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December 5, 2018

LRT Sports Top 5: The Top 5 Ivy League Football Facilities and Locker Rooms

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With the 2018-19 NCAA football season getting increasingly exciting with each passing week as Bowl Season approaching, we wanted to make a post focusing on a set of very highly respected academic institutions whose respective football program won’t be in the conversation for the College Football Playoff Semi-Final; the Ivy League programs. Don’t let the last part of that introduction mislead you; while the FCS landscape has drastically changed over the years to the advantage of NCAA football programs primarily in conferences like the SEC and Big Ten, the Ivy League dominated college football for decades. Moreover, it’s safe to say that not every college football fan knows this, but the Ivy League doesn’t participate in the FCS Playoffs. This is due to a variety of reasons, with the key ones all relating to the landscape changes since the time the Ivy League dominated college football, but when this conversation was revisited in 2016, we learned this is unlikely to change anytime soon. The Ivy League is one of just three FCS conferences that does not participate in the annual NCAA Division I Football Championship, and it is the only league that does not take part in any postseason play (Brighenti, Yale Daily News).  The discussion was re-started in 2016 specifically after the Ivy League ironically came under scrutiny because they put up incredibly impressive statistics while continuing to refuse participation. The Ivy League had two top 25 nationally ranked schools, with Harvard at No. 20 and Dartmouth at No. 23 (Brighenti, Yale Daily News).

Moreover, for the 2016 recruiting class, three Ivy League schools had recruiting classes ranked inside the top five of the 247Sports Composite Team Rankings; a list that includes 125 total FCS programs (Unnamed Writer, 247 Sports). The response from the Ivy League Executive Director at the time, Robin Harris, was right on par with the usual: “The Ivy League presidents are not interested in allowing participation [in] the NCAA Division I Football Championship for several reasons, including its potential impact on academics with a schedule that extends into December and early January”. Harris continued with adding, “[Ivy presidents] value Ivy League football as it currently exists and also believes the focus should be on the regular season in football, and that the traditions and the history of Ivy League football should be paramount.” (Associated Press)

So unless the NCAA is willing to essentially make scheduling exceptions for only Ivy League schools, or the Ivy League schools as a whole would be willing to risk the academic success of their students – neither of which is realistic – Ivy League football programs will continue to sit out the FCS postseason. It’s certainly unfortunate for college football fans given the possible threat they could pose to SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, and other powerhouse conferences with schools routinely competing in the National Championship. Yale University is an obvious prime example. The Bulldogs hold an incredibly impressive 18 national championships in their school’s history, though it’s worth nothing their most recent came in 1927 (Wilco, NCAA.com). Alabama and Princeton are tied for 2nd with 15 each and Harvard is tied for 8th all-time with Ohio State, who each hold eight national titles (Wilco, NCAA.com). For those that follow NCAA football very closely, they’d know Daniel Wilco is a recognizable and very respected name in that group. He had the following to say about the history of Yale’s football program: “Yale football has one of the most impressive resumes in the sport, with two of the first three Heisman winners, 100 All-Americans, 28 Hall of Fame inductees, and 18 national championships recognized by the NCAA — the most all time” (Wilco, NCAA.com).

The historical value of each college football program in the Ivy League, coupled with their enormous endowments and the obvious academic benefits to students who wind up graduating make these schools extremely desirable options for uniquely talented high-school football recruits. Since the landscape has changed so much over an extended period of time, like other schools who can’t honestly pitch themselves as National Championship contenders, Ivy League schools will always have among of the finest athletic facilities in the country. Arguably the most notable  (and the part that this post will specifically focus on) is the player locker rooms. Considering the host of subjective factors that would go into determining what makes one locker room better than another (plus as you’ll come to see very shortly, pretty much every Ivy League college football locker room is amazing), we’ve based our list on the Ivy League football program with the most Ivy League Conference Championships. Enjoy!

#5: Princeton University – 12 Ivy League Conference Championships

Considering where they rank out of the eight Ivy League football programs in terms of overall national championships won, it’s quite surprising to see the Princeton Tigers are fifth in all-time Ivy League championships.  Having won a total of 12 conference titles – with the first coming in 1957 and the most recent in 2018 – the Tigers football team has been a consistent annual threat to win the Ivy League title. Factoring in Princeton University’s total endowment reported for 2018 at $25.9 billion; it’s not surprising they have remarkable and unique football facilities (Office of Communications, Princeton University).

From 1914 all the way through 1996, the Princeton Tigers played their football games in their school’s historic Palmer Stadium (Elliot, Princeton Athletic News). Princeton football’s current home stadium, Princeton University Stadium, opened on September 19, 1998, and has a seating capacity of 27,883 attendees (Elliot, Princeton Athletic News). The construction cost of the stadium in 1996 was a staggering $45 million, which translates to approximately 67.2 million dollars in 2017 (Levin, Princeton Magazine). Princeton University Stadium amenities are largely considered luxurious, even for an Ivy League football program. Some of their most impressive features include: high-tech press boxes, luxury suites, upscale grandstand seating sections, newly renovated FieldTurf, and the now famous Princeton University Stadium rock climbing wall, which opened in 2008 (Elliot, Princeton Athletic News).

