Since Harvard is the nation's first college (established in 1636), it is only appropriate that many athletic firsts are also traced back to the school. Here's a look at some of them:
August 3, 1852- Harvard inaugurates intercollegiate athletic competition when its crew rows against Yale on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Harvard wins the two-mile race by open water. Today, the crews hold an annual four mile race on the Thames River in New London, CT. Harvard leads the all-time series, 77-51.
Fall 1859- The first college racing "shell" built in America was the Harvard, a 40-foot, six-oared pine shell with iron outriggers, but without coxswain or rudder. Built for Harvard in the fall of 1857 it is first used against Yale in 1859.
April 12, 1877--The first baseball catcher's mask is used in a Harvard game. Inventor Fred Thayer adapted a fencing mask for Alexander Tyng, the starting catcher for the Crimson. Tyng makes only two errors in his first game with the mask, an exceptionally low number for even a professional in that era.
October 31, 1881--Harvard football plays in the first East-West intersectional game when it hosts the University of Michigan at the South End Grounds in Boston. The Crimson takes a bite out of the Wolverines, 4-0, as part of a 6-1-1 season.
Spring 1883--Harvard tennis player Joseph Clark wins the sport's first-ever intercollegiate championship in a tournament held at Hartford.
March 14, 1889--Harvard football holds what is believed to be the first-ever spring football practice when captain Arthur J. Cumnock leads the team in drills on Jarvis Field.
November 30, 1893 - The first football scoreboard is used. The Harvard Athletic Association unveils this invention of Arthur Irwin, a Bostonian and a professional baseball player and manager, in the Crimson's 26-4 win over Pennsylvania on Thanksgiving Day.
May 5, 1894 - Harvard fencing wins the first IFA Championship, and goes on to capture six of the first seven titles.
Summer 1896 - A Harvard man wins the first gold medal of the modern Olympics in Athens. James B. Connolly '99 takes the first event-the hop, skip, and jump-to earn his place in history. To make the trip, Connolly was forced to resign from the college at the time, but was rewarded in 1949 when he received a major H for his Olympic feats. By that time, he was a celebrated author of sea stories such as "The Seiners" and "The Gloucestermen."
January 19, 1898- Harvard plays in its first college hockey game. The contest, held on Franklin Field in Boston, is won by visiting Brown, 6-0, and begins the oldest active rivalry in college hockey.
August, 1901- Field hockey is first introduced to America at Radcliffe by Miss Constance Applebee. The student demonstrated the sport, which was popular in her native England, to classmates outside of the Radcliffe Gymnasium.
October 31, 1902- - Glenn S. "Pop" Warner, coach of the famed Carlisle Indians, introduces the hidden ball trick in a game against Harvard. The ploy was unleashed during the second half kickoff, and the resulting touchdown moved Carlisle ahead, 11-0. Harvard collected the Halloween Day treat, however, by rebounding for a 12-11 victory.
November 14, 1903 - Harvard Stadium introduces a new era into football, as it is the first permanent reinforced concrete stadium of its kind in the country. The sport eventually adopts the forward pass because of the stadium's structure.
April 1, 1905 - Harvard plays in the first intercollegiate soccer match against Haverford. The Crimson falls to the Pennsylvania school, 1-0, at Soldiers Field.
Summer 1914--Harvard's junior varsity crew becomes the first American entry to win the Grand Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta.
Winter 1923 - Radcliffe College meets Sargent College in the first-ever women's intercollegiate swim meet.
October 11, 1947--Chester Pierce '48, a standout tackle for the Harvard football team, becomes the first African-American to play against a white college in the South when the Crimson meets the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
December 27, 1952 - Harvard men's hockey wins the inaugural Beanpot Tournament, defeating Boston University, 7-4, in the championship game at the old Boston Arena.
Summer 1958 - The Harvard lightweight crew finished its best season to date by winning the Henley Royal Regatta for the first time. The Crimson went undefeated in 1958, including an impressive win at the EARC Sprints, to start a three-year run of unbeaten seasons.
August 14, 1960 - The first-ever American Football League game is played at Harvard Stadium. An exhibition contest between the Boston Patriots and Dallas Texans is won by the visitors, 24-14, in front of a crowd of 11,000. The Patriots will play their entire 1971 home schedule at Harvard before relocating in Foxboro.
Spring 1975 - After merging athletic departments with Radcliffe College, Harvard presents varsity letters to female athletes for the first time.
August 28, 1982--Women's swimming captain Sharon Beckman becomes the first New England woman to conquer the English Channel. She crosses from the White Cliffs of Dover, England to Cap Gris Nez, France in 9 hours, 16 minutes.
May 11, 1985 - Harvard's Clifford Sheehan becomes the first New England collegian to break the four-minute mile, running a 3:59.2 at the Penn Relays. He betters a 17-year-old Harvard and New England record held by Jim Baker '68.
