When the words “MIT” and “football” are mentioned together, the conversation rarely focuses on the Institute’s football team. More than likely, it’s about MIT’s hacking escapades at the 1982 Harvard-Yale game, which featured a six-foot exploding weather balloon near the 50-yard line.
But the narrative has changed during the football team’s record-setting 2014 season. The MIT squad finished the regular season a perfect 9–0—the first undefeated season in team history—and will play in the NCAA Division III Football Championship tournament for the first time.
The Engineers will play Maine’s Husson University Eagles (8–1) in their opening round game on Saturday, November 22, at noon, in Bangor, Maine. MIT’s surprising season has not gone unnoticed—the squad was featured in an article in the Wall Street Journal and a video profile on CBS News.
Come back to Slice of MIT on Friday for a full game preview and details on how you can watch the game. Until then, check out a condensed timeline of the strange history of MIT football, which includes an 88-year winless streak, an ugliest man competition, and borrowed orange uniforms. (All information via back issues of The Tech, an October 2002 article in MIT News, and DAPER's football record book.)
- 1881: The MIT football team, nicknamed the Techmen, defeats Exeter College, 2-0 for the first victory in Institute history.
- 1885: MIT trounces Amherst, 80-0, to tie Williams College for the Northeastern Intercollegiate Football Association (NIFA) league title. In perhaps the first playoff game in college football history, MIT loses to Williams, 18-10.
- 1886: MIT loses to Yale, 96-0.
- 1887-1888: MIT wins back-to-back NIFA league titles.
- 1890: With two games left, the football season is cancelled due to injuries.
- 1901: MIT President Henry S. Pritchett holds a controversial student vote that eliminates the football program by a two-vote margin (119-117).
- 1901, cont.: The inaugural Technology Field Day, an MIT tradition for more than 60 years, takes place. The freshmen versus sophomores football game—coached by upperclassmen—becomes its signature event.
- 1939: A non-varsity Junior-Senior team forms, plays four games, and Ms. Virginia Jewell is crowned “MIT Football Queen” before a football dance.
- 1941: The non-varsity team disbands after two seasons.
- 1966: A student survey indicates a desire for intercollegiate football, but the MIT Athletic Board votes unanimously against adding an MIT team.
- 1978: The MIT football club forms and joins the National Club Football Conference (NCFC), thanks to the efforts of players including Walt Crosby ’81, Bruce Wrobel ’79, and Gary Spletter ’79.
- 1978, cont.: The Rochester Institute of Technology drops their football program, and the MIT club purchases their football equipment and uniforms for $2,000. The team wears orange and white jerseys during the 1978 season.
- 1978, cont.: A crowd of 2,000 attends the club’s only home game, held during Homecoming Weekend. The Engineers loses to Siena College, 30-14, and the winner of MIT's Ugliest Man on Campus contest is honored at halftime. The team finishes the season 0-6.
- 1987: The NCFC disbands following the season. The club transitions to a varsity program and later joins the NCAA Division III.
- 1988: The Engineers win their first varsity game of the NCAA era, beating Stonehill, 29-7.
- 2013: The team goes 6-4, tying a team record for wins, and posts back-to-back winning seasons (5-4 in 2012) for the first time in 124 years.
- 2014: The Engineers finish the regular season 9-0 and win their first NEFC title. The team will play in the NCAA Division III Football Championship tournament on November 22.