The following is a clipping from a letter written by a Harvard graduate to the Spirit of the Times. Lack of space alone prevents our publishing the letter in its entirety:
"CAMBRIDGE, MASS., Sept. 26. The series of defeats that Harvard athletic teams have received during the past three years at the hands of their old rivals from Yale seem to indicate either that the men from Cambridge do not enter into these contests with the same spirit that their rivals display, or that there is something wrong in the system itself.
"At the beginning of last year the boat club appointed a committee of four graduates "to take entire charge of boating matters." This will be more easily understood when it is explained that this committee had the power to choose the captain; decide on the policy under which the crew should be conducted; select the men, and direct the crew in every way, both in and out of the boat. A change so revolutionary in its character could not help materially affecting the pride of the undergraduates in their crew. To take the management of so important a department of athletics entirely out of the hands of the students and place it absolutely under the control of a committee of graduates, must necessarily result in diminishing the interest of the students, for whom, primarily, the crew is supposed to be conducted. This loss of interest among the undergraduates is greatly to be deplored for many reasons, and to persevere in such a course can only result in the utter demoralization of Havard athletics. When the Harvard system of athletics becomes so unwieldy that the under graduates cannot manage it for themselves, it is time that some change should be made, which should not take it out of their hands, but make it easier for them to control.
"Aside from the question of the advisability of thus placing the complete control of the crew in the hands of graduates, a study of the result of this experiment in the past year cannot fail to be instructive. One of this Governing Committee was a graduate of 20 years standing, two of ten and the other rowed recently. They were all rowing men, and when in college had proved themselves good oarsmen, but the standard of rowing, like everything else, is continually improving, and to keep up with this advance a man must not only follow the improvements most carefully, but it is so necessary for him to test each of them practically, for rowing, far more than any other sport is learned by the sense of "feeling" rather than by observation only, and no man can successfully teach it unless he has practiced what he teaches.
"A man who has once rowed may obtain much information by following the crews year after year, but it is impossible for him to fairly discriminate between what are real improvements and what are only apparent ones, unless he has actually tested them in the boat.
"To point out the reason why the crew proved so slow would lead us too deeply into the study of their style of rowing, but in general the cause seems to lie in the failure to profit by the experience of recent years, inasmuch as the whole system of organization and management introduced by Storrow in 1885 was completely disregarded because the crews in the crews in the two succeeding years were defeated. The Yale and Columbia crews of 1886 beat Harvard after close races because they adopted, to a considerable extent, the same system and ideas that Storrow had taught Harvard the year before. Yale beat Harvard again last year because she still believed in and practised the same system, while Harvard seemed to have endeavored to forget as much of it as possible. The contrast between the style of rowing of the Harvard and Yale crews in the race was most striking. The Yale crew carefully covered their oars at the beginning of the stroke and kept them covered to the end, maintaining a firm pressure throughout, the appearance of their oars in the water reminding the observer of the Harvard crew of 1885, but otherwise their work was far superior to that of Storrow's crew. The Harvard crew, in their body work, followed the principles taught by Bancroft, but did not attain the smoothness which Bancroft himself and his most skillful pupils acquired. In this respect they tried to follow the English system, and seemed to have also adopted the English style of rigging, for their slides were noticeably shorter than those of the Yale crew. Until June 1 the crew used English oars, which have much smaller blades than the American style, and the men in the waist of the boat were seated on the side, as in the English university crews, instead of directly over the keel. Both these experiments were abandoned nearly a month before the race, but they must have materially retarded the progress of the crew. Such experiments are necessary, and often prove beneficial to a crew, but to continue them, when of doubtful utility, to within almost three weeks of the race, suggested great lack of judgment. The whole course of this committee clearly showed their incompetency to direct the crew.
"If the undergraduates need help and advice in the management of their crew, instead of a governing committee like that of last year, why do they not appoint an advisory committee of graduates? Such a committee, appointed with definitely limited powers, could do much by their advice and assistance to aid the captain in his duties. With their help the captain could decide on the policy of the crew and the details of the stroke. With the captain and crew in thorough accord with its advisors, the task of developing the eight would be far easier, and when to this is added the stimulus which the increased interest of the college at large would impart to the crew, could they feel that it was in their hands and not in the hands of the graduates, the chance of success would be greatly increased. In selecting such a committee, particular care should be taken that only experienced oarsmen are chosen, and those who have rowed in recent years should be given the preference.
"The steady improvement in the Yale crews since they began rowing in a tank during the winter months seems to indicate that such an arrangement is superior to the rowing machines heretofore in vogue, and Harvard would do well to imitate her rival in this matter. With the abolition of the arbitrary system by which the crew was controlled last year and the appointment of a competent advisory committee, there is no reason why Harvard should not turn out a good crew this year from the excellent material now in college. Unless the tables are turned soon, the interest in rowing will decline, for neither college can maintain any excitement over a continually one-sided contest."