In the first place, the Committee, at the suggestion of the Advisory Committee on Boating, object to the further employment of Mr. Bancroft. Further, they object to the employment of any paid coach for the crew. As the second objection covers the first, we can drop Mr. Bancroft's name from the discussion, and consider the advisability of retaining a paid coach. The general explanation offered by the Committee for their course of action, is as follows. Athletics at Harvard must be freed from all objectionable features. The onward march toward professionalism is to be stopped, and a step backwards taken. In a word, athletics in all departments are to be restored to their pristine purity, safety, and cheapness. The students must dispense entirely with all professional service, and all "professional" spirit in their athletic sports. This decision is not a hasty one. For two years the Committee have contemplated this action. The present is merely regarded as the most fitting time to carry out their plans.
Their specific reasons were as follows: 1. The annual expenses of boating incurred by the students are already too large, and are increasing yearly. One method of curtailing the expense is by forbidding the employment of a professional coach.
2. While admitting that the present degree of perfection in rowing cannot be maintained without a paid coach, the Committee does not believe that Harvard's boating interests would permanently suffer. Temporarily, it is true, the college would be at a disadvantage, but as soon as other colleges were forced to the position taken by Harvard, equality would be restored. In other words, in the hope of ultimately revolutionizing the American college system of athletics, Harvard's chances of success are to be sacrificed.
3. The Committee, it is claimed, has shown no inconsistency in appointing Mr. Lathrop, and refusing to appoint a coach for the crew. Mr. Lathrop is Dr. Sargent's assistant in and out of the gymnasium. He is to look after the general physical welfare of the students and not to devote himself to any specialty. In appointing any man for a special sport, as base ball, or rowing, they would be encouraging a professional spirit, which it is their object to quench.
The above is an attempt at a fair statement of the arguments urged by the committee in support of it's action. What do the students respond?
1. The majority of our students would probably pronounce the endeavor to make our athletics cheaper and less "professional," a laudable one, provided all other colleges would concur with us. Other colleges, however, refused point blank to do so last year, and there are, at present, no indications of a change in their sentiments.
2. A coach, like Mr. Bancroft, a college graduate, never interested in boating outside of college, is not a professional according to the definition of the word as accepted by the Athletic Committee. Therefore, any objection to a man like Mr. Bancroft on the ground that he is a professional cannot be urged. The Committee simply object to a paid coach, even if he is a Harvard graduate, and the most successful captain and coach ever at college.
3. The only argument left, therefore, is the expense in boating incurred by the students, and its alarming increase. Last year the expenditures were $6,450 ; the year before, they were $6,323. This is surely not a matter of sufficient importance to take up the valuable time of the Committee. Harvard students are generally described as possessing a certain amount of independence, and are capable of looking after their own expenditures. If students are willing to expend $6,000 or $10,000 a year on the crew, even so powerful a body as an Athletic Committee cannot stop them. If, in their solicitude for the size of students' purses, the Committee honestly desires to lessen the expenditures of the Boat Club, why not recommend to the corporation that the use of the boat house be granted rent free? At present, the reckless students pay the college $500 a year for it, almost as much as the expense of a coach. Here is a great opportunity for the committee to show, what is doubted by a few ungrateful students, that they really have the best interests of the students at heart. Here is a test.
4. The captains of crews, without the assistance of a coach, would have to devote more of their valuable time to boating than at present. Now, aside from the increased efficiency of its crew, every class would prefer to employ a coach in order to relieve the captain or some other oarsman of the trouble of coaching. In regard to the university crew, one of its past members in the Law School would no doubt consent to act as coach for nothing. Indeed, he might think it his duty to do so. It would, however, be an imposition upon him by the athletic committee. He would be giving an amount of his time for nothing, which to another man was worth $750 a year.
5. It is said that Mr. Watson, of the advisory committee, has promised to coach the crew occasionally. With all due respect to Mr. Watson's ability and past services, it must be said, that Mr. Bancroft is a better coach. This opinion, we think, has been held by the captains and crews during the last four years. Furthermore, Mr. Watson would probably not appear more than once in one or two weeks.
6. As shells are very expensive, and professionals use them, the committee may possibly forbid the crews to row in them. Barges are much safer and last at least ten years. Yale, after a half dozen successive victories, might be persuaded to row in a barge. The expenses of boating at Harvard and Yale would undoubtedly be lowered, and our Catalonian triumvirate would have purified athletics, and restored their pristine simplicity and cheapness. The results of giving up our regular coach may not be as disastrous to our boating prospects as an order to row in a barge; but when four mile races have become so close as to be won in a few seconds, any change which injures our chances of success in the slightest degree, must meet with the utmost opposition.