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The Big Leagues at Last?

CBS Reports


How many times have you heard Chris Schenkel blurt out male chauvinist remarks about some guy's date in the stands and follow it with his classic. "What better way to spend an autumn afternoon than with college football and ABC?" I, for one, would have to answer "Enough times to make me sick."

What is most upsetting, however, about the present state of affairs is that, Nebraska-Oklahoma aside, there are not too many college football games worth watching, with last week's hard-to-stomach case of Harvard-Dartmouth fumble-it is no exception. Ivy League football is fun, but nobody can honestly claim that it is well-played or anywhere near professional quality.

The Ivy League does, however, excel in a sport that, for some unknown reason, has not generated the fan interest and support that mediocre football has always enjoyed.

While an Ivy football team is a rarity in the national rankings. Ivy soccer teams are traditionally among the strongest in the nation, and as a conference, the Ivy League provides the toughest competition of any organized league in the country except the pros.

Yet, with the notable exception of Pennsylvania, Ivy soccer attracts small, well-informed crowds of students while Ivy football pulls in the alumni, their much-sought money, and the lion's share of the press coverage, radio and TV.

This Saturday, while most people are slowly getting out of bed or sitting on their tailgates wolfing down drinks and sandwiches prior to the Penn-Harvard football game, the same two schools will meet in what promises to be one of the finest college soccer games of the year. Once again, however, the fans will be subjected to Harvard's inadequate seating, inadequate programs and its wholly inadequate manual scoreboard. Ivy soccer may be in the big leagues, but as far as the athletic departments of the Ivy schools are concerned, it remains in the bush leagues.

Only at Penn does soccer draw anything close to what it fully deserves. With last year's Harvard-Penn game as the sole drawing card, the Quakers drew an enthusiastic crowd of 11,000 people to Franklin Field for the Ivy title showdown. Just last week Penn broke that attendance record when 12,000 Ians showed up for a night game in Franklin Field with Navy. Understandably, Philadelphia has proclaimed itself the college soccer capital of the country.

For the last four years Harvard has had a nationally ranked soccer team. Yet each year the Business School field remains wholly devoid of stands, and each year the big games force people to stand two or three deep around the perimeter craning their necks over and around their neighbors for a glimpse of the action.

Although standing around in the cold for two hours is not my idea of fun, this Saturday's contest will be so hotly contested that it might be worth that extra sweater and the sore feet. The Quakers, presently ranked third in the nation, are undefeated in eight games and are the defending Ivy champions. Harvard, with a 6-0 record, and a number five national ranking, is sky high and primed for an upset. The Game of the Century? Maybe not, but, weather permitting, the game of the year.

The Crimson has been a mild surprise thus far this season. Not many people expected it to have much of a chance repeating its fine performance of a year ago when a Harvard team came within one goal of the national championship. "Most people were focusing on what we had lost instead of what we had left," assistant coach Seamus Malin said yesterday.

But what has impressed most has been the spirit of the team. The players like one another, as was not often the case in recent years, and as Malin said, "They are all pulling for each other." Hopefully, there will be a large crowd at the Business School field at 10:30 a.m. which will be pulling for them too.

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