To the Members of Harvard University:
It is now clear to everybody that the success of rowing at Harvard depends on the broadest and most systematic plan of competition that can be produced. The old class crew scheme has proved inadequate, for it cannot possibly begin to handle 500 men and give them all races. The best that the class crew system can do is to provide rowing for twenty or twenty-five men in each class.
Therefore it was decided last year that some other method must be devised by which more men could receive instruction, and be given a chance to row and to row in races. The Weld Boat Club, with a membership of about 400, was already in existence, and prospering. But it had no rival. There were the Weld class crews, but there was no really hard competition excepting among themselves. Under these circumstances the Newell Boat Club was founded, partly to relieve the great pressure at the Weld, but more especially to provide a strong rival for the Weld here at Harvard. It was also thought that these clubs would afford a good chance to grade and sift the rowing material for the University crew by means of a series of races. We had a professional here at the time, who was put in charge of the Newell Boat Club. The club was given quarters in the old part of the University Boat House, and men were urged to join and go down and row there.
As every one knows that club was a complete and glaring failure. The reasons for this failure are probably known to many, but it is well that every one should know and understand the exact situation.
In the first place the club did not have very attractive quarters. Neither did it have anything like the proper equipment. Then again the professional instructor did not understand the work very well, nor did he fall into the spirit of it, so that such crews as did got out received no coaching at all. The greatest difficulty of all, however, lay in the fact that in the same house, and standing side by side with this club, were the class crews. These class crews were made up of supposedly the best material in the classes, and therefore at the head of rowing in the College. The class crew men were entirely wrapped up in their own crews, and, of course, paid absolutely no attention to the Newell club or its crews. It was perfectly natural, therefore, that the men rowing in these club crews should feel overpowered and out of it. Therefore it is in no way surprising that the Newell club crews should and did feel that in the busiest and most important part of the season they were neglected and ignored by the very men who, under the same roof, should have been doing their utmost to assist them. As a result, therefore, these men lost interest and gradually dropped off until the club was a mere name.
Then came the graded crews, and the Newell club took on the semblance of activity. But it amounted to nothing, for the only people who took any interest were those rowing in the graded crews, which were practically Varsity trial eights, and outside of these there was nothing. After the University crew squad was selected the club practically ceased to exist, and in the pleasantest period of the year there was no rowing at all at the club. It then became evident to every one that the scheme had proved to be a complete failure.
This autumn it was again taken up, but every one had lost faith in the management of the Newell club, and men were unwilling to waste their time and chances there. A few crews were scraped together, however, but the club was not a success.
This spring the club is to be put on its feet, under such a regime and with such a management as shall insure its complete success, if not this year at least next.
In order to insure this success it must have at least a fair share of the best men in College actively interested in it. To accomplish this it has been decided to give up the old system of selecting the class crews. The present plan is to have each club get out one (or more) class crews from each of the three upper classes and the Law School. Each pair in the same class (that is, the two Law School, the two Senior, the two Junior, and the two Sophomore crews) are to race together about April 7th to determine which crew shall represent the class. About April 14th the class races will be held between the winners of the four preliminary trials. There will also be held on the same day a race between the four losing crews. This method of selecting the class crews is considered preferable because by it the number of men who can get the experience of rowing on their class crew is doubled. That is, during the class crew training season the number of men on an equal footing in each class is increased from eight, as at present, to sixteen, and these sixteen, divided into two crews, get the experience and competition of racing against each other as well against the corresponding crews from other classes. (Of course there is nothing to prevent the formation of additional class crews in each club if men enough are rowing to fill them.) It may perhaps be said that under the present system the regular class crew had just as much competition and could race with The Weld or Newell class crews. This is true. The regular class crew could and did race with the Weld class crew, but what happened if it were beaten? Did it lose its position as regular class crew? Not at all. At most the men received a blowing up from the captain and a man or so was taken from the other crew. But the positions of most of the men were secure, they were still the regular class crew. This was not at all a satisfactory position for the men who were left in the Weld crew because they did not get any reward for their work, nor were the regular class crew men kept so well up to their work as if they knew that if beaten by the Weld crew, they would no longer represent the class.
Furthermore under the present or old system during the entire season of preparation for the class races, there is a direct conflict of interests between the regular class crews and the club crews, both financially and in the general feelings and and sympathies of the College. This weakens the position of the clubs very materially, is unnecessary, and bad.
Under the new system this conflict of interests will be no longer possible; the clubs will be strengthened and stimulated and the rivalry between them greatly increased.
After the class race a vacation of three or four days will be given during the first half of the Easter recess. A number of men will then be called back and the graded club crews formed as last year. These crews will race about May 1, after which the University squad will be picked. The club work is not to stop here, however, for in all probability a race will be obtained with the second University crews of some of the prominent rowing colleges, which will take place about the end of May. If this plan is faithfully and energetically carried out it should go far toward establishing the clubs on a firm basis.
It has been urged by some that these class crews will not be representative and will therefore excite no interest, also that it is a pity to give up the old form of the class crews. In answer to the first objection we can only say that it was not until the spring of 1898 (two years ago) that the class crews ever really represented the full strength of the classes. Because before that the University squad was in existence during the class crew season, and took the best rowing men away from their class crews. In regard to the second objection, even granting that it were an old custom (which it certainly is not), there has never been and old custom yet that did not have to be modified and recast to suit the changing conditions. In three years time, if this plan is consistently followed, no one will ever remember that any other plan was ever employed.
The key to the whole situation is the broadest and most thorough scheme of competition that can be devised.
In order to secure this thorough and keen competition, the clubs should be as nearly as possible on the same footing. As soon as the new boat house is built the Newell club will have good quarters. In regard to boats and equipment the two clubs will have practically the same. Furthermore, arrangements to obtain the services of Mr. Harry Vail as a professional instructor are being concluded. Mr. J. J. Storrow has consented to act as head coach and general adviser of the Newell, and he will be assisted by several other graduates and undergraduates. The only remaining question, therefore, is that of the undergraduates. It seems advisable to divide the two clubs up evenly, as it is essential that all the good men in one class shall not be together; and the best plan seems to be to allow not more than four men out of any one of last year's class crews to row from the same club, and to divide the rest evenly. In order to insure equal membership and, as nearly as possible, equal competition in future years, it has been decided that the presidents of the two clubs shall, beginning this year, alternately choose down an alphabetical list of all the candidates for the Freshman crew or the men who wish to row, allowing brothers to go with brothers, etc. This was done last year with 1902, so that it is not an altogether new scheme.
This plan has in all its details been carefully considered and discussed by our most prominent graduates of Boston, together with the most prominent undergraduates, and in every case it has met with the heartiest approval. EDW. C. STORROW. C. L. HARDING, President N. B. C., Capt. 1900 crew. R. C. BOLLING, President W. B. C. HUGH BANCROFT, Captain W. B. C. JAMES LAWRENCE, JR., Capt. of 1901 Crew. GUY BANCROFT, Capt. of 1902 Crew. F. L. HIGGINSON, JR., Capt. H. U. B. C.