Week of tradition, history defines Lehigh-Laf rivarly


As Lehigh prepares for the 152nd Lehigh-Lafayette rivalry football game with a series of spirit week traditions, Lafayette students are gearing up for Saturday’s game with their own rivalry week rituals.

While both schools plan to continue their long-established traditions, the rival institutions will each implement new events this week to encourage student excitement for the most-played college football rivalry.

Lehigh’s Spirit Week kicked off Wednesday with the annual Bed Races. In years past, Bed Races

has consisted of teams of five racing one another down the Memorial Walkway in double elimination rounds.

Courtesy of Lehigh Special Collections

Courtesy of Lehigh Special Collections

However, this year, teams raced against the clock, and the two teams with the best finishing times were awarded prizes. Bea Maloney, ’19, the student spirit chair of the Association of Student Alumni, said the change in racing methods was due to safety concerns.

This year’s Bed Races also featured live entertainment between rounds. Maloney said this has never been done before.

“We want to get a bunch of people involved to come and watch the groups, not just to watch the races,” Maloney said.

The performing groups included the Marching 97, the African Renaissance dance crew and two a cappella groups — Off The Record and The Melismatics.

The Spirit Week festivities will continue Thursday with the 60th annual Turkey Trot race, a 2.4-mile run up South Mountain.

Thursday night Lehigh After Dark will bring back the bonfire on Goodman Campus. The event will feature music, refreshments and a banner contest.

Daniel Beadle, ’18, the publicity manager for the Marching 97, said the band will be performing at the bonfire this year.

The 97 will also continue its annual Eco-flame tradition Friday. The band will march in and out of classrooms, dining halls, residence halls and other campus buildings playing Lehigh fight songs.

Beadle said the band has been asked to play at President John Simon’s tailgate on Saturday and will attempt to visit the student tailgates as well.

“We get a lot more attention this week,” said Rachel Swope, ’19, the Marching 97’s historian. “The energy is a lot higher — it’s exciting.”

Although Lehigh has continued several age-old traditions such as Eco-flame, the university has abandoned several others, including the annual parade, which, in the past, would end at the Moravian College girls’ dormitories, according to former administrator John Steckbeck’s 1965 pamphlet, “A History of the Lehigh-Lafayette Weekend.” In 1968, while parading to Moravian, Lehigh students sat down on New Street Bridge and held up traffic for 45 minutes.

In the past, the students would hold pep rallies in Grace Hall. Steckbeck wrote the rallies were so rowdy that the president of the university refused to attend.

Lehigh would also attempt to steal banners from Lafayette and vice versa. In 1933, a riot erupted in Easton after several Lafayette students stole a “Beat Lafayette” banner from Lehigh. More than 60 dozen eggs were thrown at the Easton police before the riot was suppressed. A Lafayette statue was painted brown and white and destroyed. The night ended with Lehigh’s Dean Charles Maxwell McConn bailing 56 students out of jail.

Then in 1939, Lafayette dropped “Lehigh stinks” fliers on the South Mountain campus from a plane. The same year, Lafayette students ripped down two Lehigh flagpoles and created a bonfire in the middle of upper field, Steckbeck wrote.

“In 1955, Lafayette men shaved a total of four Lehigh heads,” Steckbeck wrote. “Lehigh retaliated by capturing the star of the Lafayette frosh track team. His head was shaved and dyed for the big game.”

Although Lafayette was not seen flying planes over Lehigh this year, a hot air balloon was, in fact, flying above the Easton campus Monday.

Lafayette student Victoria Tesone, ’18, said Lafayette’s Rivalry Week kicked off with free hot air balloon rides on the quad.

Courtesy of Lehigh Special Collections

Courtesy of Lehigh Special Collections

Kristin Cothran, the director of Student Involvement at Lafayette, said the Rivalry Week events continued Tuesday when pancake artist “Dancakes” visited campus.

On Wednesday, Lafayette students participated in the annual “Smack the Lehigh Car” event, which was sponsored by the Student Movement Against Cancer (SMAC). Cothran said students paid small donations to smash a junkyard car, labeled “Lehigh,” with a sledgehammer. The proceeds went to the Lehigh Valley Hospital.

Tesone said Lafayette alumnus Joe Maddon, ’76, the manager of the Chicago Cubs, will return to campus Friday to host a concert. Following the concert, faculty and staff will host the annual Midnight Breakfast.

Lafayette student Maddie Titus, ’18, said a large organized tailgate will take place on Saturday before the game.

Cothran said for her, it does not matter who wins the game.

“It’s a nice tradition that exists between both of the schools,” Cothran said. “That’s what I love about the rivalry — the element of the tradition that exists.”

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1 Comment

  1. Here in SEC territory hardly anyone cares about Lehigh/Lafayette. People talk about “hating” your rival but that isn’t quite true. You hate losing to your rival. In Georgia, wearing a Lehigh or Lafayette item means only someone associated with the schools has a clue as to which team you are proud of. As an alumnus you want respect for the tradition; your rival has that respect.

    I would like to be with a Lafayette alum so I could gloat on last years win. I’m sure he would bring up the disaster in Game 150. Our uniforms looked great but fans were demoralized by half-time. The yearly battle of the bands was not satisfying. Instead of a victory over the Lafayette band, the joint half-time show raised the opinions of Lafayette,s musicians by their association with the Marching 97. I would have appreciated the Kumbaya moment more if Lehigh had won the game.

    In any case I appreciate the efforts of all the athletes, football or other sports. They expend much time and energy in the attempt to obtain victory for my alma mater.

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