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Today's Tidbit... When Harvard Was King
Watching the events from London this morning reminded me that we periodically see teams reign as champions for a handful of years, despite it being difficult to do. For example, back when we lacked a method of crowning champions, Harvard enjoyed a run that compares with almost anyone's, retroactively being named national champs four times in six years.
The first of those wins came in 1908, year one for Percy Haughton as Harvard's head coach. As was typical of them and the time, they opened with wins over the likes of Bowdoin, Bates, and Williams before hitting the meat of the schedule. Coming soon after the rule changes of 1906 that were to open up the game, most teams had yet to figure out how to leverage those rule changes. Harvard gave up 8 points all season while scoring only 132 themselves, scoring more than 17 points only once. Over the next eight years, they never gave up more than 36 points in a season while scoring as many as 225.
Their overall records, losses, and ties are below, with their national championship seasons bolded.
1908: 9-0-1 (tied Navy, 6-6)
1909: 8-1 (lost to Yale, 0-8)
1910: 9-0-1 (tied Yale, 0-0)
1911: 5-2-1 (tied Yale, 0-0)
1914: 7-0-2 (tied Penn State 13-13, Brown 0-0)
1915: 8-1 (lost to Cornell, 0-10)
1916: 7-3 (lost to Tufts 3-7, Brown 0-21, Yale 3-6)
The forward pass started modernizing the game as Haughton’s time at Harvard ended. At the same time, another tradition, Yale's reliance on recently graduated captains serving as head coach, saw its end during this period as well.
Football was changing. Midwest and West Coast teams began beating the Eastern powers regularly as the locus of the game's best teams moved West and South.
Still, Harvard sat atop the football world for a time, and their coach, Percy Haughton, is often forgotten when the game's great coaches are listed. Four years ago, an ESPN article on college football's top 150 coaches placed him at #139 while crediting him with a national championship in 1920, four years after he stepped down as coach.
Like Rodney Dangerfield, he don't get no respect. Haughton deserves more credit for Harvard's run during these years, while his teams should also be considered among college football royalty.
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