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Last Wednesday President Kennedy asked the Amateur Athletic Union and the National Collegiate Athletic Association to end their two year jurisdictional war. On the same day, the eligibility committee of the Eastern College Athletic Conference reversed its previous ruling and declared Harvard hockey player Gene Kinasewich eligible for intercollegiate competition.
These two events, seemingly unrelated, are of major significance to an important and thorny athletic question which the United States has consistently refused to settle: what constitutes an amateur.
The Kinasewich case presented the ECAC with a magnificent opportunity to make an intelligent contribution to the debate on the issue. By deciding Kinasewich was eligible because of the special circumstances surrounding his Junior A hockey career in Canada, and by failing (thus far) to reconsider the ECAC position on Junior A players in general, the committee has avoided the main problem.
Harvard is partially to blame for this. The University pleaded its case on the grounds that the money Kinasewich accepted from the Edmonton Oil Kings ($1122 over two seasons) was excusable because Kinasewich needed the money to continue playing hockey and still stay in school. Harvard implicitly accepted the fact that hockey was Kinasewich's part-time job during high school, and said that this was not necessarily professionalism. The University did not call for a general review of the Junior A problem, and so far it has not asked for a review of the eligibility rules.
But by accepting Harvard's claim, the ECAC has put itself in a very difficult position. There are more than 100 Canadian students playing hockey in ECAC schools; undoubtedly many of them accepted more money than Kinasewich did, and many must have had justifiable extenuating circumstances. The decision to deal with Kinasewich as an isolated phenomenon indicates that the ECAC wishes to consider all subsequent cases this way. If a thorough job were done for each player, this would be impossible.
The ECAC must decide whether or not it accepts the Canadian definition of an amateur. And in doing so, it should do more than note that many boys in Canada play for Junior A teams because there are no high school programs. The type of subsidies Junior A players receive are quite similar to athletic scholarships in American colleges, and this parallel can not be avoided.
A related question, and one which the E C A C should have approached, is whether the terms of competition in colleges should be different from those of amateur athletics generally. Practices in the NCAA show a strong trend towards increasing recruiting pressure and providing larger "scholarships"; these dealings are making the current rules laugh- able. Amateur athletes outside the colleges are often paid even more hand-somely.
It may be that the ECAC and the NCAA will decide to support growing professionalism in college athletics. Such action would make further participation by the Ivy group in either the ECAC or the NCAA untenable. As the ECAC and the NCAA are currently more permissive than the Ivies on eligibility, and in view of the Kinasewich controversy, it seems reasonable that no matter what other decisions the two groups take, the Ivies should be allowed to decide their own eligibility cases.
The Kinasewich case and the special position of the Ivy League still give the ECAC a chance to clarify the muddle President Kennedy's statement should pave the way to an agreement between the NCAA and the AAU. Hopefully both steps will be taken soon, before the U.S. suffers international embarrassment
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