Keeping Athletics for All in Hard Times

A primary goal of Harvard's athletic program traditionally has been "athletics for all."

Certainly, the school has tried to field top notch teams in intercollegiate competition. But, in general, this goal has had to give equal time to the attempt to have as many participants as possible.

In recent years, inflation, the growth of women's sports, and other factors have caused the people in the Athletics Department to take a hard look at their programs in men's sports. The question they are asking is: Given our present problems, can we continue to produce high-caliber varsity teams and give a large number of students a chance to participate in sports?

So far, their answer is: maybe.

Harvard's attempt to provide "athletics for all" stretches back at least to 1946, when the Ivy Group was founded. In that year, the presidents of the Ivy schools drafted a joint statement declaring their intent to establish athletic programs for the good of their respective student bodies.

The presidents said they wanted to give every student a chance to participate in sports. Also, they said the intercollegiate teams should be representative of the student bodies.

These Ivy League schools--Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Cornell, Penn, Brown, Columbia, and Harvard--have continued to support these aims since 1946.

Harvard has probably come closer than any other Ivy League school to the goal of "athletics for all." In the present school year, close to 1000 men have competed for Harvard against another college. About 1500 others have participated in the intramural sports program. Also, some of the remaining 2200 men at Harvard College take part in the programs of physical education and recreation offered by the Athletics Department.

Robert B. Watson '37, director of Athletics, said Harvard consistently has had the largest number of intercollegiate competitors of any school in the Ivy League. Furthermore, he said that Harvard has junior varsity squads in more sports than any other Ivy League school.

But Watson acknowledged that Harvard is having trouble maintaining a large number of student competitors.

Financial problems, which have plagued college athletic programs throughout the country, have taken their toll at Harvard.

The twin demons of inflation and recession have already caused severe cutbacks in many college sports programs. For instance, the western Big Sky Conference voted in 1973 to end league competition in baseball, swimming, tennis, golf, and skiing because of the high travel costs involved. The University of Vermont decided last fall to drop its entire football program as part of a $1.3 million overall budget reduction. Syracuse has eliminated its teams in baseball, tennis, golf, fencing, and rifle marksmanship within the past three years. And, last fall, Ivy League members voted to reduce football staffs to no more than seven full-time coaches.

At Harvard, the total budget of the Athletics Department has remained constant during the past three years. Meanwhile, the costs of running the Department's programs have climbed dramatically. In addition, the department has faced demands for new programs from groups within the University.

The numbers of women and graduate students using Harvard's athletic facilities have increased substantially in the past few years.

In sports such as basketball, swimming, crew, and squash. Radcliffe athletes have asked for equal access to the scarce facilities on campus. Also, women have set up a track team and have asked for funding from the athletic department.