September 13, 2007

Cornell Sprint Football Steeped in Tradition

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In 1934, two of the Ivy League Universities created a game of “Football for All.” Originally to provide entertainment before their varsity football games, Yale and Harvard created sprint football teams that allowed an average sized college-aged male to be able to play football competitively.
The new game was played with the same rules as a standard college game, yet there was a maximum weight limit of 150 pounds. Sprint football was different because it emphasized the skills, abilities and quickness of the smaller players. Without the presence of 300-pound linebackers, smaller players had the opportunity to compete in football games at a college level.
The Eastern 150-pound Football League began with five members including Yale, Penn, Rutgers, Lafayette and Princeton. By 1936, Cornell University recruited men for a team and joined the league.
Alfred Wolff, the first head coach of Cornell’s lightweight team, led it to a winning first season of three wins and two loses.
After five seasons, Wolff stepped down and the Red struggled in the Eastern Lightweight Football League (ELFL) until 1958. When Bob Cullen became the head coach, things began to look positive for Cornell’s lightweight team. With 14 second- or third-place finishes in the ELFL between 1958 and 1975, the growing success of the sprint football team was obvious. In 1975, Cullen led the Red to its first league title in the ELFL.
Coach Cullen’s eldest son, Terry became co-head coach along side his father in the 1970s. Officially retiring in 1979, Bob Cullen continued to help coach and attend practices, while his son took on the job as head coach.
Terry Cullen remarked how his father “…influenced the lives of thousands of Cornellians,” throughout his many years of coaching at Cornell. In 1984 to acknowledge his great achievements to sprint football, Coach Bob Cullen was inducted into the Cornell Athletic Hall of Fame and the ELFL named the championship trophy the Robert L. Cullen Trophy.
Cornell’s tradition of excellence in sprint football began with Bob Cullen and continues today with his son, Terry, as head coach. Cullen is respected by his team as a coach, as well as a person.
“He is a very fair coach… [and] just an over all real good person to be around,” said senior captain Glenn Palmer.
The Red lost 23 players last year, and is starting this season with a young team. However with six returning offensive starters and four defensive starters, Cullen is very optimistic for the 2007 season.
“It’ll be enjoyable to watch them develop,” Cullen said. “We have put in a lot of hard work and the team is looking strong.”
Cornell’s sprint football team will be competing in the Collegiate Sprint Football League, playing games against the four other members of the league: Princeton, Army, Navy and Penn. The team has been practicing for several weeks now.
“I feel honored to be apart of a team that has such a great history at Cornell,” said freshman Tim Kozen.