thursday afternoon, October 14, 1937. The setting was the sports department of the New York Herald-Tribune. Assignments were being made for coverage of the leading college football games of the week. The late George Daley, sports editor, and Irving Marsh, assistant sports editor, were making up the list.


To Stanley Woodward, even then a veteran and brilliant football writer, went the Pittsburgh-Fordham game at the Polo Grounds in New York. This was the game New Yorkers wanted most to read about, which was reason enough for Woodward to cover. He was then and is now one of the ablest writers the gridiron has produced in his years; and his years as a sports writer go back to about 1920.


When the other staff men got their assignments, Caswell Adams drew the Columbia-Pennsylvania game at Columbia's Baker Field in New York.


Now, Mr. Adams, who is in these days the erudite boxing expert of the New York Journal-American [Editor's note: Remember this was written in 1956], had no quarrel with either Columbia or Pennsylvania. Both, in his considered judgment, were and are splendid old institutions of higher learning. He was, however, able to restrain with relative ease his enthusiasm for football as played in that day by a number of teams representing the more venerable centers of higher education in the East. This was in the heyday of Fordham University as a major football power; and Mr. Adams is a Fordham man.


Briefly, Piquantly, without rancor, he expressed his views to the editor.


"Whyinell," he inquired, "do I have to watch the ivy grow every Saturday afternoon? How about letting me see some football away from the ivy-covered halls of learning for a change?"


He did not press the point. There was a Friday night boxing match coming up in Madison Square Garden, and he had an advance story to write. He forgot the matter.


But Stanley Woodward, at a nearby typewriter, did not forget. He had heard a new phrase. Ivy-covered? Ivy group? Ivy League?" These old schools of the East did not like leagues. They had long shunned the conference idea. Stanley likes to ruffle them occasionally and chuckled when he did so. Why not call these colleges the "Ivy League"?


Woodward wrote the weekly football review for the Herald-Tribune on Monday mornings. It was a review read with care by football men, including and especially football coaches. I recall one coach who was accustomed for several seasons to inquire of Stanley each week what game he was to cover. The coach would then forego scouting arrangements for that game. He knew Woodward's Sunday story and Monday morning technical analysis would tell him and his strategists all they needed to know about any rival.


So a few days later, though not on the Monday morning immediately following, there crept unobtrusively into a Woodward football essay the phrase "...and in the Ivy League..." as introduction to a discussion of what was happening on the fields of the East's oldest colleges which, even then and without a semblance of formal grouping, were natural and traditional rivals. Set down alphabetically, they were, of course, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale.


The phrase caught on. Other writers soon picked it up. Then football enthusiasts began to use it in conversation. Before long even some of the academicians began to adopt it. Few who used it knew, or even wondered, about its origin.


Now it has indeed come into the language. To opportunistic advertisers it is a phrase which carries the connotation of smartness in the wearing apparel of young Americans of college age. A national network radio show of some popularity made its own adaptation. To the high school senior choosing the school he hopes he attends there are two groups -- The Ivy and the others.


Educationally it has come to be actually a useful phrase, with scope reaching far beyond the confines and the campuses of the eight to which it was first so lightly and so aptly applied. It represents now in the public mind an educational philosophy that is old and established, but modern, too, and independent and unafraid. At first many believed it carried a connotation of smugness, conservatism, wealth. More and more are learning each year that this is not true.


When applied to athletics, Ivy League --- I guess the quotation marks can be dropped now --- implies a definite state of mind and set of principles, not at all the monopoly of the old Eastern colleges, but certainly the result in large part of their leadership. It is a state of mind in which intercollegiate sports competition is a completely integrated phase of the undergraduate liberal arts education; in which eligibility standards are reasoned, exacting, and honorably observed; in which the so called "athletic scholarship" is non-existent; in which academic officers assume full responsibility for sports administration.


All-American football players may be relatively few in the Ivy League in the future, but competition is rugged and exciting. It will be the competition of boys who play, not of downtown Boosters Clubs and recruiting organizations. It will be competition free of the troubles which still beset many of the younger but strangely more old-fashioned institutions in many parts of the country.


I saw Cas Adams not long ago at Baker Field, where Columbia College, the undergraduate college of 2,300 men in Columbia University; plays the only major football left in New York City.


I asked him if his contribution of an idea and, with Stanley Woodward, of a phrase to the American lexicon has brought him formal scholarly recognition from one or more of the institutions included in the now officially constituted Ivy League.


He said no. December 1963


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