Harvard's track team, minus six of its blacks and two prominent distance men, left late yesterday afternoon for today's meet at West Point after pondering for several hours whether it should compete at all.
The squad had met shortly after noon at Dillon Field House, where it was scheduled to board a bus for the Army campus. Disturbed by the "conditions of political oppression, economic exploitation, and open conflict in the world today," team members discussed for nearly four hours possible methods of making a "formal expression of revulsion."
Ultimately, six blacks--Dewey Hickman, Baylee Reid, Bob Clayton, Kevin Benjamin, Vincent Vanderpoole-Wallace, George Yeadon and Frederick Nance--decided to leave the squad indefinitely, and issued a statement to that effect.
It read, in part: "Whereas we actively support the activities by the Pan-African Liberation Committee and Harvard-Radcliffe African and Afro-American Students in their efforts to influence the end of imperialism, exploitation and political repression against black people in Africa, and whereas we feel that our participation in this effort is more important to us than any exhibition of our athletic abilities, be it resolved that we shall continue to actively aid the struggle in which we are already engaged, thus making it impossible morally, ethically, and practically for us to participate in any athletic competition at this time."
Later, a group of white runner, led by seniors Mike Koerner and Bob Seals, also elected to withdraw from the Army meet, but chose not to make a firm commitment to leave the squad at this time. Forty others agreed to participate only if allowed to make a formal statement of protest prior to the meet, and wear white arm bands during it.
The statement noted that "as athletes, we are not insensitive to these issues and feel that our participation in athletics does not excuse us from our
Despite the fact that the runners' withdrawal virtually eliminates any chance the Crimson had of upsetting the Cadets this afternoon, since the abstainers comprise 25 per cent of Harvard's point potential. Harvard track coach Bill McCurdy made no attempt to dissuade the runners from their decision to remain behind.
"I think athletics are important, and that the team concept in athletics is important," he said. "But my purpose is to try to win the meet, and evaluate nothing else," he added.
"We run a program for people who want to participate," concurred an athletic department official. "Those who prefer not to, have that right."