Harvard Wins "The Game"; Yale Bowl to Remain Natural Grass

Nov 22, 2015

In what will not be the final game played on a natural grass surface at Yale Bowl, Harvard beat Yale 38 to 19, clinching a share of the Ivy League football title on Saturday in West Haven.

The Hartford Courant first reported in August that Yale was planning to replace the grass field at the Bowl with an artificial surface after this season.

Yale never confirmed the plan, and in emails on Friday and Saturday, Yale’s Associate Athletics Director Steve Conn told WNPR: “Yale has no plans at this time to change from a grass surface. […] Yale Bowl will not be turfed at any time in the near future.”

The apparent reversal comes after public criticism of the reported plan from environmental groups, Yale alumni, Yale-affiliated health professionals, and former Yale football players.

Yale Bowl, which is a National Historic Landmark, opened 101 years ago on November 21, 1914. It is one of two remaining natural grass football fields in the Ivy League.

The stadium, which seats 61,446, is used for just ten to 12 events each year, including four to six Yale home football games. The difficulty of preserving, maintaining, and draining the grass field, which is set below sea level, limits use of the stadium.

The change to an artificial turf would have allowed for the installation of a portable, inflatable dome roof over Yale Bowl during the winter months, affording for year-round use of the stadium as a practice football field and as a venue for other events, sporting and otherwise.

The plan was criticized for preservation, environmental, health, and aesthetic reasons.

Local architect and Ivy League alumnus Duo Dickinson, in an opinion piece aired on WNHH in New Haven, said, “The distinction of turf versus grass is truly a metaphor for how we look at our lives. Do they need to be useful and honest like turf? Or do they want to be […] enriched with a provenance, registering with a history” like natural grass?

“Yale Athletics will certainly keep track of the evolution of turf fields and any relevant scientific studies about them,” Conn said in an email. “We can’t predict the future of that and whether it might lead at some point to Yale considering a change.”

Yale scored first on its opening drive with a 28-yard touchdown pass on a surprising fourth-and-12 attempt. Harvard then scored 31 unanswered points over the first three quarters, putting the game out of reach for the Bulldogs.

It was the 132nd edition of the annual Yale/Harvard football contest known colloquially as The Game. Harvard has won each of the last nine years.

Yale finishes its football season 3-4 in the Ivy League and 6-4 overall. Yale leads the series with Harvard 65-59-8, dating back to 1875.