Archive For The “Walter Okeson” Category
In 1927, the Rivalry was in trouble.
“Thousands of vacant seats at Saturday’s game, mostly on the south side of the field, were a silent protest to Lehigh’s poor teams,” the Easton Express wrote after another lopsided Engineer loss to the Leopards. “The dear public was asked to part with $4 a ticket to see Saturday’s game. Of course, the public doesn’t have to go. They can stay at home. That is what many did on Saturday. But there are thousands of Alumni of both institutions who deplore the situation and a crying for relief.“
The game in question was a 43-0 shellacking by Lafayette, capping off a dismal 1-7-1 season for Lehigh where the Brown and White were outscored 196-31 by their opponents.
For Lehigh, losing to Lafayette had become routine. It was their eighth straight loss to their rivals. The Brown and White had last scored a touchdown against Lafayette in 1921. Three entire classes had gone without scoring a touchdown against them, let alone come close to victory.
In the span of two years, though, Lehigh would break Lafayette’s spell – first by scoring their first touchdown against the Maroon and White in nearly a decade, and then by beating them in one of the closest games in Rivalry history.
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It was common knowledge in 1893 that Lehigh was a rich institution.
“[Our] forced economy in itself is a great hindrance to our success in athletic competitions,” a 1890s letter sent out by Lafayette’s alumni committee said. “Our nearest antagonists – Lehigh, Princeton, Pennsylvania – are now so wealthy, that we, with our comparatively untrained teams, are at great disadvantage. Our alumni all desire our success but few realize how much this success depends on them.”
Thanks in no small part to Asa Packer’s bequest to Lehigh of a huge sum of money and stock after his death in 1879, the University was the richest institution of higher learning at that time, surpassing, according to the New York Times, even Harvard and Yale.
The vastness of Lehigh’s endowment was actually controversial.
“In one view, the gift is the noblest one of the kind ever made,” the New York Times said of the bequest, “for it establishes the only institution – so far as we know – which gives absolutely free tuition to all comers, rich or poor. It is merely in an economic sense that the opinion is expressed that any addition to the more than 300 colleges now dwarfing and starving one another in this country is wicked waste of resources.”
For more than a decade Asa’s success in building the railway and navigating the business dealings of the railroad barons kept his family, and Lehigh University, rich, even a decade after his death.
But in 1893 that would begin to change.
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