The Ivy League has recently broken major ground in combating concussions in football with the decision to remove full-contact hitting from regular season practices. The entire movement was pioneered by Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens. Teevens began the system of practices without tackles in 2010, and since then Dartmouth has slowly risen in the ranks, rising from third in 2013 to tying for first with Harvard this past year.
That this change is being brought about by the Ivy League is monumental for the nation’s approach towards the issue of concussions in football. When football was first emerging as a sport in the early 20th century, it was the Ivy League who took the forefront to popularize and legitimize it at a collegiate level. For this reason, these schools were also some of the first to feel the effects of its violence. One of the most notable inter-Ivy League matches is now known as the Hampden Park Blood Bath, where crippling injuries to four Harvard and Yale students led the game to be postponed until the next year.
Even then, when the sport’s violence was gratuitous, it was the Ivy League that stepped up for reform. After the 1905 college football season saw 19 fatalities through the nation, President Theodore Roosevelt called for a conference to solve the issue with representatives of Harvard, Yale and Princeton. This would lead to a later meeting which would result in the forming of the early predecessor to the NCAA conference and, consequently at the time, the introduction of the forward pass rule in football.
Though the conference’s influence in the football world has diminished since its removal of athletic scholarships, the Ivy League is still often on the forefront of athletic influence in the nation. At a time when concussion awareness is on everyone’s minds, including the NFL’s, the Ivy League is more than capable of turning the tides in the discussion to genuinely beget change for how we approach head injuries in Football.