‘I kind of fly under the radar’: Equipped with only a shovel, Dartmouth’s winningest football coach grooms his own field
The not-so mysterious man behind the maintenance of Memorial Field’s midfield D
This article is featured in the 2023 Winter Carnival special issue.
Against the backdrop of the 44,000 square-foot Floren Varsity House and the pine trees and mountains that lie beyond it, it’s easy to miss him. But just as expected, he’s back.
The man carries with him the essentials. After 17 years, it’s habitual. Winter jacket, gloves and a snow shovel.
He makes quick work of the chain-linked fence, follows a straight line to the center of the field and prepares himself for work. All this time, if he once rubs his fingers through his now-graying hair, it’s not because he thinks someone’s watching.
The job is bigger than that. Buddy Teevens ’79 knows that.
“It’s respect for Dartmouth, for the institution, certainly for our program,” the Big Green head football coach said of his little-known chore.
Ever since Memorial Field installed artificial turf in 2006, Teevens has been shoveling the field’s midfield D every time it snows.
“I kind of fly under the radar,” Teevens said. “I just thought, ‘Man, it’s beautiful out there, the field’s covered with snow. And if it’s offset with the green and the D… it’s a neat little way to lay it out there.”
This past Friday, which saw windchills of -40 degrees Fahrenheit — and a new U.S. windchill record of -108 degrees Fahrenheit atop Mount Washington in New Hampshire — Teevens again geared up for the job.
“I’m glad there wasn’t a lot of snow because it would have killed me if I had been there much longer,” Teevens joked. He added that he even shoveled a few years ago when a severe snowstorm dumped 12-14 inches on the turf.
Amazingly, Teevens does it all by himself, declining offers of assistance from both his coaching staff and players alike.
“He does insist on doing it,” quarterback and captain Nick Howard ’23 said. “Top to bottom, it’s definitely something he does all by himself.”
And it’s not that Teevens has to do this work. Far from it.
“He could simply have somebody else do it,” assistant head coach Sammy McCorkle, who has been coaching with Teevens since 2005, said. “But he says ‘Why would I ask somebody else to do it when I can easily go out there and do it myself?’”
McCorkle said it speaks to who Teevens is as a person, and what Dartmouth means to him.
“He’s always been the guy that if there’s garbage on the ground on campus, he doesn’t walk by it —he picks it up,” McCorkle continued. “Nothing is beneath him, and he’s always had that mentality… It doesn’t matter what your status is. Anybody can pick up trash, anybody can shovel a field.”
But Teevens, in his typical spirit of humility, boiled his shoveling down to a much simpler rationale.
“It’s tagging onto a workout,” Teevens said. “Jump over the fence, traipse out, shovel for 45 minutes to an hour and then back in and go right back to work.”
Aside from his pride for Dartmouth, in a college football recruiting cycle that’s getting evermore competitive, Teevens said he sees his small deed as just one of the many ways the Big Green attempts to stand out.
“It’s a conversation point because it’s just different,” Teevens said. “It’s a point of separation. Always looking for an edge, and displaying the D in the winter months — that’s part of our edge.”
Both Teevens and McCorkle acknowledged that his shoveling has an effect on recruits during campus visits.
“It’s amazing how many parents talk about it and are very impressed about it, and think it’s pretty cool,” McCorkle said.
Having the coldest average winter temperatures of the eight Ivy League institutions, it seems only natural that Dartmouth would try to shield its recruits from the reality of Hanover winters. Instead, the football team chooses to embrace the chill.
“The [recruits] ask, they want to go out there and take a photo shoot in the snow, and they want to do snow angels,” McCorkle said. “Some people think the snow and cold is dreadful, but we turn it around and make it something exciting for those guys.”
Howard said he and his teammates have embraced Teevens’s habit, and they too see it as a testament to the team’s defined culture of diligence.
“It’s always a fun point to show and let the recruits know that our coach, an older guy, goes out of his way to go and do that just because he feels like it’s important for us,” Howard said. “It definitely displays the pride that Coach T has in Dartmouth and that he has in particularly our football program.”
Teevens, who in 2016 was featured in the New York Times for eliminating tackling in practice, has always seen himself as a pioneer of sorts.
“I maybe think outside the box in a lot of things,” Teevens said. “And [shoveling the ‘D’ is] one more outside-the-box thought.”