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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
In his annual report to the President of the University; Dean L. B. R. Briggs '75, Chairman of the Athletic Committee, gives a general review of the principal activities of the committee during the past year. He analyses carefully several of the difficult problems which have attracted the committee's attention, dwelling particularly on the question of professionalism among athletes and managerial competitions.
The text of the report follows:
"I have the honor of submitting to you a report in behalf of the Committee on the Regulation of Athletic Sports for the academic year 1921-22.
Besides the Chairman, the members from the Faculty were:
Professr Chester Noyes Greenough, Dean of Harvard College.
Dr. Roger Irving Lee, Professor of Hygiene.
The graduate members were:
Henry Pennypacker '88, Chairman of the Committee on Admission, appointed as a non-Faculty member and retained after he had joined the Faculty.
Hon. Benjamin Loring Young '07.
Henry Hardwick Faxon '21.
The undergraduate members were:
Richmond Keith Kane '22.
George Owen Jr. '23.
Arthur Edmund McLeich Jr. '23.
Dr. Edward Hall Nichols '86, for many years surgeon to the football team, died shortly before the end of the academic year. In his undergraduate days he was a remarkable baseball player--pitcher, catcher, or center fielder, as the case might be. In his Junior year he was the regular pitcher of Colonel Winsiow's famous team, winning all his games, helding his opponents to an extraordinarily small number of hits, and leading his team at the bat with an almost unheard of average in base hits and in total bases. His unceasing love of the game end of the college kept him for years as an unpaid coach in baseball.
Served in Surgical Unit
Applying to surgery a brilliant mind and quick sympathies, he distinguished himself in his profession. Before the United States entered the war he served in the Harvard Surgical Unit, which was part of the British Expeditionary Force, and which worked near the firing line. Later he went to the war again as a surgeon in the service of the United States. To the football squad he was a rock of dependence, not merely for his professional skill in general but for his intimate knowledge of athletes and of those injuries to which they are peculiarly subject. He lived with an intenalty that crowded his every day and wore him out before his time.
Dr. Reginald Heber Howe, long associated with Middlesex School, and coxswain of the Harvard University crew in 1899-1901, was appointed director of rowing, and supervised on the river not only of chiefly the candidates for crews but all students who rowed for exercise. The importance of his positing may be inferred from the fact that 422 men had lockers for rowing last year. The supervision of nearly 700 oarsmen, or would-be oarsmen, and their equipment is a serious and complicated matter to which Dr. Home gave himself with scrupulous care and with gratifying results.
Not merely the University crew but the individual who rows for exercises and pleasure makes rowing among the most expensive of college sports. A single shell with suitable cars costs 3182. About $55,000 was spent on rowing last year. As the Graduate Treasurer points out, not more than 150 of the rowers could be candidates for the crews; and the money spent by the Committee on the Regulation of Athletic Sports gave opportunities for invigorating exercises to between 500 and 600 other students of all sorts.
Rowing is a good illustration of a fact often overlooked, that the receipts of the Harvard Athletic Association are used not only for developing a professional skill in a few students who are already strong but for exercising great numbers of students many of whom are constitutionally unfit for intercollegiate competition. In one or two sports the University squad alone contains men enough to make a small college. The total number of students benefited by the receipts of the Harvard Athletic Association goes into the thousands.
Among the exaggerations that I had in mind is the exaggerations in competition for managerships, a matter touched in my report for 1920-21. The findings of a Faculty Committee which had talked informally and freely with representative students confirmed everybody's suspicion that candidates for managerships often damaged themselves by unintelligent use of their time, damaged players by servile attentions, and damaged sport by such shirking of their college 'duties as gave it a bad name. "The problem with our managers," says Mr. William J. Bingham, who has supervised them in the past year, "is to decrease the amount they are now doing, or at least to make them discriminate between the essential and the non-important." For an athlete to drop his clothes on the floor and expect a manager to pick them up and put them in the locker is not good either for him or for the manager. The glaring waste of time among candidates who hung about the teams for the bare chance of performing some trivial service whereby they might ingratiate themselves with their superiors is one reason why competitors for the management of Freshman football have been warned that if they do any work whatever in the competition, except on the three days a week on which work is laid out for them, it will count against them. Mr. Bingham has made a good beginning toward the elimination of nonsense in these competitions; and Mr. Fisher, to use Mr. Bingham's words, "has always co-operated with every sensible suggestion offered by the Harvard Athletic Association."
Suspected Athletes Investigated
The evils of subsidizing athletes were illustrated last year by discoveries which led the authorities at Princeton to disqualify several of their best known and most skilful players. The disqualification, already determined at Princeton by Princeton alone was promptly reported to the Committee of the Three Chairmen. Like every other act of the kind, it was assailed as unjust by those who did not know the circumstances; and it gave rise, naturally enough, to new suspicions regarding the athletes of Yale and Harvard. Every athlete named by anybody to the Harvard Committee as suspected of receiving illegitimate aid was looked up as carefully as circumstances permitted. Brief reports of the financial resources of prominent athletes at Yale and Harvard were submitted by the Yale and Harvard Chairmen respectively to the Committee of the Three Chairmen and were amicably discussed.
