Varsity Sports at Harvard

October 14, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Varsity Sports at Harvard

What are the Varsity Sports at Harvard? The first organized sporting event at Harvard took place in 1780 when the sophomores challenged the freshmen to a wrestling match with the loser having to buy dinner for everyone. Ever since the legendary boat race that it competed in against its bitter rival Yale in the year 1852, Harvard has been at the forefront of American intercollegiate athletics.

It was their football squad that came up with the contemporary version of the game as well as many of the fundamentals that are used today, such as the first concrete stadium, a scoreboard, uniform numbers, and signals.

The college was the first of its kind to establish both an athletic organization and a committee to oversee the regulation of sports on campus. Although the Varsity Sports at Harvard has the most extensive program in the country, with 42 men’s and women’s squads, it continues to adhere to the same ‘athletics for all’ philosophy that it established almost a century ago. This is despite the fact that Harvard now boasts the most extensive varsity program in the country.

Historically, Harvard has held the view that participation in athletics is an essential component of the overall educational experience. Students at Harvard who take part in athletics are better able to grow, study, and enjoy themselves while simultaneously enhancing their personal, physical, and intellectual capabilities. 

View of a brick building at Harvard University.

The pursuit of excellence through personal development and teamwork, ethical and responsible behavior on and off the field, adherence to the spirit of rules as well as to their letter, leadership and strength of character, and sportsmanship – respect for one’s opponents, acceptance of victory with humility, and acknowledgment of defeat with grace – are all highly valued at Harvard, as are the lessons that have traditionally been taught by athletic participation. 

Harvard instills in its students the habits that will drive them to live lives that are both better and healthier as a result of the principles that it teaches. The community of Varsity Sports at Harvard believes that the efforts made by its intercollegiate athletes to be the greatest versions of themselves will lead to success throughout their life, despite the fact that winning is not an end in and of itself.

Through the participation of students, teachers, staff, and alumni, the Harvard Athletic Department fosters a sense of community on campus and serves as a gateway for surrounding communities to take part in and benefit from Harvard education. Varsity Sports at Harvard takes great pride in the fact that its coaches are educators and that its athletes are genuine representatives of Harvard’s student body. 

Athletes at Harvard go through the same admissions process as every other Harvard student, receive the same academic support, and are held to the same standards. Harvard believes that successful athletic teams generate unique excitement across the campus and community, help strengthen bonds among the various arms of our university, build collegiate loyalty in a healthy manner, and give its community members yet another reason to be proud to represent Harvard.

Yet as in the classrooms and laboratories, Harvard habitually has striven for excellence on the playing fields. The primary standard has been successful against its seven peer institutions in the Ivy League, where Crimson squads have won more than 400 titles since 1956. But Harvard also has had remarkable achievements at the national level, accumulating more than 140 team titles in sports ranging from ice hockey to lacrosse to fencing to crew.

The college’s international imprint, which was formed in the 19th century, is still prominent in the 21st. The biennial track meets pitting Yale against Oxford and Cambridge is the world’s oldest continuing intercollegiate sport, while Crimson crews are constant competitors and frequent victors at the Henley Royal Regatta.

Ever since triple jumper James Connolly won the first gold medal at the inaugural Olympics in 1896 in Athens, Harvard athletes have competed on the Olympic stage, which is the most prestigious sporting competition on the entire planet. Recent Summer Games have featured athletes from a wide variety of countries with diverse Crimson connections, such as Israeli fencers, Canadian hockey stars, Uzbek wrestlers, Haitian triple jumpers, Australian rowers, Nigerian shot putters, and Philippine swimmers, to name just a few.

Nearly 140 former Harvard athletes have competed at the highest level in their respective sports over the course of the last century, including football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and soccer; several of these athletes have won the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup. Harvard athletes have also reached the highest professional levels. The fact that the vast majority of them hold diplomas is what sets them apart from other people.

What are the different Varsity Sports at Harvard?