May 15, 1988 - Charlotte Joslin becomes the first female athlete in Ivy League history to be named First Team All-League in three unrelated sports. The versatile sophomore earns the honors in field hockey, ice hockey, and lacrosse.
June 2, 1989 - Meredith Rainey becomes the first female in Ivy League history to win an NCAA individual title. She runs a school-record time of 2:03.90 to take first place in the 800 meters at the Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Provo, UT.
June 22, 1991- Harvard Stadium hosts the first Japanese collegiate football game ever played in the United States. Keio University, coached by the Harvard staff, defeats Yale-led Waseda University, 21-19.
August, 2008 - Emily Cross '08-09 became the first ever Harvard fencer to medal at the Olympics when she earned a silver medal in the women's team foil.
March 20, 2010 - J.P. O'Connor capped off the first unbeaten season for a Harvard wrestler. The senior won the 157 pound title to finish his last year at Harvard with a perfect 35-0 record.
March 6, 2012 - The Harvard men's basketball team earned its first NCAA tournament berth since 1946. The Crimson finished the season with the program single-season record for victories with 26.
June 9, 2012 - Katey Stone, the Landry Family Head Coach for Harvard Women's Ice Hockey, was officially announced as the head coach of the U.S. Women's Olympic Hockey team, becoming the first ever female head coach to lead Team USA on the ice. Stone eventually led the Red, White and Blue to a silver medal in Sochi.
March 21, 2013 - Despite being a No. 14 seed, the Harvard men's basketball team made history by defeating third-seeded New Mexico, 68-62, in the second round of the NCAA tournament, the first postseason victory in program history.
March 17, 2014 - Harvard women's basketball becomes the first team in Ivy League history to earn an at-large bid to a postseason tournament, winning its first-round WNIT game at Iona on March 20.
November 22, 2014 - For the first time in program history, Harvard football hosts ESPN’s College GameDay before the 131st playing of The Game. The Crimson comes out victorious in one of the most memorable contests in recent memory, scoring with just 55 second remaining to best Yale, 31-24. Yale seemed to have an answer in the last minute, but Scott Peters picked off Morgan Roberts’ final pass to seal the victory.
April 24, 2015 – The women’s golf team became the first in Ivy League history to win four straight conference championships as it defeated Yale by just one stroke at Saucon Valley Country Club. Sophomore Anne Cheng and junior Courtney Hooton tied for fourth place in the individual competition to earn first team All-Ivy honors, while senior Brenna Nelsen tied for eighth place and received second team All-Ivy accolades.
May 10, 2015 - Harvard women's track and field team wins back-to-back Ivy League Heptagonal Championships for the first time in program history. The Crimson tallied 157 points to defeat runner-up Princeton by 39.
November 20, 2015 - The women's volleyball team punched its ticket to the NCAA tournament for the first time with a 3-1 win over Princeton in the Ivy League Playoff. The Crimson would face eventual national champion Nebraska on its home floor in the first round of the tournament, and shocked crowd of 8,000-plus by taking the first set.
November 26, 2016 - Harvard men’s water polo made its first-ever NCAA Championship appearance, hosting No. 12 Bucknell at Blodgett Pool. The Crimson went on to earn a 13-12 sudden-death overtime victory over the Bison to earn another NCAA play-in game against No. 9 UC Davis in Berkeley, California. Harvard went on to defeat No. 9 UC Davis in overtime, 16-15, securing a spot in the Final Four for the first time in program history. The Crimson also won the first conference championship in school history on Nov. 20, taking home the Northeast Water Polo Conference (NWPC) Championship with tournament wins over MIT, then-No. 13 Princeton and then-No. 10 Brown.
December 8, 2016 - Harvard field hockey head coach Tjerk van Herwaarden becomes the first leader of the Crimson to be named NFHCA Northeast Region Coach of the Year. van Herwaarden also earned the first Ivy League Coach of the Year honor for a Harvard sideline general after leading the Crimson to a 12-6 record, a 7-0 Ivy record, an Ivy title and a berth into the NCAA Tournament.
March 22/24, 2019 - Marking its ninth WNIT appearance in program history, the women’s basketball team hosted its first two tournament games in program history on March 22 and March 24 against Drexel and Georgetown, respectively. The Crimson defeated Drexel, 69-53, to advance to the second round of the WNIT for the fifth time in program history.
November 10, 2019 - The Harvard men's water polo team defeated MIT 14-5 at Blodgett Pool to move to 27-0, securing it's first ever undefeated season in program history. The Crimson would go on to be crowned NWPC Champions, earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
November 17, 2019 - Hosting college rugby's premier contest at Mignone Field, Harvard women's rugby rallied behind stellar defense to defeat Army West Point 18-7, securing its first varsity NIRA National Championship in program history. First-Year Brogan Mior was named Most Valuable Player.