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The Dartmouth
May 30, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

‘He was the spirit of this place’: Buddy Teevens ’79 honored with candlelight vigil and football victory

Less than a week after former head coach Teevens’s death, football defeated Lehigh and honored his decades of impact at a candlelight vigil.

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The light of several hundred candles was not nearly enough to emulate the brightness Buddy Teevens ’79 was to the world. But on Saturday night, a couple hours after football beat Lehigh University 34-17 in its home opener, approximately 400 mourners gathered for a candlelight vigil on the Green to honor Teevens, who died last week following injuries sustained in a bicycle accident in March.

Of those who spoke, women’s rugby head coach Katie Dowty asked perhaps the most fitting question: “How did he have so much time?”

Time, she means, to do all that he did.

Teevens was recognized across the football world for making the game safer by eliminating tackling and inventing a robotic tackling dummy. He was the first college Division 1 coach to hire women as assistant coaches. He took an interest in every single person he talked to. No person, or job, was beneath him — including shoveling the “D” logo at the 50-yard line of Memorial Field every time it snowed.  

On Saturday, instead of remembering his accomplishments on the field — Ivy League player of the year for the Big Green in 1978 and the winningest head coach in the program’s history — the mourners remembered Teevens for his support and love.

“He was the spirit of this place,” Dowty said. “The best of us. Everything that we want to be. He embodied that spirit to me. And when I see the outpouring of messages now, I realize that I really wasn’t alone in that feeling.”

Dowty really was far from alone. Standing in a circle on the Green were longtime friends of Teevens, current and former players, Teevens’s widow, Kirsten Teevens, their children, their grandchildren and College President Sian Leah Beilock, who referenced Teevens in her inaugural speech on Sept. 22.

Among speakers at the vigil was Curt Oberg ’78, who played with Teevens at Dartmouth in the 1970s and, since 2016, has served as special assistant to the head coach.

“Buddy was a leader and an inspiration to all who came in contact with him,” Oberg said. “He had the ability to inspire people and his players to do more and be more than they ever thought they could be.”

On Saturday afternoon, the football team played for Teevens. 

As is now common for Dartmouth football, the dual-quarterback system was back on display. Nick Howard ’23 ran for 73 yards and two touchdowns, while Dylan Cadwallader ’23 passed for 110 yards and had a touchdown of his own.

It marked the first home game as head coach for Sammy McCorkle, who coached the last 18 years as an assistant coach under Teevens.

“I’m just so proud of the players,” McCorkle said after the game. “They’ve done a phenomenal job. Everything we’ve asked them to do, they’ve done it, and to me that is what you ask for. They’re bought in.”

Notable on Saturday was preseason All-Ivy second team honoree Sean Williams ’26, who led the team with six tackles and registered 101 combined yards in his four kickoff and punt returns.

“He’s just an all-around good football player,” McCorkle said of Williams. “You can put him on offense, we could put him at wideout, we could put him at running back … He’s always a step ahead of everybody else.”

On Saturday, so was Dartmouth football. The Big Green converted 16 more first downs than Lehigh and dominated the possession time with over 38 minutes of offense. Defense held Lehigh to 167 yards of total offense, only 52 of those rushing.

Dartmouth nearly scored on its first offensive drive, advancing all the way to the Lehigh 7-yard line before Howard fumbled the ball at the five, and Lehigh scooped it up and returned it 95 yards for the score.

“That happens,” McCorkle said. “But you prepare yourself for adversity, and we talk about that all the time … But we had the confidence that we drove it all the way down the field, and we know we have the ability to do that.”

Dartmouth scored a touchdown and a field goal on its next two drives, but Lehigh quickly evened out the score with a field goal of their own.

It wasn’t until 35 seconds before halftime that the Big Green went up 17-10 on Cadwallader’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Paxton Scott ’24. In the locker room, McCorkle told his players to stay the course.

“Before we went out, though, I told them, ‘We need to ramp it up a little bit here … We need to push that energy to the highest level we possibly can,’” McCorkle said. “And I think our guys did a good job responding, definitely in those first couple series.

The Big Green went on to score two unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter to extend the lead to 21 and practically put the game away. The second touchdown came on a 10-yard rush from Q Jones ’25, who ran the ball for 99 yards on 17 carries.

The team now faces their first Ivy League opponent at the University of Pennsylvania this Saturday. Fittingly, what captain Tevita Moimoi ’24 said at Teevens’s vigil can also be applied to this Saturday’s game.

“You have to adjust and improvise your way forward,” Moimoi said. “That is the teaching that Coach T has cemented in our brains. And it’s a good thing that Coach T left us with this simple yet very, very strong message. Because today, in this moment, I don’t know where we would be without it.”