History of the Little Three
The fierce Wesleyan-Williams-Amherst
rivalries are among the oldest in the East. In fact, they
are so ancient that it is difficult to tell when the
"Little Three" came into existence. A
forerunner of the present group was the New England
Intercollegiate Triangular League, founded in 1882. Its
members were Amherst, Dartmouth, and Williams. This group
lasted until 1899, when Dartmouth withdrew. Wesleyan,
Williams, and Amherst formally banded together in 1899 as
the Triangular League. Although it lasted only three
years, the Triangular League served to cement the
rivalries that had been building in the 1880s and 1890s.
The League broke up over
an argument about the eligibility of college baseball
players who received pay during summer leagues. As a
result of the ill feelings, Amherst and Williams did not
meet from 1902 to 1904, and Wesleyan and Amherst severed
relations from 1902 to 1909. During this time, however,
Wesleyan and Williams continued to meet in all sports.
In 1905, when Amherst and
Williams resumed their football games, the Williams
Athletic Council voted to consider the football games
with Amherst and Wesleyan as championship contests. When
Wesleyan and Amherst reestablished competition in 1910,
the present rivalry was underway. Since then, it has
continued practically unbroken.
Little Three champions
are declared each year in all sports for which all three
colleges field varsity teams. The exceptions are indoor
track as the schedule does not call for the three
colleges coming together in a separate event, and crew.
Amherst fields a club program in crew but its nature is
such that a Little Three title is awarded to the winner
of the varsity heavyweight eight event for men and women.