1940 Dartmouth v. Cornell – The Five Down Game


The 1940 Dartmouth v. Cornell featured Cornell with a powerful offense averaging 30 points per game, a perfect 6-0 record and Number 2 ranking in the AP poll is at Hanover, NH, for it’s annual game at Dartmouth, then 3-4. The Big Red hadn’t lost a game in nearly three seasons (18-0). But for almost four quarters, the spirited Indians, coached by the legendary Earl “Red” Blaik, bottled up the mighty Cornell offense. Late in the game Dartmouth holds onto a precarious 3-0 lead when Cornell’s offensive juggernaut awakens. Cornell with a first and goal at the 6-yard line with less than a minute remaining on the clock ran five plays scoring on the last.

The consensus view in the press box was that Cornell had used five downs to score. That was transmitted to the referee after the game. Both schools filmed the contest, so the next evening referee Red Friesell watched the final sequence of plays and spotted his error. He then contacted Asa Bushnell the commissioner of the Central Office for Eastern Intercollegiate Athletics who was a stickler for rules. Bushnell advised Friesell that since the game was already entered into the official record books, the final score would stand. When the news of the error reached Cornell president Edmund E. Day, athletic director Jim Lynah and coach Carl Snavely concluded that the honorable thing to do was to forfeit the game.

The action was unprecdented in intercollegiate football history. The gesture would be remembered and honored across the decades. This is considered one of the most memorable games of all-time ranking just below the November 10, 1928 Notre Dame vs. Army ” Win one for the Gipper” game.

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5 Responses to “1940 Dartmouth v. Cornell – The Five Down Game”

  1. Michael Ciampi Says:

    I am trying to find information on my uncle Al Ciampa. was an All Americaan, played in the Rose Bowl as a center. I am not sure which years attended. He went on to becme a math teacher/football coach in NY. Al was born and raised in Brockton, MA. I would appreciate any information.

    Thank you

  2. ed breeding Says:

    Hi- I played both football and baseball for your Uncle Al Ciampa at Union College, Schenectady,N.Y. I was a back in 1942 and in 1944 while a member of Navy v-12 unit at Union played second base and led off for the varsity baseball team. I was very fond of your Uncle and while riding the bus to games he and I woild lalk about the 1933 Columbia football team the beat Standford 7-0 in te Rose Ball in one of the greatest upsets in football history,. Al was a great guy and I have thought about him all my life.He always treated me well. After the war he was let go by Union a terrible mistake and I don’t think Al ever really recovered. When I left Union after the war he war working fo American Locomotive doing menial jobs,During the last few years I would see your Uncle walking the capus and I would stop and talk to him. I am sorry that you never had a chance to know Al because you would have loved him. Good Lucl Ed (Monk) Breeding

  3. ed breeding Says:

    I left a long reply to your request about your Uncle Al Ciamps having played both football and baseball for him at Union College in 1942 and 1944.I guess the reply was in the wrong box anyhow I was very fond of Al and If interested I will E-mail you additional information since I have thought of Al many times through the years. He was a grat gu. Ed Breeding

  4. anne breeding Says:


    My dad, Ed Breeding played for your uncle at Union College in the 1940’s. He found you online and tried to respond, but he is having trouble with his computer and is waiting for it to be serviced. He will write you when his modem has been replaced. He loved and respected your uncle and played both football and baseball under his guidance during his college career.
    He looks forward to emailing you and sharing his memories. If you would like to speak with him, email me and I will forward his phone number.
    Anne Breeding

  5. ed breeding Says:

    I have sent 2 comments to Mr. Ciampa but they don’t seem to get through.

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