Colgate Game Against Akron 63 Years In the Making

Colgate will play in the Buckeye State for the first time in 2024, but they still have an interesting connection to the state.

An early-season four-game winning streak almost had the Raiders bowling in the Buckeye State in 1961
Source: Herman F. Marshall/Hartford Courant

On Wednesday, FBSchedules revealed Akron added three more FCS games to their future schedules as Duquesne, Robert Morris, and Colgate joined their future schedules. The additions of Duquesne and Robert Morris are sensible regional options, while Colgate is a considerable distance away from the Rubber City.

Surprisingly, Colgate has never played in the state of Ohio but did play Akron once in 1940, winning 44-0 in Hamilton, NY. Even though Colgate has never played in the Buckeye State, they came surprisingly close to bowling in Ohio way back in 1961.

In 1961, Colgate started the season hot, going 4-1. After starting the year with a blowout loss to Cornell, the Raiders reeled off four straight wins against Bucknell, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, allowing only eight points in that span.

On November 2nd, according to the Associated Press, the Aviation Bowl committee chairman, Dr. David Reese announced that Colgate was on a list of teams for consideration with Virginia Tech, Citadel, Rutgers, Wyoming, Detroit, Villanova, Utah State, Utah, Wichita State, and Florida State. The Aviation Bowl was in its inaugural year, struggling to gain footing as a cold-weather bowl in Dayton.

The Raiders were having a nice year to that point and had enjoyed years of relevance in the 1920s and 1930s, but by 1961 were a program in the middle of the college football pack. On top of this, the Raiders were considerably far from Dayton, a nine-hour drive, and did not draw well in their only home game before November 2nd, attracting only 5,200 fans against Bucknell.

Unfortunately, the Raiders had reached the peak of their season after the publishing of the report, as they lost three straight to Lehigh, Syracuse, and Rutgers. The Raiders did end their season on a high note, beating Brown 30-6 on Thanksgiving, but it was not enough to earn the Aviation Bowl bid.

Instead of an East Coast team, the Aviation Bowl invited New Mexico from the Mountain States Conference to face Western Michigan from the MAC. The Lobos won 28-12 for their only bowl win for the next 46 years, never to win another bowl game until the 2007 New Mexico Bowl. Only 3,500 fans showed up to Welcome Stadium for the Aviation Bowl, and the bowl vanished after a year.

This would not be the last time that a Colgate team was on a mid-tier bowl’s radar as they were on the Independence Bowl’s radar in its second year in 1977 before the bowl settled on Louisville to face off against Southland Conference champions, Louisiana Tech. The Raiders ended the season 10-1, but a November 18 AP report cited Colgate’s low home attendance as the main detractor to their candidacy.

In the end, Akron-Colgate seems like an obscure, early-season paycheck game, but for the Raiders, it is a trip to the Buckeye State, 63 years overdue.