PRINCETON – After 106 consecutive losses, Princeton University’s varsity sprint football team’s futility streak is finally over.
The university announced Monday it is ending the 82-year tradition of participating in the full-contact league for players weighing less than 172 pounds.
The mounting losses and blowouts were staggering. Princeton lost one game to Navy 98-0 and in a six-game season several years ago got outscored 350-17.
The end of the sprint football program, however, was prompted by concerns over player safety as some eight remaining colleges in the Collegiate Sprint Football League began actively recruiting for players.
Princeton’s fields a team of walk-ons and some have never played competitive football before college, university officials said.
“We regret having to take this action, but we do not believe we can sustain the program at a level that is safe for our students and meets the high standards we achieve in the rest of our varsity athletics program,” Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber said in a statement issued Monday officially ending the program.
Princeton was among the first colleges to join the Eastern 150-pound Football League in 1934. The name reflected the original weight limit, which was bumped up to 172 pounds and referred to as lightweight football.
The current Collegiate Sprint Football League includes fellow Ivy schools University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University. At various times, Rutgers, Villanova, Yale and Lafayette all fielded lightweight teams.
After a study to determine if the program could salvaged, Princeton determined player safety trumped tradition, Eisgruber said in the statement.
“Sprint football has a long tradition at Princeton and alumni who have participated in the sport speak eloquently about the important contributions it made to their undergraduate experience,” Eisgruber said.
“But in recent years serious questions have been raised about the safety of the sport as currently constituted at Princeton, the inability of Princeton teams to compete successfully, and changes that have taken place in the league in which it plays,” the statement said.
For some Princeton and sprint football alums, the decision is the latest in a long struggle between sprint football players and the school to keep interest in the program going.
P.J. Chew, the former president of the Friends of Princeton Sprint Football Association, who played for the team nearly 20 years ago, said he was one of the last students to be recruited for the team.
After 1999, the school stopped recruiting football players for the sprint team and their playing worsened, he said. Since then, he said it’s been a battle to keep donations up and maintain the program.
“I spoke up in 2012 and said the university was not supporting the program,” Chew said. He added that he and other alumni are hoping the school will release the study on safety issues.
“I would like to see injury figures of rugby and football,” he said.
There are 28 freshmen, sophomores and juniors who will be affected by the loss of the program. The athletic department has already started to help those students find other varsity or club sport programs, officials said.
Former football player and recent Princeton University graduate, John Wolfe said the current team members are, “distraught” by the school’s decision.
“Frankly the university hasn’t given them the respect and support that I feel they’ve earned,” he said.
He added that alums are working on efforts to bring the program back.
Princeton’s decision to leave the league comes as another New Jersey school is preparing to join in the 2017 season.
In February, Caldwell University announced their decision to bring Sprint football to their campus as their 16th varsity sport.