F. W. Thayer '78 Traces History of Harvard Sports--Declares University Has Aimlessly Been Trying One Experiment After Another--Wants Graduates to Coach

In the Harvard Graduate's Magazine for October, 1892, is an article by F. W. Thayer '78 entitled "Harvard's Loss of Athletic Prestige."

Many of Mr. Thayer's statements are appropriate today. "Last fall, "he writes concerning Yale's victories on the gridiron, "under the same management against which, in victory, no adverse criticism had been heard, Harvard lost the game. Abuse from all sides was immediately poured in upon the gentlemen who had given all their time, thought, and attention for many weeks." This abuse caused the resignation of the coaches, for the article continues: "A coach, once secured, should be kept for a series of years, and, if necessary, paid a salary."

Elis Pull Down Goal Posts

Comment is also made on the second football game between Harvard and Yale, which ended "in a most unsatisfactory manner," when, with Harvard ready for a try at goal, the Yale cohorts set an example for future generations by pulling down the goalposts.

Mr. Thayer's remarks on the crew situation are no longed quite so timely as they would have been a few years ago, before Coach Stevens assumed his present position. Apparently it was as difficult to get a successful crew coach in 1890 as it was 30 years later.

The article follows:

"Harvard's almost unbroken series of defeats during the past 12 years in Rowing, Baseball, and Football contests with her old rival Yale, have caused her loyal alumni the deepest chagrin. Without for one moment questioning the fact that Harvard's want of success has been as keenly felt by those who have been graduated during the period from 1880 to 1892, the almost complete loss of prestige in athletics gained by Harvard over Yale from 1868 to 1879 makes it all the more difficult for those whose four years in Cambridge fell within the earlier period to understand what has brought about this change. Although an annual boat-race between the two Universaries was inaugurated in 1852, and kept up spasmodically until 1864, when the annual race became an athletic fixture, it was not until 1868, when Baseball was added, that general interest was aroused. In the fall of 1875 Football was put on the list, and in 1879 Harvard and Yale first met in Track Athletics. In other words, athletic contests between Harvard and Yale, in more than one form, cover a period of a quarter of a century.

Climax Reached in 1874

Taking, then 1868 as a starting point, we find that up to 1871--there was no race that year--Harvard and Yale tried conclusions on the water without admitting crews from other colleges, and Harvard was successful each year. In 1872 the Intercollegiate Rowing Association was formed, and in spite of the great disadvantages shown by the experiment, the lesson was not well enough learned, or perhaps it had been forgotten, for Harvard later on became a member of similar associations formed in Baseball and Football. The climax of the Rowing Association was reached in 1875, when 13 college crews contested at Saratoga. It is on record that Yale took one first place, Harvard second twice, but, with one exception, Harvard secured a place ahead of her rival Yale, in the four contests during the existence of this Association. In 1876 a radical change from six to eight-oared crews was adopted. Harvard and Yale rowed by themselves, and up to this time the departures then made have been adhered to....

"The first nine contests, (1876-84) stood, Harvard, victories, 5; Yale; 4. The unfortunate breach in 1884 between Harvard's coaches, in which the head of the University was induced to use his authority, reprived Harvard of Mr. Bancroft's services as coach. In 1885, apparently without taking to heart the object lesson given by Yale in 1882-83, in experimenting with a professional stroke and coach, Harvard enlisted the services of Faulkner, a professional oarsman. The victory of 1885 was the dearest Harvard ever won; five defeats by Yale during that number of years following is proof enough of this.

Graduates Secure New Coach

"In the fall of 1890 it was conceded that the condition of our rowing affairs required heroic treatment. The captain of the '91 crew called together the graduates most interested in the matter, and laid before then a propositions by which the services of Mr. Bancroft, Mr. Cook's successful rival from 1877 to 1884, could be secured for three consecutive years, and not only the Varsity, but the Freshman crews were to be under his coaching. Seven out of the nine past crew captains heartily approved of the idea. All the undergraduates and 95 out of every 100 graduates favored it. The decision was left to the Committee on athletics. The committee was composed of three members of the Faculty, three graduate members, and three undergraduates. When the question came to a vote, the three undergraduates voted 'for," as did one graduate. One graduate member of the Committee who was known to represent the minority, the third graduate member 'who didn't care,' and three faculty members voted 'against.' So the prospect was defeated.....

"Since 1884 Harvard has been aimlessly trying one experiment after another, and magnificent material has gone to New London and been sacrificed for want of proper moulding. During this time Yale has continued to pursue a settled policy, and has continued to pursue a settled policy, and has kept the services of Mr. Cook. It is a noteworthy fact that while many fine oars were taught and have mastered the stroke set by Mr. Bancroft, not one of these men has been willing or could give the time to act in the capacity of coach for Harvard crews.....

"Harvard's reverses in Football are a tender subject to any loyal alumnus. The first game with-Yale took place in the fall of 1875. The teams were composed of 15 men each. Harvard won, Yale failing to score. The following year, 1876, the game again took place in New haven, and was brought to a most unsatisfactory ending by the pulling down of the goal posts by the Yale crowd, just as Harvard had the ball in front of the bar for a try goal.

"The year 1880 graduated for Yale Mr. Camp, a Football expert to whom Harvard can attribute the loss of so many games the past 12 years. To acknowledge that Yale's prestige in Football is the direct result of Mr. Camp's wonderful knowledge of the game, combined with his rare ability to lustre his ideas and to make finished players out of raw material is only to give that gentleman the credit he deserves. Harvard has undoubtedly had some very brilliant players, but, from some cause or other, no all-round players, with thorough knowledge of the game and ability to compete successfully with Mr. Camp in coaching. When the graduates were asked to take a hand in 1889, the best advice and coaching were given. Those who had done the best possible were blamed for the defeat of that year, in 1890 a change in direction and coaches was made, and Harvard was successful for the first time since 1875. Last fall, under the same management, against which in victory, no adverse criticism had been heard. Harvard lost the game. Abuse from all sides was poured in upon the gentlemen who had given all their time, thought, and attention for many weeks. Harvard graduates and undergraduates can with profit to themselves take a needed lesson from Yale in their method of accepting refeat.....

"We need, first of all, the services of a coach thoroughly up in all points of the game, and skilfull in imparting this knowledge and in developing material. Such a man, once secured, should be kept for a series of years, and, if necessary, paid a salary. Harvard's want of men to call upon to fill such a position is in marked contrast to Yale's. Those graduates who have come forward and offered their services have been thoroughly up in the position they played on the team, and could do most excellent work in coaching candidates for this particular place; but Harvard has not been able, so far, to call on a dozen men who could give the time to coaching as many different positions on the team, and she has no head corresponding to Mr. Camp, who, with the assistance of these various sub-coaches, is able to develop perfect team work, and more important, perhaps, to block the various combinations worked out by their opponents.....

"It is not unreasonable, with all our advantage in numbers, accessibility of grounds, etc., that in our contests with Yale, Harvard should win three times out of five, in short, Yale's success has been in the sports properly coached. So has Harvard's success been due to that important factor in times past in all the branches, lately in Track Athletics only. What is Harvard's greatest need today Coaches."