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Monday, October 9, 2006


MEDFORD -- The fall of 2006 marks the 132nd season of football at Tufts University. The program's tradition currently includes 999 games and is one of the sport's oldest and proudest. The Jumbos will play in their 1,000th game on Saturday at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

Tufts will become the second program in New England Division III history to reach the 1,000 game plateau. Amherst College passed the mark during the 2004 season. The Jumbos join Division III programs such as Franklin & Marshall, Gettysburg, Mount Union, Ohio Wesleyan, Washington & Jefferson, Widener and Wittenberg as schools who have played 1,000 or more games.

Among the 1,000 games are some with national significance. Though Tufts has now found its niche in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), the football team is one of the sport's forerunners. Playing against teams such as Army and Harvard that were the prominent programs in the early 1900s, Tufts Football has played a part in shaping the game that we know and love today.

Tufts received national recognition in 2004 for the historical significance of its game against Harvard at Jarvis Field in Cambridge on June 4, 1875. While most sports historians declare that Rutgers and Princeton played in the first intercollegiate football game on November 6, 1869, that game was played with rules similar to today's game of soccer. Players couldn't run with the ball or tackle opponents. We at Tufts believe the game of American football was developed at Harvard University in the 1870s. This game included catching and running with the ball, keys to the beginning of the non-soccer type game in America.

Therefore, Tufts believes the game against Harvard, which Tufts won 1-0, deserves its place in the annals of the game. In correspondence with the publishing of Jumbo Footprints � A History of Tufts Athletics, Tufts pushed for and received recognition of the game from the Boston Globe, ESPN and other major media outlets. A photo and description of the game is now on display at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana.

Tufts "makes a convincing case that the first true link in US college football's evolutionary chain was forged when Tufts squared off against Harvard," wrote Kevin Paul Dupon in the September 23, 2004 edition of the Boston Globe.

A letter dated March 24, 1949 to Tufts football coach Fred "Fish" Ellis from Eugene Bowen, manager of the Tufts team in 1949, recalled that after the victory, "we ran as fast as possible back to the Hill, broke down the attic door of Ballou (Hall) and rang the college bell long and hard."

A Tufts vs. Army game in 1913 also stands out because future President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower was a halfback for Army who had to be carried off the field with a broken leg that day. In response to a letter from Tufts president Nils Y. Wessell inviting Eisenhauer to accept an honorary degree from Tufts in 1955, the President wrote, "No wonder that my knee has never quite recovered from that tackle! At the very least, I find some consolation in blaming all my poor golf shots on my bad knee."

The squad enjoyed its most successful era under Coach Harry Arlanson from 1954-62, when they posted a combined record of 51-17-2. The 1956 Tufts team recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its 19-13 win over Harvard on October 6 of that season. It was the last of Tufts' five all-time victories in 22 games against their Ivy neighbors, including the historic first game.

Though most Tufts football players go on to successful professional careers outside of the sport, nine Jumbos have roamed in the National Football League. Most notably, defensive lineman Mark Buben, a 1979 graduate, played for the New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns for three seasons. Peter Watson played at tight end for the Bengals in 1972 and went on to a successful Canadian Football League career.

William G. "Johnny" Grinnell, a standout at end on both sides of the ball in the early 1930s, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997. He was a member of the first Small College All-America team in 1934 after leading Tufts to an 8-0 season. Rocky Carzo, head coach of the Jumbos from 1966-73 and Director of Athletics until 1999, came to Tufts after coaching with Marv Levy and Bill Walsh at Cal. Carzo held numerous leadership roles in college football locally and nationally.

In 1976, running back Tim Whelan won the Bulger-Lowe Award as the best player in all of New England after rushing for 1,023 yards and nine touchdowns in eight games. He joined a list of NFL players who had previously won the award such as Dick Jauron, Greg Landry and Bruce Taylor.

In 1979, Tufts recorded its third undefeated season  (8-0) to join the 1927 and 1934 Jumbos. The 2004 campaign marked the 25th anniversary of that team. Current head coach Bill Samko was an assistant coach on the '79 Jumbos. The 1927 Tufts squad was also an unbeaten 8-0.

Saturday's 1,000th game has even greater significance to the 2006 Tufts team. The Jumbos enter with a 3-0 record and look to go to 4-0 for the first time since 2001. In their way is a Trinity team that recently had the longest winning streak in the nation ended. The Bantams had won 31 straight before losing to Williams on September 30. Trinity has defeated the Jumbos in each of the last four years, including 7-0 on Homecoming Day in Medford last season.

Simply put, the Tufts football program has been there over the years, 132 overall. Their 1,000th game this weekend is a grand milestone of the team's long legacy.