The oldest football conference in the United States will be formally recognized today when Cornell and Harvard meet on Schoellkopf Field. For the Ivy League which has existed at least partially since that far-off day in 1872 when Yale edged Columbia, 3 to 0, will now be once and for all a genuine organization.
As part of the agreement signed in 1954 by the presidents of the eight different Ivy Group schools--Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale--a round-robin schedule involving each of the colleges has begun this fall. Today's game officially brigs the last two schools into competition.
Big Time, Small Scale
Probably no athletic conference has received more attention than this one has--from the press, from educators, and from pure football fans. For the Ivy League is trying to make Big Time Football possible on a small scale. This basic philosophy is looked at by some as unrealistic; by others as pure hypocrisy. Some critics view it as an entirely unworkable plan, but a greater number--including the various schools involved--see the Ivy League as the only possible way to ease King Football from his mighty throne without stripping him of all his possessions.
When the presidents drew up their Agreement, it looked as if they wanted to reduce football in status to that of baseball, for instance. For this program had such revealing paragraphs as "They (the conditions of the Agreement) require that undue strain upon players and coaches be eliminated and that they be permitted to enjoy the game as participants in form of recreational competition rather than as professional performers in public spectacles."
Yet, football Ivy League 1956, seems little different from football Ivy League 1954. Whereas the Agreement might imply that football will only hold a minor place in the overall life of a University, the opposite seems to be true. Today, for instance, some 30,000 fans, will pile into the Crescent for a football game, and moreover, Eddie Kaw, the great Big Red fullback of the early 20's will be honored for being named to the football Hall of Fame.
While these two teams are playing, down at Penn another 50,000 will jam Franklin Field to see the Red and Blue take on its rival from Princeton, and at Columbia's Baker Field, some 30,000 will see the Lions meet powerful Yale. And at Brown, nearly 20,000 will pay to watch the Bruins and Dartmouth compete.
No matter how one looks at it, this is not small time football. Admittedly it is not the football played in Ann Arbor, or Los Angeles, but it is also not the football played at Amherst. Although the presidents tried to play down the importance of the game, calling it "recreational competition," it still rules the souls of thousands of students and alumni.
Yet, underlying the agreement, there is a departure from the normal. There is a statement signed by noted educational institutions, representing some of the finest minds in the country, and secondly, there is an affirmation that athletes will not be made privileged students on the campus. Thus the Ivy Group states: "The members of the Group reaffirm their prohibition of athletic scholarships. Athletes shall be admitted as students and awarded financial aid only on the basis of the same academic standards and economic need as are applied to all other students."
This statement has attracted the most attention from the outside. Whenever a new scandal is uncovered in the West, the Ivy League is immediately pointed to as the last "vestige of true amateurism." Anyone with a gripe against Big Time always looks to the Ivy League as the potential saviour of football.
Yet, those close to Ivy football know that while there may not be athletic scholarships as such, it is only the rare high school star who cannot gain a scholarship to at least one of the schools in the League. For in the closed rooms of the Admissions offices, it is known that he stands a pretty good chance of getting a scholarship ahead of Editor Jones or even Shotstop Jones.
Any coach can tell stories about how certain alumni "happen" to offer this same Touchdown Jones a very well-paying summer job for perhaps minding his son, if he should "Happen" to pick the right school. And the stories of alumni who tour the backwoods for players are numerous, just as they are about coaches giving visiting athletes special tours around the college athletic field.
Likewise, while the presidents may very well frown on the spectacle part of football, the athletic directors are very concerned about the size of the crowd each Saturday afternoon. The heavy rains last fall cut quite deeply into the pockets of certain schools, and this year, all the staffs are praying for good weather. What is needed to solve this dilemma is an endowment for each school to absorb the costs of the athletic program, so that success need not be measured in ticket sales.
At Harvard for instance, the deficit of the Harvard Athletic Association became so large, that when students' tuition was raised from $600 to $800 a year in 1953, a Department of Athletics was set-up to be financed in part by the tuition (now $1000). In return, students receive a free ticket to every home game.
In fact, the League itself is going all out to gain the most publicity possible. While the member schools' press boxes may lack the gaudiness and air-conditioning and heat of the Big Ten, the League's public relations departments have been doing a very strong job. At the beginning of the season, an interesting brochure with a color cover was distributed by the league to the press. It contained descriptions of every team, as well as the league records, even though this is "officially" the first season.
In addition, each of the different schools has published its own brochure, describing in detail the life history of every player who might conceiveably play in a game. These, of course, are in addition to the daily releases sent daily to newspapers.
Thus, a paradox has arisen in this Ivy League. On the one hand, there is the Presidents Agreement, affirming the amateurish quality of the League, and on the other hand there is the picture of the filled stadium, the well-organized alumni, and the vigorous publicity offices. To some, as we said before, this is pure hypocrisy on the Ivy League's part--trying to capitalize on the idealism of the Agreement and the materialism of the games themselves.
To these same critics, the Ivy bans on all post-season games, including the