What are the different Varsity Sports at Harvard? The intercollegiate athletic teams of Harvard College are collectively referred to as the Harvard Crimson. The school’s teams participate in NCAA Division I. There are now 42 intercollegiate varsity sports teams for both men and women competing at the Division I level at Harvard University as of the year 2013, which is more than any other NCAA Division I college in the country.

Harvard is a leader in improving education via athletics and in building community and pride in the University. With a program that is both the largest and one of the most successful in Division I of the NCAA, Harvard is the largest athletic program in the NCAA.

The pursuit of excellence through personal development and teamwork, ethical and responsible behavior both on and off the field, leadership and strength of character, and sportsmanship are some of the values that have long been taught by participation in athletics. These values are vital to the continued success and vitality of athletic programs, and they have been taught by athletic participation for a long time.

Athletics at Harvard develops community via the engagement of students, professors, staff, and alumni and creates linkages with adjacent communities. Pride in the Harvard Crimson is something that is earned through life events that are formative. The following are the different varsity sports at Harvard and each has teams to represent them:

Men’s Sports:

  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Cricket (club)
  • Cross country
  • Field hockey
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Ice hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • Rowing (lightweight and heavyweight)
  • Rugby (Club)
  • Soccer
  • Squash
  • Swimming and diving
  • Tennis
  • Track and field
  • Volleyball
  • Water polo
  • Wrestling

Women’s Sports:

  • Softball
  • Basketball
  • Cross country
  • Golf
  • Ice hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • Rowing (lightweight and heavyweight)
  • Rugby
  • Soccer
  • Squash
  • Swimming and diving
  • Tennis
  • Track and field
  • Volleyball
  • Water polo

Co-ed sports:

  • Fencing
  • Sailing
  • Skiing

Popular Varsity Sports at Harvard

What are the current popular varsity sports at Harvard? Staying true to the mission of the athletics department, which is to build community and pride while also educating through varsity sports at Harvard, student-athletes and coaches have established themselves as integral members of the surrounding community as well as communities further afield. Their involvement in the community has been beneficial to a wide variety of causes and organizations, and it has also moved the department closer to achieving its objective of utilizing athletics as a medium for educational purposes.

The following is a list of some of Harvard’s most popular varsity sports:


The 1865 season was the first year that the Harvard baseball team participated in a competition. It has participated in a total of four College World Series tournaments. The team is currently coached by Bill Decker and plays its home games at Joseph J. O’Donnell Field. The 30 members of the Harvard men’s baseball team are trained and led by one head coach, three assistant coaches, and one graduate assistant coach. It is clear that the members of the squad are focused on more than just baseball, as seen by the outstanding academic development of the club.

Students playing basketball on a field.

The team has competed in a total of 14 NCAA Tournaments and four College World Series over the course of its history. It has a record of five victories in the Ivy League Championship Series, eight victories in the Rolfe Division, 15 victories in the EIBL regular season, and 12 victories in the Ivy League regular season. When competing against Columbia in the Ivy League Playoff Series in 2019, the team was victorious, bringing home the Ivy League championship for the first time since 2005.

As of the beginning of the 2014 season in Major League Baseball, there have been 12 former players from the Crimson who have appeared in the league.


The men’s basketball team at Harvard competes at the intercollegiate level. The team is currently competing in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and plays its home games at the Lavietes Pavilion in Boston. The Ivy League is the highest level of competition in college athletics. The last time the squad competed in the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament was in 2014 when they won an upset against Cincinnati in the Round of 64. The game was a 12-seed versus a 5-seed matchup. Tommy Amaker is now serving as the coach for the Crimson.

The 19 members of the Harvard men’s basketball team are trained and guided by one head coach, three assistant coaches, and one graduate assistant coach. The members of the team care about things other only basketball. Their high rate of academic advancement is evidence that they devote a sufficient amount of time to their studies as well.

In addition, Harvard fields a competitive women’s basketball team at the intercollegiate level. The squad is now competing in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and plays its home games at the Lavietes Pavilion in Boston. The Ivy League is the highest level of competition in college athletics. 

2007 was the year that marked the squad’s most recent participation in the women’s NCAA Division I basketball tournament. The Harvard women’s basketball team is comprised of 14 different players, and it is coached by a single head coach in addition to three other individuals. The fact that the team maintains a high rate of academic progress is evidence that its members recognize the significance of obtaining a solid education.


