Let's go ahead and admit it--Harvard's big sports, namely football, men's hockey and men's basketball, are in serious trouble. If they don't improve soon, Harvard is going to become another MIT.
Sure, it's nice to have a good woman's basketball team and a championship squash team, but they are not, for better or for worse, our biggest spectator sports. When our big sports do badly, as they have done throughout the 1990's, Harvard loses more than just school spirit--it also loses its appeal to potential applicants and respect from other schools.
Recently, there was an article in The Boston Globe about declining applications to all Ivy League schools this year, except for Columbia, which had a significant increase. Columbia's admissions committee thought that one of the reasons for its surge in applications was the success of its football team this year after decades of losing seasons.
So how can Harvard improve its big sports and stop this embarrassing decline? Here are two suggestions that may get us back on the road to sold out Harvard-Yale games, national championship hockey teams and basketball teams that can beat Penn and Princeton and get into the NCAA's.
The first place to start with is the Admissions Committee. Harvard is simply taking too many rocket scientists who speak 12 languages and win math competitions in their free time. While it's important that Harvard maintain academic integrity and not start taking knuckle heads, it's essential that the Admissions Committee realize that Harvard sports are in jeopardy of falling apart.
Harvard is not getting the top athletes simply because they cannot get in. If it means accepting a quarterback who didn't author a novel by the time he was 12, so be it. All of the other Ivy League schools get away with it.
The second thing Harvard has to do to if it wants its sports program to keep up with the Ivy League big boys is to improve its athletic facilities. For a school with such a large endowment, our athletic buildings are downright disgraceful. Most of the Ivies have modern, central athletic complexes that actually make you feel like training. Our athletic buildings make you feel like you've been sentenced for a crime.
If you are unfortunate enough to venture into the dingy recesses of our humble Malkin Athletic Center, the first thing you feel like doing is leaving. But if you are brave enough to stay and go down into the weight room, you spend half the time trying not to club the person next to you and the other half looking for the weights you need.
And what about the training facilities in the Gordon Track Center across the river where most varsity athletes train now that Carey Cage has been demolished?
The place makes my basement look like a five star hotel.
And then there's that mysterious brick building called Dillon Field House that I used to think hid a giant sports complex inside. Instead, its just a gloomy bunch of administrative offices and varsity locker rooms.
We have to get facilities for our athletes (and the entire student body for that matter) that are conducive to training. Obviously, a better trained athlete performs better on the field, the ice or the court than one who has to work out in the dungeon of Malkin.
If our teams continue to do badly (football) or remain in mediocrity (hockey, basketball) they may lose their entire fan support. Already there is an alarming decline in spectator attendance. Harvard's big sports have to start producing some championship caliber teams or we will become the laughingstock of the entire sports community.