Yale and Colgate’s football teams first met 105 years ago, before Colgate was the “Raiders”

Yale and Colgate have been playing football against each other for over 100 years. This photo's from their Oct. 2004 meeting, which Yale won, 31-28. (AP Photo/Bob Child)
Yale and Colgate have been playing football against each other for over 100 years. This photo's from their Oct. 2004 meeting, which Yale won, 31-28. (AP Photo/Bob Child)

By: Joel Alderman

Although Colgate was never an Ivy League school, its football teams have a more than occasional history of playing Yale. It predates the opening of the Yale Bowl a hundred years ago. Their first game together goes back to 1909, a fact that becomes relevant as the two rivals get set to meet again this Saturday (Oct. 18th) in the Bowl.

By simple arithmetic this will be the 105th anniversary of the first Colgate-Yale game, which incidentally was won by those ancient Bulldogs, 36-0.

However, the team from Hamilton, N.Y., near the Oneida Indian Nation, got, what for it, was a landmark decision in 1915. It made its debut in the new Bowl, the year after it opened as Colgate defeated an apparently outclassed Yale team, 15-0. The week before it had defeated Army for its 100th win, and finished the season 5-1.

Yale Colgate
A program from the Yale-Colgate game featuring head coach Carm Cozza and QB Brian Dowling in 1968. (Above is used with permission of Yale Athletic Association).

Yale avoided a Colgate powerhouse

The games between Colgate and Yale were played fairly regularly, but not in 1932. That may have been a break for the Bulldogs, for the 1932 Colgate team was certainly the best in its history. It won all nine games and outscored its opponents by an amazing 234 points to none. As a result, Colgate expected to be invited to play in the Rose Bowl.

Undefeated, untied, unscored upon, and uninvited

The bid for the Rose Bowl never came. Its fans and football fans in general were in disbelief. Some anonymous newspaper writer came up with a phrase to describe the shock that has become a classic in sports jargon. Colgate had to settle for being “undefeated, untied, unscored upon, and uninvited.”

That’s a good trivia question for college football fans. Even for those who had heard those words before, most of them would be hard pressed to apply it to the correct team. The answer, as we now know, is Colgate.

Red Raiders was too offensive to remain

Perhaps a much more significant aspect to the coming appearance of Colgate in New Haven is that it is no longer known as the Red Raiders, although many still think otherwise.

First to go was the Indian mascot, which disappeared some time in the 1970s.

Then, thirteen years ago, before the 2001 season got underway, the university’s Board of Trustees formally eliminated the word Red from its nickname, leaving just the Raiders, by which they are now known and will be known on this and many other Saturdays. In making the change, the Board passed the following resolution:

“WHEREAS, the nickname Red Raiders was originally coined by Dexter Teed as a reference to the new maroon uniforms of the 1932 football team, but later associations for many years created references to Native American caricatures and mascots,

“AND WHEREAS, though Colgate dropped the Native American references in the 1970s, sentiments connected to the old mascot linger and there has been pressure to change the nickname,

“AND WHEREAS the on-campus Committee on Athletics – comprising students, faculty and staff – has recommended that Red be dropped from the Red Raider nickname to remove any possible inference of a racial stereotype,

“AND WHEREAS, the State Education Department is encouraging high schools throughout the state to change nicknames and mascots that signal a racial stereotype and Red Raiders is on that targeted list,

“AND WHEREAS Colgate recruits students from those schools and seeks to be a model for them,

“THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Colgate teams henceforth shall be known as the Raiders, and further, that as new uniforms, equipment and publications are phased in, they will incorporate the new name.”

Last week’s visiting team went through a similar change

In a strange bit of irony, this will be the second consecutive week that a team coming into the Yale Bowl will have diverted from its earlier nickname, and for the same reasons. Last week it was Dartmouth, known for a long time as the Indians. I can remember, as part of its pre-game and halftime band performances, a student paraded on the field shirtless, in bronze makeup, wearing a headdress, flaunting a tomahawk, and whooping it up. Even the Yale-Dartmouth programs featured cover caricatures of Indians.

Finally, in 1974, the Dartmouth Board of Trustees put an end to the Indian identification and made the college’s official nickname the Big Green. I have been in full agreement with the change, but am still to understand exactly what is a Big Green. Dartmouth could have done better.

Most of the young men on the field this Saturday would probably agree that those former monikers were inappropriate, just as today there are pressures being exerted on two professional teams, the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians, to change their nicknames.

Colgate and Dartmouth, as well as other educational institutions, have led the way to change. And one of them will be represented in the Yale Bowl on Saturday. Sports fans should be happy to welcome the Colgate Raiders.

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