Category Archives: A Rivalry: Stories From The Most-Played College Football Series

#TheRivalry Through The Decades: From 1887 To 2017

I thought a fun way this season to show off the historic nature of Lehigh and Lafayette's football Rivalry might be to do a jump through the decades.

(If you want to learn more about the Lehigh and Lafayette Rivalry, read my book: The Rivalry: How Two Schools Started the Most Played College Football Series, available in both paperback in Kindle versions.)

Lehigh and Lafayette's Rivalry in football started in 1884, when Lafayette student manager (and founder of the football team) Theodore Welles approached the founder and student manager of Lehigh football, J.S. Robeson, and challenged them to a game of "foot-ball", a ground-based game that resembled more of a cross between rugby and soccer than the modern game of today.

Let's turn back the clock 130 years, and proceed decade by decade, and you'll see how many times Lehigh and Lafayette have played over the years, and hopefully get an appreciation on how the game changed and evolved over time.
Read more »

#TheRivalry Through The Decades: From 1887 To 2017

I thought a fun way this season to show off the historic nature of Lehigh and Lafayette's football Rivalry might be to do a jump through the decades.

(If you want to learn more about the Lehigh and Lafayette Rivalry, read my book: The Rivalry: How Two Schools Started the Most Played College Football Series, available in both paperback in Kindle versions.)

Lehigh and Lafayette's Rivalry in football started in 1884, when Lafayette student manager (and founder of the football team) Theodore Welles approached the founder and student manager of Lehigh football, J.S. Robeson, and challenged them to a game of "foot-ball", a ground-based game that resembled more of a cross between rugby and soccer than the modern game of today.

Let's turn back the clock 130 years, and proceed decade by decade, and you'll see how many times Lehigh and Lafayette have played over the years, and hopefully get an appreciation on how the game changed and evolved over time.
Read more »

LFN Look Back: Chance At the Postseason On The Line in ’77

The latest disco music was available right off campus at "Records and Things".  A young Phillies pitcher named Steve Carlton wins his second Cy Young Award.  Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life" topped the charts, spending 10 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard .  Rocky was still in theaters.  Billy Joel would tour Bethlehem and the valley, perhaps setting the stage for his later hit Allentown.

In local news in 1977, Lehigh was also in the running for an invitation to the football postseason.

Coming into the 113th meeting between the Leopards and Engineers, as they were commonly known at the time, never before had been so much on the line for Lehigh.  In front of an expected sellout crowd of 18,000 people, a win would in all probablility give them the Lambert Cup, given to the best team in the East, and an invitation to the Division II playoffs.

But a loss to the team that beat them last year would see all of Lehigh's opportunities fade away, the chance to qualify for the eight-team postseason playoff and championship Bowls, the opportunity to reverse last year's humbling loss to the Leopards.

It was win, and get the hardware, and a chance to compete for the championship.  Lose, and sit at home, wondering what could have been.
Read more »

LFN Look Back: Paul Dashiell Helps Deliver Lehigh A "State Championship" in 1889

Paul Dashiell
“A silver cup has been offered by Mr. R. P. Linderman, Lehigh ‘84, as a trophy of the foot-ball championship of Pennsylvania,” the Lehigh Burr reported in 1889.  “Designs for the cup have not yet been prepared but it will be very handsome, of massive silver, while special care will be taken to secure a design thoroughly artistic and appropriate, and the cup will be fully equal to any college trophy of the kind ever offered.  The [articles and conditions drawn up for the Championship] is not intended to form a foot-ball league, such a thing being deemed unnecessary, but to provide such general regulations as will fairly determine the state championship.”

The idea of Lehigh, Lafayette and Penn competing for the "state championship" has as its origins the student newspapers, who had started tallying the records of the games between each other in the hopes of crowning a mythical "champion of Pennsylvania".

In 1888, Lehigh and Lafayette played each other twice, and played Penn once apiece in Philadelphia.

But the final records of Lehigh (2-1), Penn (2-1) and Lafayette (1-2) made it inconclusive as to who the state champion really was.

In 1889, with interest high in some sort of champions to be crowned, all three schools made an attempt to start a true "Championship of Pennsylvania", complete with its own trophy.  It was was founded in part to broaden the interest in football at both Lehigh and Lafayette, to be sure, but it also may have been a way to lock in Penn to playing return games in the Lehigh Valley, as Penn had already cancelled return games against both Lehigh and Lafayette in the past.

It made for a thrilling season, and one that further intensified the already-fierce Rivalry.
Read more »

LFN Look Back: How Lehigh Boosters Helped Beat Lafayette In 1902

Only one football coach ever led both Lehigh and Lafayette to victories in the Rivalry.

In 1898, suffering through Parke Davis' final season, the head coach that had led Lafayette to the heights of natonal prominence brought in four different coaches to find a way to beat Lehigh in their second meeting at the end of the season.

One of those great football minds Davis brought in was Dr. Sylvanus P. Newton, a former Penn football player, Phi Beta Kappa scholar and expert football strategist.

