After 40 Years, Spring Practice Returns to Ivy League

Article excerpt

Hunter Buckner, who has been playing this game for a good part of his life, was saying, "This is the most fun I've ever had with football."

The reference was to spring football practice, which has been reinstated among the Ivy League's eight members for the first time in four decades.

Buckner, co-captain of next season's Dartmouth team, was asked to define fun as 75 players went through the drills Tuesday on Chase Field, a greensward bordered by a hemlock forest of uncommon beauty.

Spring football practice, invented by a zealous Harvard captain named Arthur Cumnock in 1889, has lacked a reputation for amusement, especially at places like Alabama where Bear Bryant for years conducted 80-day mandatory sessions with scrimmaging almost every day.

Buckner, an outside linebacker and safety, said: "For the freshmen and sophomores it's a learning process. But for us it's a chance to try out a few things, to experiment, and to enjoy the game in a relaxed atmosphere. There's no pressure on us or the coaches. We all get a chance to know one another better."

The Ivies are gentle, at least in football.

Their voluntary spring practice consists of 12 sessions, four of them without the players wearing full equipment. Coach John Lyons has scheduled only three scrimmages for Dartmouth, the last of the Ivies to conduct its sessions. Spring practice concludes in Hanover next week.

All the other Ivies are finished.

The coaches have been ecstatic with the results and many are musing why they could not do this before. …