Brent Rosenthal has only missed one game since graduating from Lehigh in 1994. This was after his son, current Lehigh freshman Gehrig Rosenthal, was born four weeks prior to the 2002 football game. He said he battled to convince his wife to let them go, but in the end, changing diapers became the priority that year.
Decades after graduating from Lehigh, many alumni and their families return to attend the Lehigh-Lafayette Rivalry game, reuniting to celebrate their love for Lehigh and the longstanding rivalry between the schools.
Le-Laf is more than a football game to alumni: it is a chance to see old friends.
The COVID-19 pandemic interfered with the Le-Laf tradition last year. The 124-year-old Lehigh- Lafayette Rivalry football game was interrupted in 2020 due to the cancellation of all fall sports.
The game was played in the spring in Easton, with Lafayette winning 20-13.
Rosenthal said tailgating was his favorite Rivalry tradition among the many both schools share.
“While the football game is fun, the annual experience is so much more,” Rosenthal said. “It is the reunion of friends, sharing my passion for Lehigh with my family, running into old friends impromptu, just flashbacks and experiencing tailgates like a college student allows me to connect my past and present. Having my friends and family in the environment where I have so many special memories for just a few short hours each year feels like I am back in college.”
Rosenthal’s Chi Phi fraternity brother, Jeff Brown, has also been to many games.
“It has evolved so much from when I was in college, where it was a nutty tailgate, to now it’s about meeting up with friends and their families,” Brown said. “The kids hang out and when they were younger they would play ball and tackle each other during the tailgates.”
Both Rosenthal and Brown agree that their favorite memory as students was the last fight over the wooden goal posts during the 1990 game which turned into a brawl between rival student sections and resulted in five arrests at Lafayette’s Fisher Field.
The wooden goal posts were replaced with metal ones after this incident occurred. Rosenthal said obtaining the goal posts was one of the last real battles between the schools.
Christina Digiorgio, ‘20, is returning to campus on Friday Nov. 19 and has been planning her visit for a month.
“I’m really looking forward to being back at Goodman and getting to relive one of the best days at Lehigh with the people I love,” Digiorgio said.
Digiorgio said many members of her graduating class are planning on returning for The Rivalry game, including former class president, William Pemberton, ‘20.
Pemberton said he has been planning his return for the game since graduation.
Pemberton said this return to campus is much needed after a difficult and unusual end to his senior year at Lehigh.
“I’m very excited to be in attendance this year at a time in which we’ve come a long way and each day are experiencing a truer return to normal,” Pemberton said.
Shannon Beattie, ‘19, said she grew up going to Le-Laf games since many of her family members attended Lehigh.
“It was something the whole school was a part of, no matter what your major was, or what you were involved in on campus,” Beattie said.
Colby Berman, ‘17, said he has been planning his trip back to Bethlehem since the summer, along with many friends from his graduating class.
He said he and his friends went to Lafayette for the Le-Laf game in 2017, though most of them did not want to make the journey to Lafayette’s campus.
“It turned out to be the best day,” Berman said, “Lehigh won, the entire student section stormed the field and I got to experience that thrill with dozens of people in my class, including my best friend. That was an amazing day.”
Digiorgio said part of what made Le-Laf so special was seeing the entire school and faculty come together for one common goal, to support Lehigh.
She said she will never forget when the Marching 97 performed in her chemistry lecture during her freshman year, as well as doing bed races for the first time.
Pemberton said that during his freshman year at the Le-Laf Rivalry game, he realized the loyalty that all Lehigh students and alumni have for the university.
“I’ll never forget looking across at the stands on the Lafayette side and seeing them largely empty relative to our side and in that moment I knew that the Lehigh spirit was and always will be much stronger – literally and figuratively,” Pemberton said. “We’re all on the same side in the Lehigh community and it’s the Le-Laf tradition, the week of endless events and opportunities to be together and the game provides us with the comfort and assurance that’s true.”
Dean Konner, ’77, has not missed one game since his freshman year in 1973. However, that has not meant there haven’t been obstacles in the way of his perfect attendance. He has had three weddings interfere with Rivalry game days, but has still managed to attend each one.
“My niece was getting married and the week before they traditionally had the service, and I had to go to it and I bolted,” Konner said. “I left my family and went to the Lehigh-Lafayette football game. Nothing gets in the way of a Lehigh-Lafayette football game.”
The 135th Lehigh-Lafayette Rivalry game was played at Yankees stadium. Brown said this was his favorite game.
“New York was taken over by Lehigh and Lafayette fans,” Brown said. “You would walk down the street and it was filled with Lehigh-Lafayette people. It also drew more people back to the game that wouldn’t normally go, so I saw people I hadn’t seen in forever.”
This year marks the 157th meeting of the teams. The game will be held at Goodman Stadium on Nov. 20 at 12 p.m. The Mountain Hawks are looking to capture a third straight win this season on the heels of victories against Bucknell and Georgetown.
Although the football team currently has a losing record, if the team beats Lafayette on Saturday, it counts as a winning record to Konner.
“My motto always is that if we go 10-0 and lose to Lafayette, it’s a losing season,” Konner said. “If we go 0-10 and beat Lafayette it’s a winning season. So this year, if we beat Lafayette, it’s a winning season.”