Hard Times for Harvard Football

Harvard at Army, 1948: The Black Knights won, 20-7. The ball carrier is Chuck Roche ’50.

Bolstered by war veterans enrolling under the GI Bill, Harvard’s 1946 football squad was hailed as the best in decades. Yet the next four seasons brought a mounting series of defeats, attributable in part to bad scheduling, bad coaching, bad breaks, and in one instance—a 44-0 loss at Stanford Stadium—bad footwear. Those Crimson teams did not lack fighting spirit, but the seasons of 1949 (1-8) and 1950 (1-7) were the worst in Harvard annals. Administrators weighed giving up football, but opted instead to help form an Ivy League athletic conference as a corrective to the excesses of big-time college football. Those arduous years are recaptured in “The Old Timers”: Harvard Football, 1946-1950, a video documentary scripted and narrated by George Abrams ’54, LL.B. ’57. A Boston attorney, art collector, and diehard football fan, Abrams made the 45-minute DVD as a tribute to a band of former players who call themselves the Old Timers and gather for fall reunions. Ex-gridders of that era include Howard Houston ’50, Phillip Isenberg ’51, M.D. ’55, and Carroll Lowenstein ’52, who respectively captained the teams of 1949–1951; place-kicker Emil Drvaric ’49,  M.D. ’53, and John Coan ’50, M.B.A. ’53, rugged linemen who lettered three times; Chester Pierce ’48, M.D. ’52, the first African American to compete against a major Southern team; and Hal Moffie ’50, M.A.T. ’59, who still holds the record for Harvard’s longest punt-return touchdown (89 yards versus Holy Cross, 1948). 

The “Old Timers” DVD is available for $20, including shipping, from Play It Again Video Productions, 31 Fremont St., Needham, Mass. 02494 (tel. 800-872-0986).

You might also like

The Roman Empire’s Cosmopolitan Frontier

Genetic analysis reveals a culture enriched from both sides of the Danube.

Tobacco Smoke and Tuberculosis

Harvard researchers illuminate a longstanding epidemiological connection. 

Discourse and Discipline

Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences broaches two tough topics.

Most popular

Yesterday’s News

Headlines from Harvard’s history

Chiara String Quartet

The Chiara String Quartet are Harvard's current Blodgett Artists-in-Residence.

Storytelling Scholar

Marie Rutkoski blends sixteenth-century history with fantasy in The Cabinet of Wonders, a new novel for young adults.

More to explore

Illustration of a box containing a laid-off fossil fuel worker's office belongings

Preparing for the Energy Transition

Expect massive job losses in industries associated with fossil fuels. The time to get ready is now.

Apollonia Poilâne standing in front of rows of fresh-baked loaves at her family's flagship bakery

Her Bread and Butter

A third-generation French baker on legacy loaves and the "magic" of baking

Illustration that plays on the grade A+ and the term Ai

AI in the Academy

Generative AI can enhance teaching and learning but augurs a shift to oral forms of student assessment.