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Despite the growing number of black athletes in recent years, it is still rare to see a black official.
However, Harvard is now actively pursuing a policy designed to bring minority members into collegiate sports in New England as umpires, head linesmen, referees and judges, Robert B. Watson '37, director of Athletics, said yesterday.
The policy is backed by President Bok, Watson said. "Sociological conditions make it necessary," he said in explaining the Department's motivation to encourage non-whites to participate as officials in Ivy League sports.
When asked if the policy was the outcome of discussions with black athletes at Harvard last spring. Watson asserted that the Department's concern pre-dated those discussions. He said the policy was initiated entirely by the Athletic Department.
Watson explained that Harvard, like all other colleges who are members of the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), have no choice of officiating personnel for varsity events. Rather, the ECAC assigns officials to each varsity contest, drawing upon the members of five regional, independent officials' organizations.
These organizations control the supply of officials, as well as setting standards for their training and determining what level of competition a person may officiate.
Watson said that these independent officials organizations have failed to engage in the kind of recruiting that may be necessary to bring non-whites into the work: Watson compared these organizations to a "pretty darn close corporation."
Harvard faces a different situation when it chooses officials for non-varsity games. In these contests, individual colleges may request officials by name, or simply ask an officials' organization to give preference to non-white officials in supplying personnel.
The ECAC has written to its member colleges advocating just such a policy.
The idea is to provide a stimulus for the organizations to find minority officials and to give those officials whatever experience they may need below the varsity level to qualify for varsity jobs.
Eric Cutler, assistant director of Athletics, remarked that many officials start out as volunteers. Others are known to organizations as competent to officiate and are invited to join. Cutler didn't know if any minority members were being asked to join the officials' organizations, "but they haven't volunteered."
Relying on "pure voluntarism" wouldn't change the situation, Cutler admitted. While it would be "difficult to get them to give the time" required to become sports officials, "getting them to realize they're welcome" would be the critical hurdle to getting more non white officials, he stated.
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