Sports Clubs' Financial Picture Bleak; Members Criticize Athletic Department

[This is the first of a two-part series on club athletics.]

Increasing financial burdens and a lack of support from the Department of Athletics have forced sports clubs at Harvard to face either disintegration, or embarrassment in intercollegiate sports circles.

The majority of these clubs--ranging in activities from riflery to gymnastics to water polo--struggle to pay for their own equipment, tournament fees and travel expenses.

The problem of making ends meet at the expense of excellence in sports often seems insurmountable, although on extremely rare occasions clubs receive small monetary gifts from the Athletic Department.

Recent interviews with several coaches, captains and players from among Harvard's 32 sports clubs revealed what one student called "a distressing and embarrassing situation for Harvard athletics."

"We had an extremely strong team this year, but we couldn't afford to enter the big meets at Army or Fordham," water polo captain Phil Jonckheer '74 said. "We were forced to stay in New England and play a light schedule."


The water polo club, number one in New England for several years and always ranked high in the east, would not have been eligible for the NCAA championships had it won the Easterns last fall.

NCAA rules limit the national tourney to teams with varsity status. Despite the prominence of Harvard water poloists in New England, promotion from "club" to "varsity" status here "is not a likely prospect," Jonckheer said.

He added that the team has played against other squads which have either full varsity status, such as Brown, or a paid, full-time coach, such as Yale, Northeastern and MIT.

Harvard is unwilling to make similar commitments because the Athletic Department must then assume a greater financial responsibility for the sport, Jonckheer said.

Funds for balls and headgear come from the players' pockets. Last fall the water polo team had to replace equipment that was stolen from the IAB over the summer. In October, the team had to cough up $60 to enter the MIT tourney, which it won easily.

"We've been paying a lot of money to win trophies," Jonckheer said last fall.

"It's not easy playing water polo this way," he said. "People come to Harvard because of our great swimming program and expect to see a great water polo program as well. You can be sure they're disappointed."

During the 1972-73 season, the parent of one player covered most of the team's travelling expenses. When the funds dried up last year, the team received $200 from Athletic Director Robert B. Watson's $3000 "discretionary fund."

Emergency Expenses

That fund covers all emergency expenses in the Athletic Department, Watson said last week. "It's not intended solely to finance club activities."