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Yale's director of Athletics, Bob Hall, is probably an unhappy and embarrassed man today. His disclosure yesterday that Yale intends to drop spring practice raised a monstrous clamor throughout the East which is bad enough, but moreover Mr. Hall never really intended to have the story told about at all.
Somehow, though, news of the policy changes Yale was considering leaked to the Eli undergraduate radio station; the Yale Daily News, the college daily, checked the story with Hall and confronted with a fait accompli, he decided to spill everything Yale intended to do. This was unpleasant for Yale because it hadn't lined up a single other Ivy Group college to go along.
As a result of Monday's statement Yale is committed to abandoning practice this coming spring. If all its competitors continue to drill in April and May, it will be a long, cold fall in New Haven. And there is good reason to doubt that other colleges will fellow the Elis lead in cutting spring practice.
Whether or not abandoning spring practice is a good idea raises an oven nicer question. The primary purpose of spring practice is to develop available material and to find out what is most promising on the freshman squad. This means that at schools where professionalism is a problem, spring practice will be fairly superfluous since the material is pretty slick to begin with. Meanwhile colleges such as Harvard, which depend on developing unpolished material to attain even respectability, will lose the advantages springtime drill has to offer.
What is probably motivating Yale and others who feel that spring practice should be abolished is that they feel they must do something to clean off some of the mud flung at the game of football this season. But this seems like a futile gesture. Spring practice essentially makes football no more professional than fall and winter rowing makes crew big time.
Those who argue against spring football have one powerful argument. Many a hard pressed football coach has waggled a warning finger at a prospect in the spring and told him that if he intended to be among those present in the fall practice, he had better be around for spring practice. If the prospect wanted to study, run, row, or play lacrosse he might as well give up the idea of playing football.
When this happens, spring practice is a bad idea, but if the coaches take the broad view there doesn't seem to be very much wrong with an undergraduate's blocking and tackling in May--if that's his idea of fun.
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