Princeton University Stadium during the Off-Season

Finally, when the Princeton Tigers aren’t in their school’s football stadium they almost exclusively practice at the Finney-Campbell Practice Fields, directly to the east of Princeton University Stadium. This facility is comprised of roughly 1,600 square feet of playing surface, with two lined full-sized football fields outfitted with newly renovated FieldTurf, the same type that’s used in Princeton University Stadium (JR White, The Day).

#4: Yale University – 15 Ivy League Conference Championships

While all the Ivy League schools on this list have had exceptional success, most fans seem to view the Yale Bulldogs football program as historically the most accomplished program in the Ivy League. Taking into account their all-time record of 890–366–55 – a 70% winning percentage – the Bulldogs appear to have earned that reputation. Unlike how Princeton tore down Palmer Field built in 1914, the Yale Bulldogs football team still plays their home games at the Yale Bowl, their home since 1914. The Yale Bowl is located about a mile away from the main campus and currently seats a maximum capacity of 61,446, which has been reduced from the original 70,869 capacity following subsequent renovations and stadium-upgrade projects (Conn, Yale University Media).

Yale Bowl during a Yale Bulldogs football home game vs Harvard

The Yale Bowl is a hallmark of Yale University and undoubtedly the Bulldogs football program. This structure has been so significant that the US Government declared it a National Historic Landmark in 1987 (Charleton, National Park Service).

Taking into consideration Yale football’s amazing all-time performance and the historical significance to the Yale Bowl, their personal team locker rooms are still similarly impressive. From a 7,000 foot weight room on the 4th floor of the Payne Whitney Gymnasium, to an upgraded players lounge with multiple flat screen TVs, both an Xbox One and PS4, and an endless supply of snacks, to Yale football practice facility, which encompasses four full football fields adjacent to one another, the Bulldogs appear to have a dream locker room for any high school athlete looking to play NCAA football (Yale University Athletics Department, yalebulldogs.com).

#3: Harvard University – 17 Ivy League Conference Championships

While Harvard has the 3rd most Ivy League Conference Championships in the conference’s history, let’s say they’re not too far off from the top two teams. The Crimson has an all-time record of 829-383-50, putting them right below Yale with approximately a 67.8% winning percentage (NCAA Football, ncaa.com). To go along with 17 Ivy League Conference Championships, the Harvard Crimson football program’s legacy also includes 13 national championships, 20 NCAA HOF inductees (including the first African-American to attain that honor), and finally the Crimson are the eighth most winning team in all of NCAA DI football history (Goldstein, New York Times). Though they don’t compare in national championships to schools like Yale or Princeton, they’ve certainly enjoyed their fair share of great success over the years.  

Just like their archrival Yale Bulldogs, Harvard has been playing – and is continuing to play – in their original stadium, which is the nation’s oldest permanent structure dedicated to intercollegiate athletics (Kennelly, Harvard Crimson). Harvard Stadium, a horseshoe-shaped football stadium, was built in 1903 and stayed within the budget of $200,000 the project was allotted (gocrimson.com). Harvard Stadium and the Yale Bowl are two of the four athletic arenas that are distinguished by the US Government as National Historic Landmarks (Charleton, National Park Service).

Harvard Field during “The Game” Vs. Yale

Surprisingly, Harvard’s locker rooms and general student-athlete facilities don’t have a lot of the bells and whistles some of the other schools on this list do. Their highlights include a newly renovated locker room, a state-of-the-art gym, and a large recreation center. There’s nothing extravagant about Harvard football athletic facilities; they’re great quality, well built structures, with up-to-date equipment and technology. As Harvard has the highest endowment in the world year after year – plus their athletic department is one of the best in college sports history – you’d expect them to have a few more uniquely impressive attributes to their athletic facilities.

T – #1: University of Pennsylvania – 18 Ivy League Conference Championships

Being that the two Ivy League football programs are currently tied for the all-time lead in conference championships, we’ll start with the team that has the least overall conference championships between the two, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). UPenn dubs itself “college football’s most historic program” (Unnamed Writer, pennathletics.com). While most would agree that’s a bit of a stretch, there’s no doubt the Quakers football program has an impressive history. For starters, the University of Pennsylvania is the alma mater of John Heisman, the collegiate athlete who the legendary Heisman Trophy is named after. In addition to their record-tying 18 Ivy League Conference Championships, the Quakers have claimed 7 national championships, developed 63 First Team All-Americans, and have amassed a remarkable 837 total wins with a 62.9% all-time winning percentage since the Quakers played their first ever competitive collegiate football game in 1895 (Caldwell, New York Times).

