by Scott Reed
It's the third week of September, and for the 18th time, Tim Murphy prepares the Harvard Crimson for a season. It is a coach, and a team, outside the national spotlight, yet is a story of sustained success and integrity that merits much more hoopla than it receives. Murphy's Crimson have finished with seven or more wins in each of the last 10 years, playing an Ivy League-mandated ten game schedule, two games shorter than most college programs - and this has been sustained at one of the most academically demanding institutions in the country.
And as Harvard enters the 2011 season, the football program is at ease - this is especially impressive in this era of win-at-all-cost expectations and a need for instant and yearly success. Consider this Harvard's "Era of Good Feelings", a program experiencing peace, harmony and prosperity - shall we christen this time "Pax Harvardiana?" Success has been consistent, and rivals have been kept at bay, with Murphy winning 9 of the last 10 over the Yale Bulldogs. Although the pesky Penn Quakers are the defending Ivy champions, Harvard has given them fights and looks again to do so this year.
This has been largely because of Murphy, who, with his next eight wins will pass Joe Restic as Harvard's all-time wins leader. Yet Murphy does not simply rest on his laurels or expect that success will find him an his team: in an interview with WHRB, he spoke of the 2011 team: "I think we have a chance to be a good team...how good we are going to be is a work in progress." He spoke glowingly of his players, praising especially his quarterback, senior Collier Winters: "We're a good team when he [Winters] is on the field." Yet even less than astute observers have seen that Harvard has been good when Murphy is on the sideline.
To be sure, the Crimson program is blessed with natural recruiting advantages not bestowed upon Ivy rivals: unrivaled need-based financial aid capabilities in a league where athletic scholarships are non-existant, a location across the river from Boston, and, perhaps most importantly, is part of a larger institution that possesses the most alluring name in higher education.
Yet, many Harvard athletic programs have not flourished the way the football program has, and even the football program has seen this type of sustained success only rarely. What is more, Yale and Princeton, two programs with similar advantages to Harvard, have had difficult times of the last 5 years. Murphy, though, year after year, has produced success. And if the last ten years are any indication, Harvard will continue to experience relative peace and prosperity through 2011.
Scott Reed is the play-by-play commentator for Harvard football and mens' basketball.