MIT Field Day Program
Object of the Month: August 2004
Athletics at MIT in the nineteenth century were managed and paid for by students. Each participating student paid his own expenses. Most of the competition was intramural and class rivalries could be fierce. Games with other colleges (and sometimes with high schools) were occasionally scheduled. The most frequently played intercollegiate sports were baseball, tennis, football, and track.
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The Institute established the MIT Athletic Association (MITAA) in 1904 to coordinate MIT’s sports-related activities. The association promoted athletics, participated in planning and policy formation, and dispersed funds to MIT teams for equipment and other expenses. MITAA’s membership consisted of team captains and team managers as well as undergraduates from the Alumni Advisory Council.
One of the more popular and eagerly watched athletic events was Field Day, on which the freshman and sophomore classes pitted their skills and determination against one another in such contests as rowing, swimming, tug-of-war, softball, sailing, and relay racing, as well as a climactic brawl known as the glove fight. The objective for each team in the glove fight was to capture a glove worn by a designated member of the opposing team. Other articles of clothing were occasionally torn off in the heat of competition. The Field Day program for 1943 hints that commando tactics learned by students as part of their ROTC training could make the traditional class rivalry especially interesting, adding that “the contestants who leave with their pants on may well consider themselves the winners.”
Increased enrollment and the expansion of athletics after World War II led to the creation of more formal ways of governing MIT’s athletic programs. In 1947 the Institute appointed its first Athletic Director. Athletics are currently managed by the MIT Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation. According to the NCAA, MIT sponsors the broadest intercollegiate athletic program in the country, with 41 varsity teams (21 for men, 17 for women, 3 coeducational); more than 20 intramural programs, with over 1,000 teams; and an extensive club program open to students, faculty, and staff.
Records of the MIT Athletic Association (AC 70), including budgets, manager’s reports, committee records, bylaws, programs, and other publications, are available for research in the Institute Archives and Special Collections, 14N-118.