Today, August 3, 1852: First Organized Intercollegiate Athletic Event in US

Are you a sports fan like I am? I wonder what your favorite sports are and what sports you follow and watch on television?

If I were to ask you what the first recorded official intercollegiate athletic event in the US was, what would you say? Football? Baseball? Hockey? What would you say?

If you’re like me, the answer may surprise you.

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In the early days of America, most sports didn’t exist yet. If college administrators felt their students needed some type of physical activity, they would often put their students to work clearing college lands of trees and boulders. They would also put them to work farming. This was economically beneficial for the college.

On this day, August 3, 1852, the first official intercollegiate athletic event of competition took place in New Hampshire. To be more precise, the competition took place on Lake Winnipesaukee in Center Harbor, New Hampshire.

Some colleges like Yale and Harvard had boat clubs as early as in the 1840s. Rowing had become quite popular, but most races occurred between rowing teams from the same college.

Then Yale’s rowing teams challenged Harvard’s rowing teams to a two-mile race and the challenge was accepted. On August 3, 1852, the two schools met at Lake Winnipesaukee. Harvard had one boat, named the Oneida. Yale showed up with two boats, the Shawmut and the Undine.

The event drew a sizable crowd including local resident General Franklin Pierce, who later that same year was elected President of the United States. The race started and the boats began gliding over the surface of the lake. Harvard’s Oneida won by four lengths and received a pair of walnut oars for the victory.

Thus the first recorded organized intercollegiate athletic event took place. The event has become known as the Harvard-Yale Regatta which is still being held between the two schools.

Today, intercollegiate athletics is a multi-billion-dollar industry that can be traced back to that first Harvard and Yale boat race on this date back in 1852.


Sources for the above includes: Harvard-Yale Regatta – 150 Years of Tradition; College Athletics – History Of Athletics In U.S. Colleges And Universities; History of Faculty Involvement in Collegiate Athletics; Bennett, William J. and Cribb, John T.E., The American Patriot’s Almanac, Thomas Nelson, 2010, pg. 308.

Dave Jolly

R.L. David Jolly holds a B.S. in Wildlife Biology and an M.S. in Biology – Population Genetics. He has worked in a number of fields, giving him a broad perspective on life, business, economics and politics. He is a very conservative Christian, husband, father and grandfather who cares deeply for his Savior, family and the future of our troubled nation.

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