Rivals Since 1865

The Andover/Exeter athletic games were established in 1865, when Phillips Exeter Academy students tried to arrange sports matches against Phillips Academy, according to the book “Muscle and Manliness” by Axel Bundgaard, chair emeritus of the Department of Physical Education at Saint Olaf College. Both headmasters at the time did not support athletic competition between the two schools because of logistical concerns like transport as well as safety concerns. However, in 1873, two new principals agreed to play the games, which were established with minimal faculty involvement. On May 22, 1878, the first interscholastic game between the two academies took place at Exeter. Both baseball teams competed and Exeter won the first game with a score of eleven to one, avenged days later by Andover. The first football game followed ten years after. On November 2, 1978, the game took place at Andover. The Andover team defeated the Exeter team with a score of one field goal and five touchdowns to Exeter’s nothing. This athletic competition was unprecedented in secondary school history. According to Muscle and Manliness, “Until this time no sporting event had caught the attention of fellow students as did the games between the two emerging rivals…It likely represents one of the oldest continuous secondary school rivalries, public or private.” Bungaard wrote later that, “Without question, Andover and Exeter set the model for other schools to follow.” Ruth Quattlebaum, school archivist at Phillips Academy, said, “Football was beginning to grow as a popular sport.” She said that the cause of this rivalry was related to the mutual desire for a “good opponent.” Quattlebaum said there was no rivalry between the uncle and nephew who founded the schools. “In fact,” she said, Exeter’s founder John Phillips “[took] a lot of [ideas from] Samuel Phillips Jr.” The relationship between the two schools, she said, has always been “strong.” Several accusations of cheating have been slung from both sides, according to Muscle and Manliness. Since Andover merged with Abbot Academy in 1973, Andover and Exeter have held competitions in many more sports, and girls teams also participate in the games. Quattlebaum said, “When Andover became coed…the interest in football decreased dramatically.” Before Abbot merged with Andover, according to Quattlebaum, “the football game was by far the biggest [Andover/Exeter] sporting event.” In the 1980s, shortly after the athletic contests were expanded, Andover and Exeter tried to promote more enthusiasm in students leading up to the games. Andover developed its current mascot, Gunga, and both schools also developed spirit days, Exeter Geek Day at Andover and Andover Slacker Day at Exeter.