President Conant's speech to the Student Council last night not only lays down a concise solution to the problem of athletic finances, but vastly more important, it supplies a firm foundation for future policy. While endowment of athletics has long attracted visionaries, no physician has been found bold enough to prescribe the loathsome medicine necessary for its attainment.
Mr. Conant and Mr. Bingham, however, have thought the question through and have not been frightened to find themselves in new and untrod lands. For several years observers have doubted the efficacy of football receipts to maintain monumental athletic plants. Even a rise of twenty-five per cent in gridiron receipts would bring the H.A.A. income to less than half the 1929 figures. In addition to this, the rise of professional football, voted by the nation's sportswriters as the most significant event of 1934, tends to offset "recovery" in amateur football.
Several other colleges have met the situation by introducing "big-time" football and placing it on a professional basis. As a result, gate receipts and educational endowments have gone hand in hand. The H.A.A. quite evidently intends to quit the roller coaster. John Harvard's athletes cannot let their legs get caught in the stocks of athletic receipts.
To the participants in the minor sports whose knell has been sounded will go the sympathy of the College. Nevertheless these men should remember, first of all, that they form only four per cent of the student body and that they cost $125 per participant on a yearly basis. They should remember, secondly, that even if they are forced to abandon their sports, two courses remain open to them; the other sports or House athletics. If House athletics assume a more important position as appears probable, the Houses may at last achieve some individuality rather than social. In other words, opportunity for athletics has not been lessened. Two canals have been made into one.
One important factor cannot be neglected. If athletic receipts increase during the next few years so that thousands of dollars, compounding interest, are apparently lying idle, the plan must not be compromised. Retrenchment must continue so that the span of time may be shortened during which Harvard has to listen to the demanding voice of the great god Gold.
Mr. Conant and Mr. Bingham have caught the end of the rope that their colleagues are afraid to touch. If they succeed in climbing it, other colleges may try to forget the mad insanity of the twenties by discovering that they too want to train their undergraduates for life not for the grandstand. In Cambridge, at any rate, athletics will be put on an athletic basis.