UPenn football home stadium, Franklin Field, has a distinguished history of its own. According to the NCAA, Franklin Field – which opened in 1895 – is the oldest stadium still operating in football, it was the first stadium to open with a built-in scoreboard, after an earlier renovation it became the country’s first stadium with upper deck seating, and it was the stadium that was host to the first radio broadcast of a football game (Gertner, Daily Pennsylvanian). Additionally, from 1958 to 1970, Franklin Field was the home stadium of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. While it opened in 1895 and hosted the Quakers football team’s first-ever home game that same year, the current stadium structure wasn’t in place until the 1920s, at the time of opening, it was built at a total cost of $100,000. However in 1903 another $500,000 was dedicated to further construction of the stadium, then in 1916, there was an additional $750,000 expansion project to the stadium. Finally, in 1922, the original wooden bleachers were torn down, and brand new concrete seating that held up to 50,000 fans was built. Furthermore, in 1925, a second-tier that could seat up to 28,000 additional fans was erected (Gertner, Daily Pennsylvanian). It was after the completion of the second-tier in 1925 when the stadium – named after the University of Pennsylvania’s founder Benjamin Franklin – was at its peak with the ability to seat up to 78,000 attendees. After a significant number of renovations and upgrades in subsequent years, today Franklin Field has a total capacity of 52,958 for UPenn football home games (Penn Football Fact Book, pennathletics.com).

Franklin Field during the Quakers Off-Season period

When it comes to the Quakers other facilities, they’re not nearly as noteworthy. They’re an Ivy League school – whose football team is currently tied for the most Ivy League Conference Championships of all-time – but there’s nothing exotic about them. According to the University of Pennsylvania athletic department website, UPenn’s football team has access to an especially large and modern gym, indoor and outdoor practice facilities, an impressively-sized swimming pool, a separate weight room, their own dining area, and a fairly traditional locker room (pennathletics.com). Their locker room appears to be maintained well and does have flat screen TV’s, but aside from that we couldn’t really find anything noteworthy. Considering the legacy of the Quakers football program and the historical significance of Franklin Field, their locker room not having excessive amenities is unlikely to deter many college football prospects at all.

The University of Pennsylvania Football Team’s Post-Game Locker Room

T – #1: Dartmouth College – 18 Ivy League Conference Championships

To many this may come as a surprise, however the Dartmouth College Big Green football team is tied for the Ivy League Conference Championships record with 18, along with the University of Pennsylvania Quakers (NCAA Football, ncaa.com). The reason Dartmouth was ultimately chosen over UPenn is they actually have a total of 25 conference championships; 2 in the Eastern Intercollegiate Football Association, 6 in the Triangular Football League, and 18 in the Ivy League (Sports-Reference). In its embryonic form, football at Dartmouth College was played as early as 1876, but swiftly ended – temporarily – when the goalposts were removed for the 1877 annual commencement (Unnamed Writer, Dartmouth Sports). Football at Dartmouth came back pretty soon and the team’s first officially recorded football season was 1881 (Unnamed Writer, Dartmouth Sports). The college’s football history and conference championships record is a bit deceiving, as Dartmouth falls well short of other schools in the Ivy League on other statistics. They’ve only claimed one national championship in 1925, their all-time record is a pretty average 643–422–46 (equating to a 59.9% all-time winning percentage), and they’ve only had 15 Consensus All-Americans throughout the years (Lessels, National Collegiate Athletic Association Press).

The Big Green football team plays their home games at Memorial Field located in Hanover, New Hampshire and owned by Dartmouth College. The stadium has an official listed as 11,000, however Dartmouth lists the maximum capacity at 15,600 for Big Green football games (dartmouthsports.com). They also assert the stadium was officially opened in 1893, though it was called Alumni Oval, due to its construction funded by Dartmouth’s alumni. After that structure burned down in 1911, over a decade later in 1923, the college provided funding to build Memorial Field, which had a capacity of 22,000 at the time (dartmouthsports.com). Surprisingly, the stadium didn’t have a major renovation all the way until 2006. During the summer of 2006, natural grass was replaced with artificial turf, new safety improvements were constructed, a new varsity athletics center was built, bleacher seats were replaced, and the scoreboard was moderately upgraded (Baker, Stadium Journey). Even though the renovation was much needed and clearly improved the stadium as a whole, it reduced the capacity to the officially listed 11,000 attendees. Although the stadium may have an interesting history, it pales in comparison to other Ivy League schools and simply doesn’t compare to the home stadium of any major NCAA DI football programs.

Memorial Field during a day game between the Dartmouth Big Green and Yale Bulldogs (Dartmouth Athletics)

Finally, though Dartmouth states they’ve spent over $100 million since 2000 on their athletic facilities, not that much of it went towards their football team (Dartmouth Athletics, dartmouthsports.com). Aside from the 2006 renovations to Memorial Field, the Big Green football team has only benefited from the newly built Floren Varsity House – which features a 10,000 square foot varsity strength training center – and a very modestly upgraded locker room, which was really just a simple expansion of the existing one.

The Dartmouth Big Green football team’s locker room post-expansion (Dartmouth Athletics)

Taking all factors into account, especially considering the general funding for Dartmouth College’s athletic programs comes from alumni contributions, it’s undeniably impressive that The Big Green are the number one Ivy League football team on this list.


Updated 12-5-18; previous author: Devin Moore