The Dartmouth Big Green football team represents Dartmouth College in NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) college football competition as a member of the Ivy League. The team possesses a storied tradition that includes a national championship, and is presently tied with Penn for a record 18 Ivy League Football Championships with eleven College Football Hall of Fame inductees.
The sport of football, in its embryonic form, was played on the campus as early as 1876. Goalposts were erected on the green where they stood for several months, before being removed for the 1877 commencement. The first intercollegiate game occurred on November 16, 1881, when Amherst traveled to Dartmouth. The Green won with a score of one goal to none. On November 21, the teams met in Amherst, Massachusetts for a rematch on Thanksgiving Day, and the scoreless game ended prematurely in a tie because of snow. In the following years, Dartmouth played games against some of the best teams in the nation. In 1882, Dartmouth played Harvard for the first time and lost, 53–0. In 1884, Yale visited Dartmouth and routed the Green, 113–0. The Elis teams did not return to Hanover until 1971.
From 1887 to 1898, Dartmouth competed against schools such as MIT, Amherst, and Williams as a member of the Triangular Football League. During that period, the Big Green secured eight conference championships, all of them outright except one shared with MIT in 1888.
From 1901 to 1909, Dartmouth compiled a 58–9–7 record under several different head coaches. In 1901, Dartmouth played their first game against their intrastate rivals, UNH. In 1903, Dartmouth traveled to Harvard for the dedication game of their opponents' stadium. The Green, who had lost the first 18 meetings by a combined margin of 552 points to 18, upset the Crimson, 11–0. From 1911 to 1916, Frank "the Iron Major" Cavanaugh, led the Green to a 42–9–3 record. He volunteered for World War I at the age of 41, and was replaced as coach by one of his former players, Clarence Spears. Spears attained a 21–9–1 record with the Green, and went on to further success at West Virginia and Minnesota, among others.
Before the 1922 game against Harvard, the media began referring to Dartmouth as "the Indians", in addition to their preexisting nickname of the Big Green. In 1923, Jesse Hawley took over as head coach. In 1925, the Green finished 8–0, and two of that team's players, Swede Oberlander and Myles Lane, were later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. One, Nathan Parker, became a Rhodes Scholar. The Indians were named 1925 national champions by Parke H. Davis and the Dickinson system.
Earl "Red" Blaik became head coach in 1934 and posted a 45–15–4 mark in his seven seasons. In 1935, he led them to their first victory over Yale, 14–6. Between 1936 and 1938, the Green compiled a 22-game unbeaten streak, but declined an invitation to the 1937 Rose Bowl. Against Cornell, in 1940, they played the infamous Fifth Down Game. In 1941, Blaik left to coach the Army team at West Point, whom he led to two consecutive national championships. The 1970 Dartmouth football team was undefeated (9-0; 7-0 Ivy) and won the Lambert Trophy, symbolizing the best Division 1 football team in the Northeast. They scored 311 points, while only giving up 42 points, with 6 shutouts. The team finished the season ranked 14 nationally by the AP.
Dartmouth played its first season of football as a member of the Ivy League in 1956. Future Hall of Fame inductee Bob Blackman took over as head coach and went on to compile a 104–37–3 record and seven Ivy League titles. Jake Crouthamel, from 1971 to 1977, and Joe Yukica, from 1978 to 1986, each coached the Green to three more Ivy League championships. The 1978 Ivy League Player of the Year, Buddy Teevens, succeeded Yukica in 1987. Teevens spent five years at Dartmouth and captured two conference championships. John Lyons led the Green to two more titles and another 22-game unbeaten streak. Teevens returned in 2005 and currently remains head coach. Beginning in 2018 Dartmouth will play New England Ivy League rival Brown in their final game.