The fencing team was victorious in the men’s and women’s combined NCAA team championship in 2006 and took home the trophy. Benjamin (Benji) Ungar, who competed for the Harvard Crimson, was awarded the title of Harvard Athlete of the Year after winning the gold medal in the individual men’s épée competition at the 2006 NCAA Fencing Championship.

Two students fencing on a room.

In the year 2020, the fencing program received more attention as a result of a student admission scandal. According to the allegations, the scandal involved the former fencing coach Peter Brand accepting bribes to admit at least two sons of Maryland businessman Jie “Jack” Zhao into Harvard as members of the fencing team.

One head coach and two assistant coaches are in charge of the Harvard men’s fencing team, which has a total of sixteen players and is managed by one head coach. Members of the team care about things other just fencing. Their high rate of academic advancement is evidence that they devote a sufficient amount of time to their studies as well.


The Harvard–Yale Regatta was the first competition that sparked the rivalry between the two universities in the field of athletics. It predates “The Game” by 23 years. It takes place on the Thames River in eastern Connecticut every year in the month of June. As a result of their combined success in recent years at a number of different national championships, the Harvard heavyweight and lightweight rowing teams are widely regarded as being among the best in the United States.

The Harvard lightweight men’s team had one of the “oddest” championship runs in school sports for a while, as they won the national championships every odd year from 1989 to 2003. This gave them the “oddest” streak in college athletics (and in no corresponding even years). The streak ended in 2005 when Harvard was defeated by Yale by a margin of approximately four seconds.


Since the year 1873, the football squad has been competing (using rugby union rules through 1882). When they played in what is now known as the FBS, they won 10 national championships and were undefeated during that time. They are probably best known for their competition against Yale, which is simply referred to as “The Game.” The College Football Hall of Fame currently includes sixteen individuals who have played the game during their careers.

The athletic competition between Harvard and Yale is fierce in every sport in which they compete against one another. However, the highlight of their rivalry is every autumn during their matchup in football, which has been going on since 1875.

Football equipment placed on a field.

Despite the fact that Harvard’s football team is no longer considered to be among the best in the country as it frequently was a century ago during the early days of football (it won the Rose Bowl in 1920), both Harvard and Yale have had an impact on the way the game is played. When it opened in 1903, Harvard Stadium was the very first permanent reinforced concrete stadium of its kind anywhere in the United States. This marked the beginning of a new era in the sport of football. 

The architecture of the stadium was important to the development of the collegiate game in more ways than one. The “Father of Football,” Walter Camp, who was also the former captain of the Yale football team, proposed opening up the game by making the field wider in order to cut down on the alarming number of deaths and significant injuries that were occurring as a result of the sport. 

However, the cutting-edge Harvard Stadium could not handle a playing field that was any wider due to its confinement. Therefore, more actions were required to be conducted. Camp, on the other hand, would back ground-breaking new regulations for the 1906 season. These included making the forward pass permissible, which is widely considered to be the most important rule change in the entire history of the sport.

Does Harvard Provide Athletic Scholarships?

Does Harvard provide athletic scholarships? Because it is an Ivy League school, Harvard does not provide students with the opportunity to earn academic or sports scholarships. On the other hand, Harvard does offer need-based financial help to those who can demonstrate they are in a position to benefit from it. The fact that Harvard boasts the most Division I sports teams of any college in the country — 42 — indicates that there are a significant number of open positions. The admittance percentage for recruited athletes is 90%, and they account for 10% of the total number of freshmen.

Smiling woman opening the door of a building.

These students were notified in advance that they had gained slots in the College’s incoming freshman class via highly desired “likely letters.” The notification came as a result of endorsements from Harvard coaches. Assuring certain students early on that there is a seat open for them allows recruited athletes to begin planning for their move to Harvard. This is accomplished through the use of likely letters.

Want to learn more about getting into varsity sports at Harvard? You’ve come to the right place. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process, including our athletic recruitment program. 

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.



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