Thursday’s article gave an inside perspective of Ivy League football from a pair of coaches that earned their way to more-prominent gigs during their time at Cornell and/or Harvard.
Today we continue to look at expectations and the perception of ‘smart school’ football thanks to two students’ experiences.
By Ryan Decker
Three thousand miles separate the campuses of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the University of Southern California in the middle of Los Angeles.
Twenty-one spots separate the two schools in the rankings of the top universities in the country – Harvard No. 2, and USC No. 23.
Harvard is nearly 244 years older than the school of the Trojans, but USC’s campus is, on average, about 40 degrees warmer than the Crimson’s. Southern California’s student body is also three times that of the student population in Cambridge.
One thing the two schools have in common, though, is a passion for football.
“Student’s ultimately come here for the academics,” Martinsburg, WV native, and current student at USC, Jason Hill said. “However, once you’re here, you live for game days in the fall.”
USC is home to one of the most well known and historic football programs in the country.
A total of 10 national titles, 38 conference titles, and six Heisman Trophy winners are all part of the Trojans history, which also includes over 800 wins.
Despite having not won a Pac-12 title since 2008, or a recognized national title since 2003, the USC logo is still once of the biggest recruiting tools in the nation. That’s not just for the athletes who are suiting up on Saturday’s either.
“It definitely plays into the atmosphere at USC,” Hill said. “I didn’t think it would play a major role, but I realized it did when they showed me the six Heisman trophies during my high school visit.”
On the other side of the coin is Harvard.
The Crimson football program hasn’t produced a championship 1919, sixteen years before the first Heisman Trophy was awarded, which is an award that no Harvard player has ever won.
Despite that, Harvard has won the ninth-most games in NCAA history. That’s 44 more than the Trojans, and is second only Yale in terms of Ivy League schools. Yale sits third all-time, just three wins behind Notre Dame for second place.
In fact, four Ivy League university football programs are among the 15 winningest programs of all time.
The players get after it, and so do the fans.
“In terms of die-hard fans, absolutely they’d fit in (at traditional football schools),” Martinsburg, WV native, and current sophomore at Harvard Tyler Jenkins said. “I have no doubt. They may be fewer in number here, but the committed few are indistinguishable from the die-hard state school fan.”
Harvard fans expect their team to compete.
And their expectations are usually met.
The Crimson haven’t won fewer than eight games in a season since 2010, when they won seven games in back-to-back seasons. They also haven’t had a losing record sine 1998 (4-6), and three times since that season they went undefeated in regular season play.
Harvard’s off to a 3-0 start this year.
Jenkins told me one reason there could be a misconception about how much Harvard fans especially pay attention to football is because the team is so good.
“We kind of deal the ‘Martinsburg syndrome’ with football I’d say,” he said. “We usually blow the other teams in our league out of the water in most games so they aren’t as well attended because of the fact, and most students leave after halftime.”
Rooting for a team so good you can leave at halftime must be a nice problem to have.
USC may not be Ivy League per se, but the Trojans certainly fall into the category of “smart” or academic schools that are really good at football. Harvard fits into the category, as well.
Both universities’ long history and tradition of winning certainly means there are expectations every year for the team to succeed. With that many smart people around the program, though, you better believe those people are realistic.
“USC fans definitely begin every season with optimism that this is our year,” Hill said. “I will say that USC fans are always the first to criticize their team for poor performance. We have high expectations for our sports teams.”