Mr. A. G. Hodges '74, as chairman of the organization committee, called the meeting to order, but soon gave way to Gen. W. A. Bancroft '78, who conducted the business the rest of the evening. Gen. Bancroft confined his opening remarks to the purpose of the organization and the benefits that will necessarily arise from it.
He said in substance:
Any attempt to attribute the causes of athletic failure at Harvard to one particular condition has hitherto resulted in nothing, and those familiar with the state of affairs have been forced to the conclusion that a combination of causes has produced the results which confront us today. The various explanations given have, logically enough, all been based on the exposition of conditions which exist, or are supposed to exist, at Harvard, and not at other colleges.
As far as possible, succeeding coaches have endeavored to follow advice received, and from time to time have altered their methods to imitate those of more successful colleges. Yet Harvard has thus made a fatal mistake in resting content with a policy which leaves her at least one year behind her rivals. Even if her rivals had remained stationary, we could not have hoped to be successful through an imitative policy, as many favorable conditions which exist in other colleges can be reproduced in only a very limited degree here. The superior attractions of Boston over those of a country town or a lesser city cannot be mitigated, nor can we abandon our stand against the semi-professional athlete, by which Harvard has seriously but wisely handicapped herself.
If we are to win, we must strike out on our own lines and inaugurate some beneficial change which shall not be merely an attempt to reproduce inefficiently conditions existing elsewhere. Such is the reason which has led to the movement for a graduate athletic association.
That any favoritism exists here to men of Boston and vicinity,- as is implied by many in default of a better explanation of failure,- is strenuously denied by all who are in a position to know. Nevertheless it is extremely doubtful whether circumstances do not produce a biased selection of candidates not in the least contemplated. The candidates for a Freshman team who have made a name for themselves as athletes in the interscholastic league or at some Eastern preparatory schools, will attract the eye of the coach more naturally than an equally good man whose capabilities are unknown to him.
Through this organization we shall obtain information about all the material of which our Freshman class is composed. All members will report to the secretary with regard to the athletic qualifications of students entering Harvard from their neighborhood. This information will be systematically sifted and tabulated and the results turned over to the coaches and captains to be methodically used. Again, all captains and coaches in the future will have a definite body to whom they may appeal for advice with a certainty that none will be given which has been insufficiently considered, or which is likely to prove inconsistent with the true athletic interests of the University.
So much for the association from the student point of view. Its more important feature will be in the unification of graduate sentiment. The divergence of graduate advice in the past has caused much concrete harm. Accordingly we have called upon the graduates interested in athletics to band together and elect representatives whose duty it shall be to inform themselves of the facts and impart their opinions to all members of the association. We call upon the student authorities to fully inform our representatives, and we confidently expect that all graduates desirous of criticizing will first ascertain the exact state of affairs by writing to our secretary.
To you, graduates, we appeal for all the support you can give us. Make use of your executive committee in every way possible and do not forget that conclusions arrived at by those who are thoroughly conversant with facts and reasons are worthy of greater weight than conclusions formed on inadequate or ex parte information.
At the close of his speech, Gen. Bancroft urged the necessity of choosing a secretary at once. Mr. F. W. Moore '93, was elected to fill the position. Other business consisted of the reading of notes from Major H. L. Higginson of the Corporation and President Eliot regretting that they were unable to attend the meeting.
Gen. Bancroft then introduced the Hon. Theodore Roosevelt, who said in part:
I am a very great believer in athletics because I believe that although intellect is a good thing, the University should do more than develop that alone. Force, strength of will and character are things that can not be neglected in a well-organized body. A man to be sure must not be known merely as having been a good athlete while in college. He must do something afterwards. And while I appreciate to the full what a well trained mind means, I am bound to say that the longer I live I come to believe that intellect comes second to the powers of perseverance and dogged persistence, those qualities that make an athlete of a man.
What we want to do is to turn out men fit, when any great crisis comes, to rise to their duty as did those whose names we now cherish here, men of thought in every walk of life, men who went out into the world of action, great statesmen, great soldiers, men like Washington who founded his country and Lincoln who saved it. The most important of all virtues are those that make men able to hold their own for themselves and their country. The man who has those qualities is the one who will make himself useful to his country in after life.
I am going to preach the gospel of organization tonight. Give the new organization a chance. Do not find fault with it. If we get beaten the first year, give the organization a chance the second, if we get beaten the second, give it a chance the third. If we persevere we will win. It is with us, middle-aged men whose youth lies in the remote past, it is upon us that the responsibility rests.
In reference to the complaint that we so often hear,- that Harvard's social conditions interfere with her athletics, let me say that the Harvard undergraduate who captains a team or crew, who does his best, even if defeated,- is honored, and has won a prize that makes a social recognition absolutely paltry.