Wied receiver Brian Edwards crosses the goal line for Harvard's first touchdown against Penn on Saturday.
PHILADELPHIA—As junior linebacker and holder Robert Balkema picked up the snap on a fake field goal, bumped into freshman kicker Matt Schindel and then lofted a perfect pass to Bobby Everett, which the senior linebacker took in for a touchdown, the contingent of Harvard fans on hand for the Ivy title bout began to celebrate.
And frankly that was the only way to describe it. The Crimson was clearly superior in every facet of the game—offense, defense, special teams and coaching. Harvard left no doubt in the minds of all those who made it out to Franklin Field on Saturday as to which was the better team.
The experts pointed to a close game. They said that Penn would find a way to pull it out as it did against Brown and Princeton and to a lesser extent Yale and Columbia. They pointed to the fact that the Crimson hadn’t won at Franklin Field since 1980 and that the Quakers were riding a 20-game Ivy win streak as reasons why this Penn team wouldn’t yield in the Ivy Championship Game.
The experts were wrong.
Just like they’re wrong about not giving Harvard a top-five ranking and the respect that this undefeated team—the last remaining in I-AA for two weeks now—truly deserves. (In fact, I’ll be incredibly surprised if the voters give the Crimson a top-10 ranking in the polls that come out today, but I can take solace in the fact that almost all of the participants have never seen Harvard play.)
But the polls shouldn’t even matter.
Unlike Division I-A football, which decides its national champion via the BCS, Division I-AA allows all the title contenders to determine their fate on the field in a 16-team tournament, making the difference between No. 5 and No. 10 irrelevant.
And those playoffs are what Harvard should be looking forward to right now. Instead, the Crimson will spend one week preparing for a meaningless game against Yale.
That’s right. Meaningless.
It’s true that there is an undefeated season on the line—and the first 10-win campaign since 1906—but in the grand scheme of things, the 2004 Harvard football team will be Ivy Champions regardless of what happens next Saturday. And regardless of what happens next Saturday, the Crimson—quite possibly the best I-AA football team in the country—will be watching somebody else play for the national title on Dec. 17 on ESPN2.
The Game is meaningless, because that’s the way the people that matter want it to be.
For President Lawrence H. Summers, The Game is about catering to alums and making an appearance. It’s not about Ivy titles or undefeated seasons.
Let’s face it. The Ivy Presidents push football around 364 days a year and then gather to celebrate the historic Harvard-Yale contest.
They restrict the amount of coaches that football teams can hire.
They limit the number of recruits that schools can bring in.
They enforce a ridiculous 10-game schedule that makes it all but impossible to schedule preseason scrimmages, because every other team is already playing.
And they maintain an illogical ban on postseason play that is as ill-conceived as it is discriminatory.
But on Nov. 20, Summers will be there showing off that football team he’s so proud of to alums with fond memories and large checkbooks.
I love The Game as much as anyone, but the hypocrisy of publicly taking pride in a football team and then privately strangling it just disgusts me.
What if the players refused to go along with it? What if they stood up and said, “You can’t single us out and continue to crack down on us and then pretend like we’re the pride of the Ivy League on one fall day each year?” What if Saturday came, but the players didn’t?
The statement would be loud and far-reaching. If Harvard sacrificed its shot at an undefeated season to send a message that Ivy League football teams deserve better, the nation—which includes those ignorant presidents—would be forced to take notice.
Of course, this would never happen, and it’s seemingly even ridiculous to mention. But it’s precisely the inability to muster a large, collective message that allows those eight administrators to get away with their discriminatory policies.
In the end, I know that I’ll still attend The Game. And the players will too. And so will Summers.
But it’s very clear that one of those three just doesn’t belong.
—Staff writer Michael R. James can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.