Sports

Brown football to play at Fenway Park

Talks since September with Red Sox front office lead to unique opportunity for Bruno

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, February 3, 2017

As it has every year for the past decade, the football team will face off against Dartmouth for its penultimate game of the 2017 season. But this year, Bruno’s final home game is no ordinary matchup for the Bears. Instead of senior day at Brown Stadium, Bruno will play under the lights of Fenway Park, the iconic home of the Boston Red Sox.

The athletic department released the news to the Brown community Jan. 12 over social media.

“Everyone was extremely excited about it,” said quarterback TJ Linta ’18. “The opportunity to play at such a historic place like that is crazy. I remember going to games at Fenway when I was a kid, but I never thought I’d actually play a game there, let alone football. It’s just a dream come true for a lot of guys.”

According to Director of Athletics Jack Hayes, the opportunity arose through an alum connected with the Red Sox organization. Last September, Hayes and the alum met with front office personnel at Fenway, who were “fantastic to work with” and very interested in the prospect of hosting the Bears following the success of the Boston College versus Notre Dame matchup held there in 2015, Hayes said.

“We’re always trying to find ways to differentiate our program from others,” Hayes said. “You do that by winning, you do that by having the best coaches, you do that by having the best students and you do that by finding unique locations to play in.”

Because the Red Sox would not host a baseball game that late into the calendar year, and the Big Green traditionally faces off with Brown in November, Dartmouth was a natural fit to be Brown’s opponent.

But as Head Coach Phil Estes P’18 remarked, the unique history between the Bears and the Big Green also helped seal the deal: Brown played Dartmouth at Fenway in 1923. Dartmouth is also a local, New England team, and both programs have “a very good alumni base in Boston,” Estes said.

According to Estes, the Ivy League is already excited about making the event one of its premiere televised games. “If it is on TV,” Estes said, “it will be an attraction to our alumni base around the country.”

Not only do numerous alums from both schools come from the Boston area, many current players on the teams are from the region.

“As a Red Sox fan growing up, to play at Fenway would be an honor,” said tight end Anton Casey ’19 “A lot of the guys on the football team are from the Northeast, so it’s really a once-in-a-lifetime deal.”

As the winter cold beckons and the long off-season takes its toll, Estes also hopes that the opportunity will provide extra motivation for the players.

“I’d watch our guys when we’d practice at MetLife (stadium),” Estes said, referring to the home of the New York Jets and Giants. “Being at a pro venue gets them excited. To be in a place like Fenway, their eyes are going to open up and it’s going to be a fun time.” Either way, Estes remarked that the game’s location “does give a little extra motivation for some of the guys to make sure they get on that bus.”

For recruiting, as well as for cultivating Brown grads, the news has become a strongly promoted focal point for Estes and Hayes.

“It’s been great,” Estes said. “We were able to tweet that out to all our incoming recruits and our alumni base to say we’re going to play at this iconic venue. It’s very good for recruiting.” Brown just announced its recruiting class for the class of 2021 Wednesday, which features future players from 17 different states, including Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

Hayes emphasized the event as more than just a game, but as a “University event.”

“It is an opportunity for Brown to extend its reach to Boston,” Hayes said. “That will help us build a large crowd for the game, and it will be a good opportunity for alums to stay connected with Brown in a very unique way. I was at a Brown football event in New York City, and they were all talking about it.”

Amid all of the excitement, Estes stressed that playing at Fenway Park will also present special challenges. “What we can’t do is let the team get too focused on the venue and not what they have to do,” he said.

Several “unique quirks” include both teams sharing the same sideline, which can make substitutions more difficult and could create unforeseen advantages and disadvantages for both teams, Estes said. The placement of the communications box and its sight line to the field has not yet been specified. Estes noted that the coaches will likely consult the Boston College staff — who have experience playing at Fenway before — to learn more of the stadium’s nuances.

Regarding the financial nature of the deal, Hayes said the team will incur certain special costs, such as team traveling expenses and shuttling students. Because of this, the University does not have to guarantee a certain number of people in attendance or tickets sold. Still, Hayes emphasized a push from Brown and Dartmouth to “get as many people there as possible” and “make it a great event.”

Moving forward, Hayes remained optimistic about the opportunity for Brown to continue its relationship with Fenway.

“I’d image they’d want to continue to do it. I know the Brown folks are excited, and hopefully it’s something we can look to continue if it’s successful.”