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MIT Football

MIT Football Is Having Year For The Books

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH News
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MIT Football

If you’re not looking for it, you may miss Henry G. Steinbrenner Stadium.

The cozy bleachers can seat just under 1,000 fans. There’s a tiny press box but no jumbotron. A PA announcer's voice crackles over speakers above the stands. There are even a few band members.

But MIT Football is no small thing. The Engineers are currently 8-1, which is already the second-best regular season record in program history.

The team is led by quarterback Udgam Goyal, who’s thrown for nearly 1500 yards in his senior season and was named First-Team All-Conference last year.

But when he was first looking for places to play in college, Goyal didn’t even know MIT had a football team.

“So my dad told me initially, once. We were just sitting down on the couch, he was like, ‘Hey, by the way, did you know that MIT has a football team?'" he recalled. "And I was very shocked initially. ... I didn't know at all.”

Goyal played high school ball in Texas. He didn't initially plan to play college football, but he knew he wanted to go to a top-notch school. That's when he came across an MIT program that’s garnered national attention.

MIT Engineers Football in Action
MIT Engineers Football in Action
The MIT Engineers football team plays against the Coast Guard Academy on October 20, 2018 in Cambridge, MA.
Meredith Nierman
MIT Engineers Football in Action
MIT Engineers Football in Action
The MIT Engineers Football team plays against the Coast Guard Academy on October 20, 2018 in Cambridge, MA.
Meredith Nierman
MIT Engineers Football in Action
MIT Engineers Football in Action
The MIT Engineers Football team plays against the Coast Guard Academy on October 20, 2018 in Cambridge, MA.
Meredith Nierman
MIT Engineers Football in Action
MIT Engineers Football in Action
The MIT Engineers Football team plays against the Coast Guard Academy on October 20, 2018 in Cambridge, MA.
Meredith Nierman
MIT Engineers Football in Action
MIT Engineers Football in Action
Part of the MIT Engineers Football team gathers on the field during their game against the Coast Guard Academy on October 20, 2018 in Cambridge, MA.
Meredith Nierman
MIT Engineers in Football Action
MIT Engineers in Football Action
The MIT Engineers Football team plays against the Coast Guard Academy on October 20, 2018 in Cambridge, MA.
Meredith Nierman
MIT Engineers Football in Action
MIT Engineers Football in Action
The MIT Engineers Football team plays against the Coast Guard Academy on October 20, 2018 in Cambridge, MA.
Meredith Nierman
MIT Engineers Football in Action
MIT Engineers Football in Action
The MIT Engineers Football team plays against the Coast Guard Academy on October 20, 2018 in Cambridge, MA.
Meredith Nierman
MIT Engineers Football in Action
MIT Engineers Football in Action
The MIT Engineers Football team lines up to shake hands with players from the Coast Guard Academy on October 20, 2018 in Cambridge, MA. The Engineers defeated the Coast Guard 13-0.
Meredith Nierman
MIT Engineers Football in Action
MIT Engineers Football in Action
Ugdam Goyal (center, #10), quarterback of the 8-1 MIT Engineer’s football team, celebrates with his teammates after they defeated the Coast Guard Academy Bears 13-0, on October 20, 2018 in Cambridge, MA.
Meredith Nierman
MIT Engineers Football in Action
MIT Engineers Football in Action
Brian Bubna, head coach of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Football Team, talks to his players after their 13-0 win over the Coast Guard on October 20, 2018.
Meredith Nierman
MIT Engineers Football in Action
MIT Engineers Football in Action
The MIT Engineers Football team gathers in the end zone after their 13-0 victory over the Coast Guard Academy on October 20, 2018 in Cambridge, MA.
Meredith Nierman
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It wasn’t always like this. MIT started playing football in the late 1800s, but dropped it after the 1901 season. There wasn't a varsity team again until 1988.

For years after that, the team had struggled to break even and maintain a winning record. Then Julie Soriero came along.

Soriero, who has been the director of athletics for 12 years, pushed to change to the culture of MIT sports by focusing on getting teams more competitive schedules, better coaching staffs and better facilities.

And she’s not shy about excelling. Since 2010, the football team has had 5 winning seasons, including this one.

"MIT doesn’t apologize for winning Nobel Prizes or grants from the government or grants from any other organization, so we shouldn’t apologize for excelling in the particular area that I’m charged with overseeing,” Soriero said.

In 2014, the football team won its first conference title and made it to the second round of the Division III national tournament.

And even though they've taken a regular season loss, they're still in the hunt to win at least a share of the conference title.

First-year head coach Brian Bubna grew up playing football in blue collar western Pennsylvania. He says the athletic department at MIT has made a push to get students who are not just talented in academics.

"If you look around the department, it wasn't football doing this before. The basketball team, men's and women's swimming and diving. The women's softball team has been to the World Series two out of the past three years," he said. "I mean, it's kind of building wide here with all the programs."

When the team took on the Coast Guard Academy Bears earlier this season, the Engineers clicked, winning a heavy-hitting contest 13-0.

MIT rushed for 190 yards on the ground and picked up another 108 through the air. On defense, the Engineers held the Bears to just 118 total yards.

After the victory, former players, along with family and friends, spilled out onto the field to greet the team.

Most of the players are like Goyal, who's a computer science senior.

And as out of place football may seem at a place like MIT, Bubna sees it as part of the academic experience.

"There's things that you learn in a lab or in a classroom that you can't learn in a football field, but there's a lot of stuff that you can learn in a football field about yourself that you can't learn in a classroom," Bubna said.

Although more is being learned about the toll football takes on bodies, especially the head, the rewards outweigh the risks for MIT's quarterback.

"You know that I only have a short time to play this game that I love, right?" Goyal said. "So I think, for me, it's more of making the most of what I have rather than being scared of what can happen in the future."

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