The annual Harvard-Yale game traditionally invokes memories of sportsmanship and intensity as one of the oldest college rivalries in the United States. The lighter side of The Game’s mystique is the penchant of its participants to pull pranks. Students from Harvard, Yale, and even MIT have carried on these crazy pranks during the football game over the years.
The most widely known and recent of these pranks is Yale’s (“we suck”) prank in 2004. Led by Michael Kai and David Aulicino, a group of Yalies, disguised as the "Harvard Pep Squad," placed white and crimson placards in the central area of Harvard Stadium. The crowd was told that by lifting the placards they would spell "GO HARVARD." The placards were actually set to spell ("WE SUCK.") (something far different and far less complimentary). Viral videos of the prank spread across the sports world and even featured on ESPN. Another famous prank was in the pregame show of 1992. The Harvard marching band attempted to "X-out" the Yale Marching Band, which stood in its traditional Y formation during the show. However, plans leaked to the Yale band, and it quickly switched to form a large “H” for Harvard as the Harvard band walked out. In one of the more classless acts in The Game’s prank history, Yale painted on Widener Library in 1963 a graffiti that said “beat Harvard”
MIT has also intervened in the rivalry to make their presence known. In 1982, MIT students installed a black weather balloon full of talcum powder with MIT painted on it before the game. During the second quarter, the balloon exploded, showering the stadium with powder. In 1990, during the third quarter, MIT students fired a rocket which hung an MIT banner over the goal post.
Harvard has also done its part to participate. In 1933, the Harvard Lampoon kidnapped Handsome Dan II, Yale’s bulldog mascot, prior to The Game. In 1962, Harvard Band members marched through New Haven, playing their instruments at 3 a.m. much to the chagrin of the New Haven police.
The presence of these pranks has grown to be part of the The Game’s annual traditions. Even Princeton attempted to join the prank rivalry in their 2006 game against the Bulldogs by painting seats in the Yale Bowl orange and black, but, like with most Princeton activities, they run a distant third to the hijinks of the Game’s actual schools. The pranks continue to be one of the many hallmarks of the rivalry between Harvard and Yale. Spectators in Harvard Stadium today should be on the lookout for these famous attractions as they continue to fuel the rivalry between Harvard and Yale.