"From April to July, and from September to December, thousands of college men meet, in friendly rivalry, on lake and river, on base-ball and football fields, and in the various sports of field-day. Anxious parents and learned faculties look on, the while, half joyfully, half sorrowfully; now with the wild enthusiasm, shouting 'well done, boys, for Alma Mater,' now anxiously scanning the nut-brown players, if may be to discover some lurking bodily ill, some bookish imperfection which the annual newspaper squib alleges must be the sad ending of all such folly. Fortunately for the general welfare, however, these allegations are sensational, being founded on isolated cases of imperfection, and worked up in a few minutes to make copy.
A sporting reporter has pointed out to him a 'varsity stroke, or third-base, or half-back, who has failed in the recitation room; whereupon the news-hungry scribe immediately writes up two or three columns on the proverbial stupidity, of oarsmen, base-ball and football players. Since the great professional, Renforth died in his boat, ten years and more ago, the material for a sudden death article has not been wanting.
Those who believe that a man must be always at his books, if he would be a great scholar, and that the mental mechanism - but not the physical - may be run at high pressure, with impunity, probably consider the newspaper theory a self-evident proposition. But, on the contrary, those who observe conspicuous examples of scholarly men who in college days found a considerable amount of time for the 'dreadful boat race,' and yet survive their three-score years and ten, are incredulous as to the universal imperfection of athletes."
The writer of this article has taken pains to collect statistics about the standing of rowing men in college. On this matter he says: "From 1870 to 1876 inclusive, 7,855 men entered the fifteen colleges where rowing has taken root, and of this number 5,537 graduated. Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia are among the colleges, whose records were examined. Of rowing men there were 329, of whom 244 received their degrees." At all colleges there is a standard of scholarship below which a student cannot fall, and yet graduate. It requires only moderate ability to reach this standard. Athletes being reputed stupid, it would follow that few of them can graduate, and such as do only squeeze through their examinations. But an inspection of the college records reveals quite a different story. It shows that while seventy out of every hundred men among all classes graduate, among the boating men not less than seventy-four out of every hundred reach the required average.