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The Athletic Committee of the University has granted one of two petitions presented by Captain Willard in behalf of the members of the nine. The first petition was for the employment of a professional coach, and named for approval Mr. Clarkson of the Boston nine. The second petition was for permission to play practice games with professional teams. Upon this question no action was taken, but the matter is to come up for further discussion later. On the first petition the commitee voted-
"That the management of the nine be authorized to employ John G. Clarkson as coach for the season of 1888-9, to act in the gymnasium or on the athletic grounds of the University,"
The petition presented by Captain Willard was a strong one, setting forth in clear and concise terms the arguments for its favorable reception In addition to the elaborate text of the petition itself, there were presented letters from fourteen members of former teams, nine of whom were excaptains. The opinions of seven college presidents were appended to the petition, together with elaborate statistics on the Yale and Harvard scores of past years.
The petition begins by giving its reasons why a coach should be granted the nine. In the second part of the petition it classifies the objections under (a) dislike of professionalism and (b) indifference to the merits of the question. The first arises from a desire to keep our athletics pure, and the second from non-appreciation of the value of professional practice. It contrasts the deportment on the field of professional and amateur nines, and argues that no harm can come frome contact with a professional team, since the chance for personal intercourse between the members of the different nines is extremely small during any game. In a more selfish view of the matter, the petition presents a strong plea in its favor by statistics of Harvard and Yale games.
"It is our purpose to show that such practice would increase the chances of victory, but we do not mean to say that we should always beat Yale if allowed to practice with professionals, nor always succumb if the permission is refused. Practice with a superior team is always of the greatest benefit."
On this subject, Mr. Crocker, of the '83 nine, says:-
"I know from experience that a nine with scientific coaching can make more progress while the frost is coming out of the ground than any untrained team can make in an eternal summer of practice. It is the beginning which counts and is so vital to base-ball, and this is especially true of a college nine, for development must needs be very rapid."
Mr. F. W. Thayer, captain of the '76, '77, and '78 nines, says:
"Without the incentive to gain the supremacy in intercollegiate contests, the University crew, ball nine, foot-ball and Mott Haven teams would not be kept up. To win first honors, no effort is spared to bring each to the highest point of excellence. When the rule probibiting the nine from practice games with professionals and from the employment of a professional coach went into effect, the nine was not only denied the most important privilege which the other teams continued to enjoy, but it was so badly handicapped that it was no longer able to hold its high place in the college matches.
"Individual coaching in the gymnasium and on the field are most necessary, but the success of the nine depends on team work, and this latter can be obtained in no other way than by practice games with professional clubs. Such games give a steadiness at critical points in close contests that no other coaching can give. The annual matches between Harvard and Yale commenced in 1868. Up to 1880, Harvard won every series except in '74 and '75. During this period, practice games with professionals was all the coaching the nine received, except under the direction of the captain. Since the rule of the faculty was passed prohibiting all professional games or coaching, the nine has lost every series with Yale save one in 1885, and furthermore has, with one or two exceptions, never won an uphill game. I feel so strongly the importance of this practice to the success of the nine that unless it is given a fair trial once more, the nine, handicapped as it has been in the past few years, would be justified in withdrawing entirely from University contests with the other colleges."
The testimony of a former member of the nine as to the conduct of professionals has an additional interest at this time. Mr. John F. Kent, of the '75 nine, says:
"I played in the nine for four years, during which time we played many games with the Boston and other professional clubs. During the entire time, I never saw anything of an objectionable character take place in our meeting with professionals. We never associated with them at all when off the ball field. They had no influence whatever with any of our men. On the other hand, we derived very great advantage from our games with them in base-ball proficiency."
One part of the petition is devoted to the expressions of opinion of the various college presidents of the country. Almost all are in favor of the granting of a professional coach and permission to play with professional clubs.
President Barnard, in reply to a communication addressed him by Captain Willard, says that, as the students of Columbia College have never desired the liberty of playing with professionals, he is in doubt as to what would be his course in case of the rise of such a question. He further says that, although he personally regards unfavorably any proposition which would encourage students to engage with professional players, nevertheless there is something to be said on both sides.
The treasurer of the Athletic Association of the University of Pennsylvania, after an account of the mode of conducting athletics in that university, says:-
"I would say that our experience with professional coaches in base-ball, rowing and track athletics has been a satisfactory one, and we see no reason why such should not be employed by you. So far as we can see, the engagement of professional trainers has always been for good to the men, and never harmful as to morals or otherwise. The undergraduates are at liberty to play any team they please, and there has never been any objection to their playing professional teams; nor can I see any."
The above are but a few of the expressions in favor of allowing a college club to play with professionals, elicited by Captain Willard's communications. The second part of the petition will come up for further discussion after the Christmas vacation.
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