Once again, this season, the Faculty Committee on Athletic Sports will decide whether to allow the varsity hockey team to play in the NCAA tournament if invited. The Committee has announced that it will make its decision after the Crimson returns from its trip to Minnesota and Colorado College over Christmas vacation.
Whether the team should go at all is, of course, the first question. The Undergraduate Athletic Council's special "fact-finding" committee is looking into this and will recommend a decision based on student opinion and will recommend a decision based on student opinion and "investigations" of "the college hockey situation."
Of far greater importance, however, is a more elementary question which both the FCAS and the UAC must consider: why the Faculty has not allowed the team to play in the past two tournaments. This is basic to an issue now three years old, and, because it goes right to the root o the upcoming and past decisions, certainly it must not be ignored. Only after we can answer this question can we expect to answer to answer the first.
The Faculty's reasons for its decisions are primary importance; they explain why the team has been denied an honor it previously had been allowed to accept in 1955, '57, and '58. And they define the measuring stick that the FCAS will use this year for the third time to decide whether the squad should go to the NCAA's if asked.
What are those reasons? Unfortunately, nobody outside of the ten-man FCAS really knows. Both times that the Committee has decided to keep the Crimson out of the tournament, it has refused to say why. Public statements have been limited to "No comment," and interpretations of the action have been anybody's guess.
It is not surprising that guesses differ. Some people think that the Faculty did not want the players to lose additional study time at the end of the season just to play in the tournament. Others think that the Administration did not want to assume the extra expenses of a trip and hotel bills. Many more think that Harvard declined to enter the NCAA's because it was afraid of losing--especially when the decisions came out late in the season, apparently after the Faculty had seen how good the team was. Still others just don't know what to think. The press has preferred to believe that Harvard's moves the past two years were intended as protests against alleged "professionalism" in the Western league.
This last vie has received the most public attention. And because the Administration has not chosen to deny the charge, we must assume that it is protesting.
But if Harvard is protesting the alleged professionalism" practiced in the Western league, why has the Faculty allowed the Crimson to play Minnesota and Colorado College this Christmas? (Both schools are members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, which sends the two Western representatives to the NCAA's every year. And Minnesota was runner-up in the last tournament.)
What exactly is the vaguely-understood "professionalism" of the Western league? A lot has been said about such things as "recruiting and Canadian players"--both of which exist among the Eastern teams including Harvard--but the basis for these accusations seems to rest on a rather simple chain of logic: They win, therefore they must be big-time offenders. If Harvard is protesting "professionalism," one hopes that it understands what this accusation means. Most newspaper commentators don't. Certainly the Western teams have swept most of the recent tournament games. And for this reason it is easy to point at them and insinuate that they have violated rules.
A great university, however, ought to do better than insinuate. For the past two years, Harvard has created an issue, and despite student protests and outside criticism, it has intentionally allowed the issue to remain unclear. Much worse, it has allowed the press to guide public opinion into the unhealthy assumption "that Harvard's action was a protest against "professionalism" in the Western league.
This assumption has led to many nasty, undocumented, name-calling accusations against teams in the Western league. It has given rise to ill-feelings in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, embarrassments for many Harvard people, and whisper campaigns throughout NCAA hockey circles.
Before the Administration declares whether it will allow this year's team to enter the NCAA's if asked, it must, for its own sake and reputation, put an end to the suspicions and innuendos. The Faculty must say whether the past two decisions have been correctly interpreted by the press as a protest and, if true, whether this year's decision is either a continuation of a conclusion of that protest.
If the decisions have been in a spirit of protest, the Administration must be able to declare publicly just what it objects to. (When Harvard protests, it explains why publicly as in the NDEA disclaimer affidavit issue.)
If the decisions have not been made in a spirit of protest, the Administration must say so, and explain the real reasons for its action. Otherwise, people will assume the worst.
The Faculty should clear up the hockey issue it has raised and allowed to become unclear and often embarrassing. Once the terms of the hockey issue are defined, such organizations as the Undergraduate Athletic Council will know how to prepare their recommendations, and the Administration will have regained the respect it is slowly losing in the sports pages. Then, and only then, the Administration should decide whether the hockey team should go to the NCAA tournament this year.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association hockey tournament is a playoff for the national championship between the top two college teams in the East and in the West at the end of every season. Because the tournament is NCAA-sponsored, it is exempted from the Ivy League's ban on post-season athletic contests.