Yale University failed to sell out
its allotment of tickets for this weekend’s football game
against Harvard University, with Hurricane Sandy helping produce
a rarity in the Ivy League rivalry that started in 1875.
The New Haven, Connecticut, school returned 200 of its
roughly 5,500 tickets for the Nov. 17 game, priced between $35
and $60 each, to Harvard this week, said Jeremy Makins, Yale’s
associate athletic director of ticket and rink operations.
It’s the first time since at least 2006 that Yale hasn’t
sold out road tickets for the game. This year marks the 129th
edition of the rivalry, the sport’s third-longest.
“The team struggled this season, Hurricane Sandy likely
played a role, and tickets are more expensive than they’ve been
in the past,” Makins said in a telephone interview.
Sandy struck the East Coast almost three weeks ago, leaving
4.8 million people in the New York area without power and
causing up to $50 billion in damage.
“An enormous concentration of former football lettermen
are located in the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy,” Steve
Conn, Yale’s athletic department spokesman, said in an e-mail.
“We don’t expect anyone impacted by a catastrophic storm like
Sandy to place a sporting event on their priority list.”
The Crimson (7-2, 4-2 Ivy League) can win a share of the
league title with a victory over the visiting Bulldogs (1-5,
2-7) and a University of Pennsylvania loss at Cornell
University. A loss to Harvard would give Yale its highest
conference total since 2001.
Harvard put Yale’s excess tickets on sale and probably will
attract a sellout crowd of more than 30,000 at Harvard Stadium
in Boston for the noon kickoff.
Kurt Svoboda, a Harvard athletic department spokesman,
declined in an e-mail to comment on the returned tickets or how
long it would take to sell out the additional seats, which are
worth between $7,000 and $12,000. He said in an e-mail that it’s
common for visiting schools to return tickets.
Harvard and Yale, about 130 miles apart, met for the first
time on Nov. 13, 1875. Nicknamed “The Game,” the rivalry is
played as the season’s final contest for each school and trails
only Lehigh-Lafayette (147 meetings) and Yale-Princeton (135
meetings) as college football’s oldest series.
Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk, who was part of a last-
place Harvard team in 1995 and won an Ivy League title with the
Crimson in 1997, said the game is a “special experience” for
Ivy League players, who don’t play in bowls. The crowd expected
for the contest is four times more than the 7,600 Harvard
averaged for its first five home games in 2012.
“It’s a big-time college football atmosphere, that last
game, and as a player you feel pretty fortunate,” Birk said in
a telephone interview. “The whole atmosphere, everything is
amped up. You don’t have that experience any other time for any
other game during the year.”
None of the eight elite northeastern U.S. schools in the
Ivy League offer athletic scholarships or participate in
postseason football. Harvard and Yale have combined to produce
more U.S. presidents — eight studied as undergrads at the two
schools — than Heisman Trophy winners; Yale players won college
football’s top award in 1936 and 1937, while no one from Harvard
Yale typically requests between 5,000 and 7,000 tickets for
its games at Harvard to sell to students, alumni and Bulldogs
fans, according to Makins. The school pays Harvard for the
tickets it sells and returns those that go unsold. The Crimson
won’t take any added revenue from selling the returned tickets
Makins said the school hadn’t returned tickets in Yale’s
previous two games at Harvard. Conn said in an e-mail he didn’t
know the last time the Bulldogs sent tickets back but that they
normally sell out their share.
The rivalry remains an important game for Bulldogs players,
as sophomore punter Kyle Cazzetta said as quoted by the Yale
“We have high spirits still, still want to go out and ruin
Harvard’s season, let them not have a shot at sharing the Ivy
League title,” Cazzetta said.
With the conference’s top scoring offense and stingiest
defense, Harvard has won its last five games against Yale and is
seeking a share of its 15th conference title. Princeton can also
win a share of the championship with a win against Dartmouth and
a Quakers loss.
The Harvard-Yale game will be televised on NBC Sports
Network, what Ivy League spokesman Scottie Rodgers called the
“cornerstone game” of the conference’s two-year football
rights agreement with the Comcast Corp. unit signed in May. The
game will be streamed live internationally for $9.95 on the
Harvard athletics website.
Penn coach Al Bagnoli, who has won at least a share of nine
Ivy League titles since 1992, said he understands why the Yale-
Harvard game will be televised by NBC Sports Network instead of
a shot at the outright title by the Quakers (5-4, 5-1).
“It’s traditionally two great institutions playing a game
that has great tradition to it,” Bagnoli said in a telephone
interview from Philadelphia. “If that was needed to get a
national package which benefits everyone, then that’s a great
To contact the reporters on this story:
Eben Novy-Williams in New York at
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Michael Sillup at