The term "Ivy League" specifically refers to eight American universities: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania. While the term is most often associated with an exclusive, high-quality education, the concept actually began as a structure for intercollegiate football between the universities.


In the early 1930s, New York Herald Tribune reporter Stanley Woodward referred to these universities as the "Ivy League" for the first time.


In 1945, each university president formally agreed to the formation of the Ivy League for football, stressing the need to integrate athletics wisely into academics.


In 1956, each university began playing every other Ivy League team every year in as many sports as possible. Early on this included football, baseball, basketball and soccer.

Other Sports

By the 1970s, Ivy League sports included squash, fencing, tennis, wrestling and swimming. Not every university participated in every sport.


Women's sports teams were included in the Ivy League in the 1970s.

Related Articles

About the Author

I have been a professional historian, museum curator, and author for more than a decade. I have served as the Museums Editor at BellaOnline since 2004. I am qualified to serve as an expert in a variety of historical topics. My expertise includes the Victorian Age and McKinley's presidency, the Roaring Twenties, the 1950s, the flu, museum studies, material culture, architecture, and more. I have a BA in history and an MA in history museum studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program. Please see my bio on my employer's website for more: