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

John Manning Appointed Interim Provost

Harvard Law School dean moves to central administration

Facebook’s Failures

Author and tech journalist Jeff Horwitz speaks at Harvard.

Kevin Young Named 2024 Harvard Arts Medalist

Museum director and poet to be honored April 24

Most popular

Convocation 2017: What Should an Education Be at Such a Moment?

Speakers reflect on the goals of a liberal arts university. 

Nicco Mele

The director of the Shorenstein Center on how the Internet came to mean so much to him. 

Found in Translation

Maureen Freely ’74, longtime translator of Orhan Pamuk, shares the nuances of bringing a text from one language to another.

More to explore

Photograph of Winthrop Bell 1910

Winthrop Bell

Brief life of a philosopher and spy: 1884-1965

Illustration of people talking to each other with colorful thought bubbles above their heads

Talking about Talking

Fostering healthy disagreement

Vacationing with a Purpose

New England “summer camps” for adults