October 30, 2008

MIT Football Moves Nov. 8 Kick-Off to Play Under the Lights

Oct. 30, 2008

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Originally scheduled for noon, the MIT-Endicott football game on November 8 has been moved to 6 p.m. Next week’s celebration marking 30 years of football at the Institute will now coincide with the program’s first-ever night game.

Endicott is 5-0 all-time against MIT on the gridiron, including a 30-7 victory last season in Beverly. The Engineers, meanwhile, are in the midst of their best season in nine years and have secured three conference wins for the first time since 2000. MIT is paced by one of the top offenses in Division III, and is ranked among the national leaders in scoring, total offense, rushing yards, fewest sacks and fewest penalties.

History of MIT Football
Football has always been a buzz word at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The program was elevated to varsity status in 1988 amid intensive media coverage. National cable stations and newspapers devoted significant time monitoring Tech’s arrival on the gridiron as America became fascinated with football at the nation’s leading academic institution. Although MIT received its “official” start in the late 1980’s, the history of the program is actually much deeper and extends over 100 years.

The first MIT football team took the field as one of the Institute’s first varsity sports in 1881. A single game was played that year, with MIT defeating the University of Massachusetts, one goal and one touch to zero. On October 9, 1901, the program was permanently sidelined after player Hugh C. Moore suffered a fatal injury during an MIT tradition known as the “cane rush”. Although the accident had nothing to do with football, MIT President Dr. Henry Smith Pritchett seized the opportunity to denounce the idea of fostering a program during a meeting with the student body abolishing the “cane rush”. According to campus lore, Pritchett left the platform after his remarks, causing most of the 500+ students in attendance to believe the meeting was over. With a depleted student population voting on the continuation of the sport, students voted to banish football by a slim 119-117 margin.

At that point, the matter should have been passed onto the Institute Advisory Council, where the student vote should have been only part of a series of considerations toward the abolition of the sport. However, Dr. Pritchett had the result he wished for and let the student vote stand as the sole determinant on the fate of football at the Institute.

MIT fraternities had been calling for the reestablishment of football since 1965, although repeated attempts to convince a change were unsuccessful. In 1978, the Tech faithful finally got their wish behind the efforts of players Bruce Wrobel and Walt Crosby. The Athletic Board decided to let the program operate as a club on a one-year trial basis. After a hugely successful opening season, the Athletic Board okayed funding for the Engineers to continue beyond 1979, making football the Institute’s 36th intercollegiate program.

MIT’s ascension to Division III varsity status came as a result of a necessity rather than sudden ambition. Tech was part of a league that was increasingly shrinking as other school’s made the flight to Division III. In 1988, head coach Dwight Smith, who coincidentally commanded the Engineers since their first club game, led MIT to a 29-7 win over Stonehill College to officially usher in the new era. Shane LaHousse rushed for a school-record four touchdowns in the victory.