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Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

John Harvard's Journal

Hard Times for Harvard Football

March-April 2010

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

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

Photograph by John Sneddon

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).