Documentary looks to revive Ivy League football glory days

by Jennifer Yu | 4/12/07 5:00am

A random survey of 10 of my college friends finds that nine individuals knew the winner of the Florida-Ohio State match in the BCS Championship. In contrast, only one person knew which school had won the most recent Harvard-Yale football game.

Although the survey was conducted rather unscientifically, the survey's goal is clear and its finding obvious. It should not surprise anyone that Ivy League football has faded in importance and pales in comparison to the Ohio States and Floridas of the world.

Even the formerly legendary Harvard-Yale game, the original "The Game," incites only those alumni and undergraduate students from the two elite institutions. Few remember the glory days of Ivy League football.

Writer Mark Bernstein and director Erik Greenberg Anjou hope to remind fans of the league that coined the term "student-athlete" with a documentary about Ivy League football entitled "For Love and Honor."

The documentary, a loose adaptation of Bernstein's 2001 book "Football: The Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession," hopes to rekindle the love affair that people had with Ivy League football.

"A lot of people don't realize that the game was born in the Ivy League and that everything we know about football comes from the Ivy League," Bernstein said. "The Ivy League gave meaning to the whole idea of the student-athlete."

The film includes a plethora of footage from old and contemporary league games and interviews with some of the most memorable personalities in Ivy League football history. One of the interviewed players, Tommy Lee Jones, now known mostly as an actor, was a former offensive tackle at Harvard who participated in the famed 1968 Harvard-Yale game in which the Crimson rallied back from a 16-point deficit in the last 40 seconds to tie the Bulldogs.

Other former Ivy players interviewed for the documentary include Chuck Bednarik, Calvin Hill, Dan Jiggetts, Dick Kazmaier, Ed Marinaro, George Shultz and Dartmouth's head football coach Buddy Teevens.

While Bernstein's book centers on the historical aspects of Ivy League football, the film adds a modern-day twist to the story of the league.

"My book is a look at the history of football. But there's a thrill and immediacy in great footages that even a good book can't fully capture," Bernstein said. "I just thought it would be a great idea to make a film."

About two and a half years ago, at his 25th high school reunion, Bernstein was reunited with Anjou, a former nose guard at Middlebury College who had made a name for himself as an award-winning filmmaker.

"It was perfect," Bernstein said. "I was an author looking to adapt my book to film and Erik was a filmmaker looking for a film to direct."

When comparing the differences between the documentary and Bernstein's book, the author noted that the book doesn't look at the "contemporary aspects of the Ivy League and how it has evolved." The film, on the other hand, "adds another dimension to the story and looks deeper at the transformation of Ivy League football."

The film, still in production, will be completed by the end of this year.

"We are working hard on the film and we do hope to have it done by this year," Bernstein said.

Anjou, Bernstein and their production team have visited all eight campuses over the last year and filmed at various games, in addition to doing interviews with the coaches and players at each school.

At their visit to Hanover last fall, Bernstein and Anjou filmed the Dartmouth and Brown game and met with head coach Buddy Teevens and senior co-captain Preston Copley '07.

"We have some great interviews with Coach Teevens," Bernstein said. "In addition, Preston Copley was just terrific when we talked."

Although Ivy League football has traditionally been a sport dominated by the Big Three, Bernstein and Anjou will strive to represent all eight schools with parity in this documentary. The co-producers contended that Ivy League football is more than an ephemeral tradition and that the eight schools that comprise the league all play indispensable parts in shaping the sport.

"We try to get a broad range of people to know more about how important the Ivy League is to the development of the game of football and athletics," Bernstein said. "Even though Ivy League football is not as important as it used to be, it remains a positive thing for the schools and the athletes."

"It is important to know that Ivy League football is still very relevant in terms of shaping young men and teaching them lessons about teamwork, commitment and perseverance," Bernstein added.

Anjou and Bernstein screened a trailer of the documentary for the annual Ivy Football Association banquet in New York and received "only positive feedback."

Most recently, Michael Tollins, who has produced a string of popular sports films including "Coach Carter," "Varsity Blues" and "Summer Catch," signed on to act as executive producer for the documentary.

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