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Ever since the opening of college, and even before, criticism has been rife in regard to Harvard's so-called revolution in athletics. Rumors of all kinds have from time to time been put in circulation, and the coolness with which the imaginative writer has relegated Harvard to an inferior position in the field of sport, has a certain freshness which deserves better material. Without inquiry into the motives or desires of the faculty, the writers have described it as an unwarranted war upon "professionalism," a fatal blow to college athletics, and several other equally emphatic statements, which go to show that the end and aim of college athletics to them is the attainment of so many victories over other rival teams. No matter how the average student may compare with those in a similar position in another seat of learning, unless the crimson waves incessantly at the masthead Harvard has hopelessly lost favor in their eyes.
For several years past a change has been gradually occurring in physical training at Harvard. As has been shown before, the old system developed simply a few champions, and the little action of the faculty was in the shape of arbitrary rules, passed to render sports subservient to study. Under the new system, commenced with the introduction of Dr. Sargent, the faculty recognized the necessity of exercise holding a place beside study, and to that end have appointed a committee on athletics, who have a general supervision over all forms of exercise. The watchword of the old system was arbitrary prohibition of a few who, presumptuously, avoided study for sport. The ideas of the new plan are, first, to induce every student to take exercise; second, to attain a high standard of average development; third, to establish a fixed position for college sports, and fourth, to allow no one to take part in any competition who will not be benefitted thereby.
For the past three or four years the attention of those having this subject in charge, has been toward the development of the first two points of this programme, and the prospect of success is very satisfactory. As has been before stated, the number who visit the gymnasium is, probably, no more than three-quarters of the entire students. The remeasurements already show a satisfactory advancement, and the prizes for general development, to be given at the end of the year, promise to show the possibilities in this direction.
The welfare of the masses being in such a satisfactory position of prosperity, the next attention of the faculty was to the various athletic and sporting associations, and to the carrying out of the third and fourth of the above propositions. In this regard their moving incentive seemed to be that competition and tournaments had become a fixity in the college system, and the question which was left for them to determine was, how to bring the best influence to bear upon the students taking part. As a result of their deliberation a set of "Regulations of the Committee on Athletics" have been adopted.
The present object of these rules is partial restriction, not arbitrary prohibition. The ultimate aim is the establishment of a fixed and definite position for college athletics, and to draw a marked line between it, professionalism, and even perhaps the ordinary amateur's position. The key-note to the situation may best be learned from the following remarks, which were made in the course of conversation by a member of the college faculty:
"Can you tell me any reason why the base ball team should be allowed to compete with professionals, and still retain its standing, while if an amateur athlete enters with a professional his standing as such is forever lost? If we were entirely to ignore professional assistance, why should we permit the teaching of boxing or fencing by such? No: the truth is, we wish everything under our charge, that we may learn exactly what moral influences are being brought to bear upon the student."
Whether or not the above laudable views will result disastrously to the competitions in which Harvard is to enter, as has been predicted by the foretellers, is a question which, however satisfactorily settled to the minds of the wiseacres, can only be settled after a fair and lengthy trial of the new system. Sufficient to say that Harvard does not intend to withdraw her teams from the field, and hopes to present a satisfactory showing wherever gentlemanly prowess is called into competition. - [Spirit of the Times.
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