Finding Out That Goldfish Are Now Sharks

(This is the first article in a three-part series dealing with the state of the Harvard swimming program)

When it comes time for the Harvard Sports News Bureau to put out next year's "Swimming Media Information Guide" the printers are going to be busy changing type. Eleven of the 16 University swimming records fell in the Easterns down at Yale last weekend. Of the nine individual records set, eight of them were set by freshmen Rich Baughman. Tim Neville, and Dave Brumwell.

And the week before, also at Yale, I heard a man behind me in the stands comment on Rich Baughman's breaking of former Olympian John Nelson's Yale pool record. "Shoot, you think that's good? Just wait till next year. Baughman is going to have to fight to stay on the team." His wife laughed.

"As far as I'm concerned, the most important day of the season is admissions day at Harvard."--Head Swim Coach Don Gambril.

There was a time not so long ago that American swimming was instantly associated with one man and one institution. The man's name was Robert J.H. Kiphuth and the institution was Yale. Kiphuth was head swimming coach at Yale from 1918-1959, during that time span he amassed a dual meet record of 528-12, a record unsurpassed in the history of sport.

No one, not even Harvard, conceived of beating Yale during Kiphuth's reign. During these same years Harvard finished a consistent and happy number two in Ivy swimming.


The 1960's brought a new coach to Yale. Kiphuth's former assistant. Phil Moriarty, the establishment of the Eastern Swimming Championships in 1962. Harvard's highest finish ever in the NCAA's (4th in 1961), and a Harvard victory over Yale. That Harvard-Yale meet of 1962 generated enough enthusiasm to pack the IAB and warrant a closed circuit TV broadcast to Sanders Theater.

Last year the Harvard swim team went 5-5, 2-5 in the Eastern League, and experienced its first losing record in League history, losing to Penn. Princeton, Dartmouth, Army, and Yale. The consistent and happy number two Harvard finish had turned into a fight to have a winning season. Harvard was caught being the leisurely country gentleman in a city full of sophisticated hustlers.

Throughout Bill Brooks reign as head coach, the Harvard swimming program had proceeded in much the same way. Harvard's name, its alumni, and its admission emphasis on the well-rounded good guy resulted each year in a large number of fair to excellent athletes being admitted in all sports.

Swimming was by no means an exception, with such swimmers as former 1500 meter world record holder Steve Krause '71, nationally ranked backstroker Dan Kobick '72, and Henry Watson '73, ranked fourth in the world in the 1500 meter freestyle while in high school.

The athletic and swimming administration at Harvard took no particular interest in potential swimmers before they sent in their applications. Other schools might be writing regularly, offering scholarships, sending an assistant coach to talk to the swimmer, and paying for campus visits but at Harvard the only direct pre-admission pressure came from zealous alumni.

A swimmer who chose to come to Harvard never did so primarily because of the swimming program here. For a number of the swimmers the switch to Harvard's program resulted in a big drop from intensive, big-time high school and AAU programs.

A case in example is Tim Chetin '73, who came to Harvard from Palo Alto High School and George Haines' Santa Clara Swim Club. Both the high school and the swim club were among the best in the nation while Tim swam for them and George Haines is internationally known for his teams, his Olympic coaching, and his world record holders. Swimming at Palo Alto and Santa Clara was an 11 month, 6 or 7 days of the week, twice a day, 8,000 to 12,000 yards a day routine.

A swimmer entering the freshman program at Harvard knew that no one expected him to work that hard and soon found out that there were a 100 better things to do than go an extra 4,000 to 8,000 yards. With almost no exception, swimmers began scheduling swimming into their lives rather than their lives around swimming.

The freshman team provided an ideal transition point in the de-emphasisation of the importance of swimming while providing the opportunity to work out, try out intercollegiate swimming, get to know one's classmates, and have a good time. Every single swimmer that swam on a freshman team, the old coaches, and the Harvard athletic administration state that a required freshman program is a good idea.

It allowed swimmers of a wide range of ability to give collegiate swimming a go; Lon McCroskey '73, expressed typical sentiments about his freshman team, one of the best Harvard has had in the last decade. "I was disappointed with myself in that I never did hit my top high school times. But the workouts were easy. I stayed in shape, and even though I played only a minor role on the team. I liked it. I guess it took freshman year to find out that my swimming days were over."

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