Tim Tumpane, captain of the Yale football team, was making his pitch: "If we go undefeated we should be in the top 20. Ivy League football is good football. There are a lot a people who don't realize that."

In many areas of the country, Ivy League football is looked upon as a joke. You know it's there -- tucked up in the Northeast -- but who cares?

As Maryland quarterback Mike Tice once put it: "If education were the most important thing to me I would have gone to an Ivy League school. But I wanted to play big-time football."

To those who play Ivy League football -- Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell and Pennsylvania -- it is big time. Like Tumpane, they are proud of their brand of football and see no reason to change it.

"I don't see any discontent within the league with the brand of football played," said Princeton graduate Dick Kazmaier, the 1951 Heisman Trophy winner; the last Ivy League to win the award. "The Ivy League plays a unique, controlled brand of football. I think the people in the league are proud of fact that it truly is only a facet of a student's collegiate life, not anywhere close to being all of it."

Ivy League football players receive scholarships based solely on financial need. Many of them hold part-time jobs to earn some of that money. Although a few Ivy Leaguers make it to the NFL, more often than not they go on to become doctors, lawyers, businessmen and teachers. What's more, most football players who choose the Ivy League do so with professional football pushed completely out of their minds.

"I was recruited by Notre Dame and Ohio State, I was a high school All-America," said George Starke of the Redskins, a Columbia graduate. "But when it came down to making my decision I realized I wanted to go someplace where if I decided I didn't want to play football anymore, I'd just stop.

"Pro football never crossed my mind. In fact I didn't even think about it at all until I was a senior and I found out I was going to be drafted. I had to give it a whirl.

"I thought I could make it and wanted to find out and there's also no other way for a person just out of college to make the kind of money professional football offers."

The money and the challenge are the two major reasons most Ivy Leaguers in the NFL give as to why they play pro football.

"There's a difference between most Ivy Leaguers who play in the pros and a lot of other guys because the Ivy Leaguer usually knows exactly what he wants to do when he stops playing ball," said another Columbia alumnus, Archie Roberts. "That's not true with a majority of professional football players. Football is the be all and end all for them."

In many ways Roberts is the quintessential Ivy League football player. A star quarterback in high school, he was recruited nationally.

"It was exciting visiting Ohio State," he said. "The glitter was nice. But I knew that I wanted to be a doctor. And I knew the best way to get into medical school was to go to the best school possible. So I chose Columbia."

Roberts starred for three years at quarterback with the Lions and graduated in 1965. At the time, the NFL-AFL war was still going on. The Cleveland Browns approached him with an offer couldn't resist: Sign with us and we'll put you and your wife through medical school, regardless of how long you remain with the team.

Roberts signed, played two years with the Browns, one year with the Miami Dolphins and then retired to continue his education full time. Today, he is Dr. Arthur J. Roberts, a successful cardiologist living in Wilmette, Ill.

Ivy League football in the 1970s means several things: It means small crowds and cavernous ancient stadiums. It means Yale at or near the top of the league and Columbia at or near the bottom. It means clever, irreverent pep bands. And it means a tremendous amount of pride in being different by refusing to cave in to the accepted modus operandi of most major college football programs.

It has not always been that way. The Ivy League was the first great collegiate football league in this country. Princeton played in the first college game ever, against Rutgers in 1869, and in the 1920s and 30s Ivy League schools went to major bowls and contended for national championships.

Now, they contend only for the league championship.

Walking through the rain last Saturday toward Princeton's Palmer Stadium -- built in 1914 -- Yale Athletic Director Frank Ryan talked pridefully about the league.

"The competition in our league is very good. The only real disadvantage we have is that there's no spring ball so we aren't as ready at the beginning of the season as some other schools. But by midseason our teams play very good football."

Ryan is one who paints a bright picture for the future of the league.

"The way the economy is today and the way the job market is the Ivy League degree means a great deal," he said. "That means that more good athletes who have a chance to go to an Ivy League school are going to do it.

"Athletically, if someone is thinking about a pro career we just try to point out that the Ivy League is an excellent place for a good athletic to showcase his talents. People notice an outstanding player in the Ivy League."

An example of that claim this season is Yale running back Ken Hill. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, with 9.7 speed, Hill is considered a bonafide pro prospect.

A native of Louisiana, he was offered scholarships to LSU and Mississippi State. He chose Yale. "My education was the most important thing to me," he said. "I wasn't looking for the school with the best football. I was looking for the school that would help me become a doctor.

"I'd like a chance to play pro ball," he said with a smile. "I'd like to see if I can do it. But I've never regretted my decision to go to Yale. Because now I now that no matter what happens with the pros I can do something else well."

"That's the best thing about this league," Kazmaier said."The kids can play football, they can entertain at games and have fun playing the game. But when it's over they shake hands and life goes on. It's still only a game."

Starke: "There's definitely a camaraderie among the Ivy League schools. They all play hard against one another. But they have a certain bond because they're Ivy League. That makes you different. Most people think it's something to be proud of."

There is another side to the story. Although most people connected with the league say they are delighted with the way the league functions, not all the stories about the league are of success, fame and fortune.

To begin with, interest in the Ivy League has dropped steadily during the 1970s both in terms of attendance and media attention. This season there will only be two crowds of over 30,000. Dartmouth-Cornell, which drew 32,000, and The Game -- Yale-Harvard, which will draw 70,000 on Saturday.

Most Ivy League games draw well under 20,000 and schools like Columbia and Princeton have trouble getting over 10,000 for attendance.

In addition, the quality of the stadiums is not good. Columbia's Baker Field has had its wooden bleachers condemned. Coach Bill Campbell, immensely popular, has already resigned, effective Saturday, after six frustrating seasons. The Yale Bowl is the oldest stadium in the United States; Palmer Stadium is the third oldest.

And, in spite of its "this is only a game" image, winning is as important in the Ivy League as anywhere else. Next year, for the first time, 10 games will be played; big-time opponents are scheduled. At Princeton, Bob Casciola, popular with everyone on campus, was fired two years ago because the Tigers were not winning.

At Harvard, Joe Restic is relatively safe from abuse in spite of a 2-6 season for three reasons: He has an outstanding eight-year record (46-32-2); his team has been riddled by injuries, and he still can salvage the season by upsetting 8-0 Yale on Saturday. But if things don't improve next season, there will be waves on the Charles River.

"To try to pretend that winning isn't important is silly," Kazmaier said. "Of course it's important, Bob Casciola was fired because he didn't win enough. He was given five years. The same will be true of Frank Navarro if he doesn't win.

"People in the Ivy League may keep the game in perspective better than some others. But they don't like to lose. Nobody likes to lose."

Thus, when Yale and Harvard, square off in the Yale Bowl Saturday, the game will be just as intense both on the field and in the stands as Michigan-Ohio State.

But when it is over all the participants will dust themselves off, shake hands and put the rivalry aside for another year. And Ivy League football will go in much the same vein as it has since 1952 when the eight college presidents agreed to drop spring football and all postseason play.

That means outsiders will continue to snicker and Heisman Trophy winners and Top 20 teams probably will remain a thing of the past.

But, as Ryan puts it, "That isn't what Ivy League football is about. Our people understand what it means. To those who play the games and care about the games it has great meaning. It's a unique kind of football which we're proud of.

"Why change for the sake of others? We're happy with what we have here."