In an effort to curb rising costs, the eight Ivy League Presidents voted unanimously on Wednesday to permit freshmen to participate on varsity teams in all sports excel, football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, crew and lacrosse.
The decision, which is not mandatory, will nevertheless have a major impact on Ivy League athletics. Sports in which freshmen may now participate are squash, tennis, fencing, track, cross country, skiing, swimming, wrestling, and golf.
Athletic Director Robert B. Watson said yesterday that Harvard would definitely retain all its freshmen programs. Watson added that the athletic department will decide this spring whether to allow freshmen with exceptional ability to play on varsity squads.
According to Watson, the new policy is "headed in the wrong direction." Watson claimed that the ruling would reduce the number of people participating in intercollegiate athletics and intensity recruiting pressures.
"Only a few guys will be good enough to play their first year." Watson said. "The others won't be able to compete on that level at all. And now the coaches will really go after and recruit the boys who are good enough to play a varsity sport their freshman year."
In contrast to Watson's reaction, the Harvard coaches contacted yesterday hailed the ruling. "I think it's a good decision," tennis and squash coach Jack Barnaby said. "Looking at it strictly from the point of view of greed, it would help my tennis team drastically. We'd be able to get four years out of these kids instead of three."
Wrestling coach John Lee was even more enthusiastic. "We had a forfeit-ridden freshman team this year," he said. "Under the new ruling, we'd have more guys competing and we'd be a stronger team."
Track coach Bill McCurdy also praised the decision and disagreed with Watson's statement that recruiting pressures would intensity. "They go after the boys hot and heavy now anyway. How can it get any worse," he said.
Other Ivy League colleges had mixed reactions to the ruling. Princeton, hampered by a tight athletic budget, will field only two teams in all sports except football and crew. "There are people here on the faculty who would like to eliminate sports altogether," exclaimed Princeton Athletic Director R. Kenneth Fairman.
Dartmouth will allow freshmen to play on varsity teams but will still retain its freshman programs. Penn and Yale are still studying the ruling and will make their final decisions this spring.