Yale football coach Tony Reno has no complaints facing improved Patriot League opponents, but would welcome a bye week in the schedule

Yale head coach Tony Reno says he likes playing against tougher Patriot League competition.
Yale head coach Tony Reno says he likes playing against tougher Patriot League competition.

By Joel Alderman

Yale football coach Tony Reno said that despite the Patriot League now granting athletic scholarships, he believes the increasingly stiffer competition from its teams is good for his players.

Reno answered some of my questions about scheduling at the weekly media luncheon on Tuesday. He said that he likes the idea of a bye week during the season, something Yale did in its glory days on the Saturday before the back-to-back Princeton and Harvard games.

Patriot league now has scholarships and post-season play

The Ivy and Patriot Leagues have had interchangeable match ups since Lafayette played Penn in 1882. The rationale has been that the universities have similar academic and philosophical standards.

But that began to change with the recruiting classes of 2013, when a large number of scholarships were first awarded. This year most of the players from freshmen to seniors are attending those schools on athletic scholarships. The Ivy League, meanwhile, sticks to giving scholarships only on the basis of need and not athletic ability.

“We knew this day was coming six years ago,” Reno said, “and we’ve been willing to accept it because these are great educational institutions who share a lot of the values in our league.”

As the gap widens so does the differential in team play. Already this year Yale lost decisively to Colgate (55-13) and Lehigh (63-35). Last week the Bulldogs played very competitively against Fordham, but still fell 44-37. Yet other Ivy-Patriot pairings this season have resulted in blowouts.

Though fairly close, Holy Cross just shocked Ivy favorite Harvard, 27-17, for only the Crimson’s second loss in three years.

How it started

Several years ago the Ivy League and Patriot (formerly Colonial) League agreed to long terms schedules, but that was before the Patriot went the scholarship route and also allowed its winner to take part in a post-season Bowl game.

The only Bowl games Yale can play in are the ones in the Yale Bowl!

“I’m happy to keep playing those teams,” Reno answered when the question was posed. “Yes, they are getting tougher and tougher, but it’s a great challenge to face strong teams” citing Army two years ago and Maine on the road last year. Yale won both contests.

“We look forward to going against Maine again next season in the Bowl,” he added.

Yale will go to the Southland

Meanwhile, Yale may be subtlety cutting down on Patriot League opponents. In 2018 the Bulldogs will journey to Georgia to face Mercer in the first of a four game series. The following year they will go against Richmond in Virginia, before the Spiders come to New Haven in 2020.

The need for a bye week

The other scheduling question I asked Tony Reno was whether he would like a bye week during each season. He enthusiastically answered in the affirmative.

“Our kids have a tremendous amount of pressure, while playing football at the same time,” he pointed out. “Studies are so important to them and sometimes it’s hard to fit everything in. Having a break in the schedule would let them catch up on things like term papers, not to mention have more time to recover from injuries.”

A bye week could happen if the league permitted the teams to leave an open date by starting the season one week earlier, and still finish before Thanksgiving, which is their goal.

This would also reduce the inequality of opening a season against an opponent with anywhere from one to three games under its belt. That problem could also be alleviated by opening with an Ivy League match-up, such as Yale-Brown. Both teams would be on an equal footing.

Change comes slowly in the Ivy League, but in all fairness to its players, this is something that should be explored. Stick with the Colonial League, but give the student-athletes a breather. We haven’t surveyed the seven other coaches in the league. But at least one of them is for it.

Tony Reno.

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