In view of the discussion now going on over the relation of athletics to scholarship among college students, some facts collected from the recent report of the committee on athletics to the faculty of Harvard may be of interest. The thorough investigation of the committee leaves no room for doubt that athletics have had a beneficial effect upon the scholarship of men here. From the first table in the report which shows the college rank of the university teams in 1885-86, it appears that the average percentage of the four college teams was 72. That of the crew was 69, the Mott Haven team 72, the nine 74, the lacrosse team 76. Only one of these 56 men had a mark of less than 40 per cent., while a member of the nine lead the list with 92 per cent. The average percentage of the freshman class in that year was 69; that of the freshman crew and nine, 61; of the lacrosse team, 67. The class of '86 had an average of 76. The average of the seniors in the university nine, and in the lacrosse and Mott Haven teams was 74. None fell below 60 and five had Commencement parts. There was no university football team in 1885-86, and no seniors in the crew.
In 1886-87 the freshmen had an avermark calculated at 68 per cent. The class eleven had 60 per cent. The class eleven had 60 per cent, the nine 62, the crew 67, and the lacrosse team 71. The average percentage of the class of '87 was 76. The average mark of the seniors in the university crew and nine, and in the football, lacrosse and Mott Haven teams was 75 per cent. The lowest mark received was 65 per cent., while seven men were awarded Commencement parts, and one received honors.
The thirty-four men who made no answer to the enquiries of the committee on athletics last spring received an average mark for the year 1887-88. calculated at 64.1 per cent. Those who set themselves down in the circular as taking no exercise, 14 in number, had an average of 67.8 per cent.; and the forty-four men who had attended no intercollegiate contests in Cambridge had a mark of 74.9 per cent. The records from which these marks were computed were incomplete, but the averages are probably almost correct for the year.
These figures demonstrate beyond a doubt that participation in athletics does not lower the standing of those engaged (except freshmen). "That the scholarship of the college has not seriously suffered from the growth of athletics is further demonstrated by the steady rise in the average standing of the graduating classes during the past eleven years; while new sports have been added, and the number of participants has largely increased, the average standing has risen from 67 1-2 per cent. to 73 per cent.
Another reputed evil of athletics is their supposed tendency to draw men away from the lecture room. That this irregularity of attendance exists only to a surprisingly small degree is proved by the investigation of the committee. They found that in 1886-87 the excess of the average number of absences of the men engaged in athletics above the average of their class was-for the Mott Haven team, 1; the crew, nine, and cricket team, 5; the leading tennis players, 7, and the eleven, 8. On the other hand the lacrosse team had a record of six less absences than their class average. The freshmen again fall behind. The nine had an average of eight more absences than their class, and the eleven 23 more; while the crew was about on a par with the remainder of the class, and the lacrosse team had 18 less absences.
The men who take no interest in athletics make a showing worse than that of the freshmen. Those who did not reply to the circular of the committee have an average excess of 20 absences more than their class; those who take no exercise, 16 more; those who attended no intercollegiate games at Cambridge, 15 less.
The committee found that "the total time necessary for practice by the members of the nine, eleven and crew amounted to from one and three-fourths to three hours per day. The training moreover, is not so severe as to make the time devoted to study of less value to members of teams than to other students. The only time, therefore, which can reasonably be considered wasted is that consumed in travelling by the teams which play outside of Cambridge."
The committee have taken special pains to ascertain the number of men who go with the teams to other colleges. They found that more than half of the students never leave Cambridge for this purpose, "and that on the average all absences from a college exercise from this cause amount to slightly more than one each year for each student."
The committee therefore concludes" that athletic sports do not seriously interfere with attendance on college courses."