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Corey Ford Field House

Three of the country’s most notable college rugby centers contain one last name to honor the person who donated the facility.  West Point is the Anderson Rugby Complex. The Prusmack Field House is located at Annapolis. And Cal’s Whitter Field is at Berkeley. The Corey Ford Field House at Dartmouth remains one of the top echelon rugby facilities to include the benefactor’s first and last name.  Ford was well known and well connected during his magazine and book writing days in New York when he was an occasional veteran of the 1920’s Algonquin Round Table of famous wits and writers (Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, George S. Kaufman, etc.). He is also credited with naming The New Yorker’s iconic fop mascot Eustace Tilley.

For Dartmouth’s many loyal rugby alumni, the men’s team’s success in the past decade can trace a direct line back to Corey Ford (1902-1969), a prime force in assisting the club’s development in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Ford, a noted humorist (satirist) and screenwriter, moved from Manhattan to Freedom, NH, where he had once fished and hunted in his youth. Afterward, he bought a house in Hanover in 1952.  When explaining how he came to play such an important part shaping Dartmouth rugby, he wrote:

“Well, the fact is that rugby took me up. My home here in Hanover adjoins the college playing fields; and so in the course of time it has been adopted as the headquarters of th DRFC, an independent organization, which has no home of its own. I am hailed as the ‘Coach’ for want of a better title.”

 Corey Ford’s political and media connections would flower and realize themselves when the 1959 DRFC decided to tour England, marking the first college or club rugby visit ever to that country.  Not since the 1924 Olympics had a US fifteen journeyed to Europe on tour.  Ford contacted pals in the Eisenhower White House, which offered the ruggers official sponsorship via the President’s People to People Program founded in 1956. The support added more importance to the visit, resulting in wider print coverage in London, and also an official dinner with the US Ambassador, Jock Hay Whitney.  When the DRFC returned after a splendid 5-2 result, Ford arranged for the team to be introduced to the nation as they sat in the audience for the Ed Sullivan Show. (Oy! Sullivan mistakenly said they had beaten the Brits at soccer.)

When Ford died in 1969, he bequeathed his house to the DRFC. The boon of inheriting high-priced Hanover property danced like sugarplums in the succeeding years of the club’s administrations. Each generation had hoped to exchange the Ford house for a rugby clubhouse and official field, theoretically, a good deal for the University.  Finally, after years of legal wrangling, Dartmouth agreed to cede land for two fields, and build a clubhouse with added financial support from the alumni. Denny Goodman, Class of 1960, started the Friends of Dartmouth Rugby, which contributed a large sum to the project.  The Corey Ford Field House opened in 2005 designed by noted architects Randall T. Mudge Associates; it was the first rugger building with equal male and female facilities.

The field house sits in the middle of the Brophy and Battle fields. Inside is a spacious main room with couches and chairs, and notably, a large painting of Corey Ford. It has a bar where beverages (but not alcohol) are served, along with food.  There is a trophy room amply filled with 60-years plus of Big Green championships, including the first one, a bowl for winning the 1960 New York RFC Sevens, and the two, College Rugby Championships (CRC) of the Pete Dawkins’ Trophy.

These attractive facilities of three pitches and spacious field house contribute to Dartmouth’s rugby program, and impress would be ruggers considering the university as high school seniors.  They may not know the history of Corey Ford, the man, but they soon learn to appreciate his vital contribution to Dartmouth rugby.