Dr. Newton played a critical role for Lafayette in a slushy ice bowl in 1898, using the talents of their kicker, Ed Bray, and an ingenious way to deliver free kicks.

"Captain Best, the holder, and Bray, the kicker, scraped away the four inches of slush and snow so the ball could be placed on the ground for an attempt," the book Legends of Lehigh/Lafayette tells us.  "The visibility [on the 35 yard field goal] was so poor that the crowd at first was silent, not knowing exactly what had happened.  Several minutes later, the word spread that the kick was good, and the crowd exploded for the amazing feat (or foot) of Ed Bray”.

The use of Newton's placement kick - his own invention - “made such an impression upon those in charge at Lafayette that he was invited to be their coach the following fall,” Francis March wrote in the book Athletics at Lafayette College.
Read more »

LFN Look Back: Mob Scenes and Rioting Mark the Rivalry in 1962

It was the end of an era - in more ways than one.

Sure, Lehigh and Lafayette students had performed midnight raids on the others' campuses plenty of times before, and done plenty of shenanigans in the towns of Bethlehem and Easton, some above board, some not.

"The Rivalry" has always involved pranks, including the occasional arrest for painting the Lafayette Leopard Brown and White, for example.

But in 1962, at a smaller scale yet predating the big stuff that would be coming in six short years at Kent State ("Four Dead in Ohio", Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young), it seemed like there was a rising level of tension between law enforcement and students in the air in the game between Lehigh and Lafayette in 1962.

"Over 400 Lafayette students marched on Easton Nov. 15th after the annual pep rally and bonfire before the Lehigh game and had to be dispersed with fire hoses," the Lafayette reported.  "Observers said the demonstration was the most riotous display in more than 30 years."
Read more »

LFN Look Back: Lambert Cup Competition Adds Sizzle To Rivalry

Brown and White, 1957
Everyone had heard of the Lambert Trophy on the campuses of Lehigh and Lafayette.

Awarded to the most outstanding college football team in the East, it was routinely won by some of the legendary big-school programs of the time.  Jock Sutherland's Pitt teams and Earl "Red" Blaik's Army teams dominated the Lambert Trophy balloting in the first couple of decades of the award.

In 1957 the Lamberts and their board members, including Kermit Roosevelt, son of Teddy Roosevelt,  decided that there ought to be a Lambert Trophy for smaller schools in the

East as well - schools that played against "major colleges", but didn't play the majority

of their games against those schools.

It gave an extra jolt of excitement to the Rivalry.
Read more »

LFN Look Back: Lambert Cup Competition Adds Sizzle To Rivalry

Brown and White, 1957
Everyone had heard of the Lambert Trophy on the campuses of Lehigh and Lafayette.

Awarded to the most outstanding college football team in the East, it was routinely won by some of the legendary big-school programs of the time.  Jock Sutherland's Pitt teams and Earl "Red" Blaik's Army teams dominated the Lambert Trophy balloting in the first couple of decades of the award.

In 1957 the Lamberts and their board members, including Kermit Roosevelt, son of Teddy Roosevelt,  decided that there ought to be a Lambert Trophy for smaller schools in the

East as well - schools that played against "major colleges", but didn't play the majority

of their games against those schools.

It gave an extra jolt of excitement to the Rivalry.
Read more »

LFN Look Back: Lehigh’s Youngest Head Football Coach Scores Big Rivalry Win In Undefeated Season

Bill Leckonby, The Hill School
"72 aspirants greeted Lehigh's new football coach, Bill Leckonby, on the first day of the six-week spring training session," a Lehigh Alumni Bulletin inauspicously announced in the spring of 1945.

It was reflection as to how low the Brown and White football team had sunk that the announcement didn't come with more fanfare.

After all, Lehigh was in the middle of a nine-year stretch where they had only been able to muster one tie in the span of eleven contests with their bitter Rivals.

Six times they were shut out.  Only once did they score more than 7 points against the Leopards.

It probably didn't register that hiring of the former St. Lawrence University star, and former pro football player for the AAFL's Brooklyn Dodgers, only a few years removed from military service in World War II, would forever change the direction of Lehigh athletics.

Few probably realized at the time that the inauspicious announcement would lead not only to one of the greatest Lehigh head football coaching careers of all time, but also would raise the Brown and White to a level of Eastern football supremacy among its peer colleges, as well as a spokesman for a different level of football, separate from the largest football schools like Alabama or Penn State.
Read more »

LFN Look Back: A Goal Line Stand Brings Victory in Easton in 2010

Express-Times File Photo, Lehigh 20, Lafayette 13, 2010
It was destined to be a day of defense, and any number of hard-hitting inside linebackers could have been the MVP of the 146th meeting between Lehigh and Lafayette.

Lehigh's defense was on the field thirty-six minutes, and never let a tough Lafayette run game wear them down.

Almost right out of the gates, Lehigh's defense seemed to want to put their mark on this game.

The first three defensive plays featured three straight tackles by senior LB Al Pierce, pounding Lafayette's RB Alan Elder and hurrying QB Ryan O'Neil into throwing the ball out of play.

And it only got better from there.
Read more »