Separated by a mere 20 miles and bound by 130 years of shared athletic history, few rivalries in college football compare with Lafayette and Lehigh. The contest is known simply as “The Rivalry,” and it is the most-played football rivalry in the nation and the longest uninterrupted annual rivalry series, dating back to 1884.
This year’s contest, the 150th between the two schools, is being held at Yankee Stadium in New York City and will be a celebration of the rich tradition and history of the game.
While the two schools didn’t meet on the gridiron until 1884, they began their athletic rivalry in October 1869 with a series of baseball games. Joint events in track-and-field soon followed and, after a decisive victory by Lehigh in the inaugural meet, the Lafayette student newspaper fanned the flames of the new rivalry by deeming the loss a “defeat in our recent contest with Lehigh University, – a defeat, too, doubly humiliating, coming, as it did, from an adversary in every other respect our inferior.”
The teams used to play twice a year until the modernization of college football, rules changes and the formation of the first conferences 1902. Since then, the annual game has become an event that consumes campus life at both schools.
Lehigh, for instance, celebrates its Spirit Week prior the game with the campus full of activities and events, including the Marching 97 Campus Tour where members of Lehigh’s marching band weave their way through the campus, serenading the campus with a host of the school’s fight songs.
Both teams have their own rich bases of history to draw from. Lafayette has three national championships and seven Patriot League championships, while Lehigh has won a national title and 10 Patriot League titles.
The 150th meeting between in Lafayette and Lehigh will feature three days of events in New York City, ranging from other athletic matchups (the two schools will compete in a swimming match on Nov. 21 in Bronx, N.Y.) to a variety of cultural and academic forums throughout the city.
UPDATE November 24, 2014: Before the 150th matchup, the National Football Foundation presented commemorative footballs to Lafayette College and Lehigh University in recognition of college football’s most-played and longest consecutive rivalry.