At about the same time the Presidents of Princeton, Yale, and Harvard held meetings with a view to the purification of athletics and to this end appointed a special committee of nine, three from each university. The three chairmen also to clear certain misunderstandings, had informal conferences at New Haven with other representatives of the three universities and accepted certain principles in the treatment of athletes. The fruit of all these negotiations is seen in the published resolutions of the three presidents.
How far proselyting has gone among college athletes may be inferred from the attention paid in recent discussions to students who have moved from one college to another and who are designated by the question-begging name of "tramp athletes." Offhand a reasonable man might believe a tramp athlete the figment of a morbid imagination. He who hires a university athlete to come from another college must pay the way of that athlete for one year before he is eligible for intercollegiate athletics of any sort; and he must do this on the chance that at the end of this pauperized year the athlete, clearly not a man of ethical responsibility, will have a sufficient record in his studies and will show a sufficient skill in the game to be both eligible and chosen as a university player. Already this player has counted off at another college one of his three years of eligibility. when (and if) he becomes eligible in his new university, his patron must continue to support him, incidentally running the risk of discovery throughout the entire period of his benefactions. The accepted evidence that athletes are hired under these conditions bears fresh witness to human folly.
Danger Lies in Schools
At Harvard the proportion of athletes among transferred students is said to be less than the proportion among students who come straight from schools to the Freshman class. It is in schools rather than in colleges that the chief danger of illegitimate propaganda lies; and nothing can check this propaganda but right-mindedness among undergraduates and alumni. Speaking always with the knowledge that something scandalous may be unearthed at any moment. I nevertheless know that this right-mindedness has been greatly increased in the last thirty-five years. Indeed, there is serious danger of discrimination against the athlete. The questions that we ask him would be insolently personal, if it were possible, as a schoolmaster once said, "to treat an athlete like an ordinary decent citizen." Nor is the athlete permitted, unchallenged, to receive such aid as a non-athletic youth, who may not have half his intelligence or strength of character, might go on receiving undisturbed for years. At Harvard the danger of proselyting in schools is now slight. The true danger is eagerness to help an athlete already in college, if we like him and find him in need, to help him would seem a friendly and commendable act if only he were not an athlete: Since he is an athlete our help though it may not render him ineligible, exposes both him and us to an investigation which, if he were not an athlete and consequently a public character would be unthinkable.
Though the athletic situation last year seemed to force on the committee at Princeton. Yale and Harvard the financial inquisition of which I am writing and in the responsibility of which I share, such a method cannot be permanent, and indeed cannot be used at all without danger to the very foundation of sportsmanship. Ultimately the information received by the Committee depends in most cases on the player's word. There is no questionnaire that a dishonest man cannot circumvent; and the man who wavers between honesty and dishonesty disposes with an easy conscience of questions that he regards as nobody's business but his own. A third man, high-spirited and honorable, resents what he naturally construes as a slur on his good name. Though he will not lie, he has not yet learned that in belonging to a suspected class he himself is not necessarily suspected; that even if he is suspected he is submitting to the common lot of all who move in the limelight; and that not looking for insults--perhaps not seeing them--is part of the discipline of life. Eventually the questionnaire based on universal distrust will defeat its won end. If the College Office should treat every student as a suspect, it would stimulate in the students generally a desire to circumvent it, and would destroy that frank and friendly intercourse on which its efficiency depends. Can a Committee on Athletics with a similar policy escape a similar fate? I look for the time when Harvard, Yale, and Princeton shall say to one another. "I need know nothing more about the legitimacy of your players than is implied by your willingness that they should represent you. Then, and not till then, shall we be sportsmen.
The demand for football tickets so far exceeds the limits of the Stadium that no scheme of distribution can be expected to satisfy all applicants or even to be accepted by them as just. Many persons believe that in the Harvard seats last year the obvious hostility to Harvard teams was caused by the restrictions imposed on members of the University who were not graduates of the University and were supposed to be less interested in Harvard athletics than Harvard graduates. It is the purpose of the Committee to study the situation with care before the next distribution of tickets to a Yale game in the Stadium.
The very large surplus accumulated by the Harvard Athletic Association last year makes desirable a policy for expenditures and Improvements covering a considerable time. The reclaiming of the unreclaimed parts of Soldiers Field is of the first importance; a swimming pool is something to hope for; various improvements in and about the Stadium will contribute to the comfort of the crowds who gather there and of these who deal with them. In all such matters the action of the Committee is contingent on the approval of the President and Fellows.
Commends Spirit of Football Game
I cannot end this report without comment on the Yale-Harvard football game of 1922. We call a game of football clean when the participants avoid dirty play. If in the violence of the contest, one or two men lose for a moment their self-control. We are inclined to forgive them. At some games we wonder that, in a fierce physical encounter, our hot-blooded youth can be trained to keep their tempers as well as they do. The game of 1922 combined the intensity of football with the chivalry of tennis. Cheer leaders, bands, coaches, players vied with one another in generous treatment of their rivals. The Yale captain was deservedly cheered by the Harvard section: Yale and Harvard players helped each other up after a down:
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