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.