Tufts University’s Ellis Oval/Zimman Field is one of the region’s most historic and attractive settings for college football. Located just outside of Davis Square in Somerville, Massachusetts, the Oval, and the adjacent Kraft Field for soccer, features a festive atmosphere when the Jumbos are home on Saturday afternoons in the fall.
Originally constructed as the Tufts Oval in 1894, the complex soon included a baseball diamond, football field, outdoor track and six-hole golf course. The golf course saw its demise in the early 1950s with the construction of Hodgdon Hall and Cohen Auditorium.
In 1969, the area was renamed the Frederick M. Ellis Oval in honor of the legendary student-athlete, coach of football and basketball, and professor of Physical Education at Tufts. A four-sport letterman, Ellis is historically considered to be the finest all-around athlete ever to play at Tufts. His wife, Dorie, a Jackson athlete and longtime Tufts supporter, is recognized as the “Matriarch of Tufts Athletics.” She passed away in October 2011 at the age of 101. Four generations of the Ellis family have attended Tufts.
The football field was dedicated in honor of Harold O. Zimman in 1986. He was an offensive lineman and captain of the Tufts football team in 1937 and was graduated in 1938. Zimman, who later became a member of the Tufts Board of Trustees, was a behind-the-scenes leader in the American Olympic movement. He served on the Board of Directors of the United States Olympic Committee for 42 years and was a recipient of the Olympic Gold Order, the International Olympic Committee’s highest honor.
The Baronian Fieldhouse, Harrison Press Box and the Captains’ Gate at the entrance to the stadium all add to the aesthetics of the complex. John Baronian was a two-way lineman for the Jumbos in the late 1940s and one of the team’s strongest supporters during his life. Arthur Harrison, Tufts’ Athlete of the Year in 1942, was a four-sport letterman who starred at tailback on the gridiron. The Captains’ Gate, honoring the legacy of and funded by the football team’s captains, was erected in 1993. In 2010, the stadium unveiled a new scoreboard that was a gift from former players to offensive line coach Mike Browne, who retired in 2009 after 25 seasons with the Jumbos.
The “Ding” Dussault Track & Field complex within the Oval has been host to many regional championship meets. Bronze plaques of football and track athletes sculpted by Merrilyn Marsh, wife of 1940 Tufts graduate George Marsh, adorn the courtyard at the far end of the stadium. The entrance at that end of the stadium is now open on game days for the first time in years.
The Ellis Oval/Zimman Field facility has attracted international and collegiate championship events over the years, including games between the U.S. and Norway national women’s soccer teams in 1991.
The completion of a new parking garage, dormitory and music building within recent years has changed the landscape of the area surrounding the Oval. All are exciting signs of Tufts’ continued growth.