Time keeps on slippin' for football

by Adam Small | 10/27/00 5:00am

Dartmouth football is off to an 0-3 start in the Ivy League (1-5 overall). Coming on the heels of 1-6 and 2-5 League records in 1998 and '99, many new Big Green fans are left asking, were we ever good?

Hell yes. Dartmouth is the most decorated college in Ivy League football history.

Since the league's inception in 1956, Dartmouth has tied for or outright won 17 championships. Yale is second with 13, followed by Penn with 10.

Dartmouth has the best overall record in Ivy play, by 21 games over Yale. Dartmouth also had the best record in the '90s, by seven games over Princeton.

Dartmouth also has had some of the best players in Ivy history. Dartmouth has had more players (170) named to first team all-Ivy by 23 over second place Yale.

Dartmouth has been a model of consistency in the player department. Along with Harvard, they have had at least one all-Ivy first team player every single year.

So why do the majority of '04s assume we've had a bad team forever? Let's take a look.

Dartmouth started off Ivy play by rattling off 12 consecutive winning seasons. That kind of consistency paid off in five championships, and set the watermark for excellence extraordinarily high.

The Green then won five consecutive titles, before running into another losing season in 1974. At this point, Dartmouth still had not finished lower than fifth in the league.

Dartmouth then went through a period of winning records but mid-level finishes, with five four-win seasons out of six. Recovering from this comparative mediocrity, the Green took back-to-back titles in '81 and '82.

1984 saw the Green hit its low point, with a 2-5 record, and a tie for sixth. The season also saw Dartmouth allow the most points it ever had in a season.

This started a mini-trend, as Dartmouth turned in three more non-winning seasons, hitting bottom in '87 with a 1-6 mark, "good" for seventh in the league. This downward turn coincided with Penn's emergence as the dominant team in the league.

Penn was certainly marked as the team of the '80s, winning the championship six times in the decade. Dartmouth opened up the '90s looking to reclaim its former dominance, winning the first three titles.

1994 saw an anomaly in the form of a 2-5 mark, and a tie for seventh, the Big Green's worst finish ever. The Green got back to their old ways with an undefeated season and league title in '96 and a runner-up finish to Harvard in '97.

Which brings us to '98, and Dartmouth's second 1-6 mark, and its first ever last-place finish in the Ivy League. This was followed up by a 2-5 mark in '99.

Should this season end in a losing record, it would mark the first time ever that Dartmouth has had three consecutive losing seasons.

So what's the reason for this sudden downturn?

Some would say it's the emergence of high-scoring passing offenses in the Ivy League, a traditional option league. Yet '98 wasn't a very high scoring season -- 39.8 pts/gm combined -- and besides, Dartmouth has won titles in three of the five highest scoring seasons in Ivy history.

It could be the emergence of Cornell and Brown as legitimate contenders. For years Cornell and Brown had languished in the lower half of the League, but Brown has produced five out of six winning seasons, and Cornell has put up seven out of 10.

Despite these new threats, one would expect Dartmouth to snap out of it, as it traditionally has done, and get back up near the top of the division in the near future.

As a plus, the Big Green face the identical schedule, reversing home field of course, for the next three years, which will allow them to work with the same schemes and not have to worry about new attacks. On the other hand, they may just run into the same bad luck against the same mediocre clubs.

In the end, fans can be forgiven for their sudden fair-weather attitude. Due to the stark uncommonness of the situation, they can't hold a candle to the tribulations of Columbia fans. After all, the poor Lions have only one title to their credit (1961) and only one winning season since 1972.

Until then, stop complaining about the struggles of Dartmouth, and go out and support the team as it tries to reverse its fortunes against Harvard this weekend.