An Athletic Trial of Merger

Athletes and sports commentators have always described their calling in grand terms: "the drama of athletic competition," "the thrill of victory," "the agony of defeat." Some have gone so far as to call sports "the moral equivalent of war."

But athletics at Harvard during the last year turned into yet another kind of war--a war of the sexes for equal access to facilities and funds--as the men's and women's athletics departments fully merged for the first time.

Since last year a new force has entered the arena of athletics. In June, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare issued proposed guidelines for the implementation of Title IX of the 1972 Education Act that forbids sex discrimination in educational institutions. The regulations deal primarily with athletics and now, threatened with the loss of federal funds, Harvard will have to assure that men and women athletes have "equal access" to sports and "equal facilities."

When HEW released the guidelines, Eric Cutler '40, assistant director of Athletics, said that the department was already meeting these regulations. Since they were published, however, there has been what Mary G. Paget, assistant to the director of Athletics for Radcliffe, describes as a "substantial gain" for women's athletics at Harvard.

HEW's entrance on the scene does not necessarily mean the end of conflict between men's and women's athletics, because Harvard simply does not have adequate practice facilities for both sexes' varsity, junior varsity, freshman and intramural teams. "It's not as if we started with the Taj Mahal, and tried to give the women a few wings in it," one Harvard administrator says.


A planned athletics building, to include indoor squash courts, basketball courts, a swimming pool and other playing areas, should answer the present needs of both men and women athletes--but probably not for about ten more years at the current rate of fund-raising and planning. In the interim, men and women must share the college's only regulation basketball court and only regulation pool for undergraduates, both housed in the IAB.

The current athletics budget is a "no growth" one. Translation: When the two departments merged, the Faculty agreed to pay for only one more athletics administrator although the department had to absorb 11 Radcliffe varsity sports.

The Radcliffe teams, however, found the merger a financial windfall. Compared to a 1972-73 budget of about $75,000, women's athletics had $144,350 at its disposal for the 1973-74 year. This year's budget will climb to about $170,000. Given the no-growth Harvard budget, an increase for women necessarily meant a cutback in funds that used to go to men's programs, irking some of the male athletes.

The scenario for the athletics merger began to take shape with the Harvard-Radcliffe non-merger merger in 1971, when women's athletics moved into the vague realm of "non-retained" Radcliffe functions. All Radcliffe tuition became part of Harvard's unrestricted funds and Harvard took over the financing of Radcliffe sports.

Until the fall of 1973, however, Harvard did little toward merger except to take over Radcliffe's $75,000 annual budget. The Radcliffe Crew set up shop in Harvard's Weld Boat House in 1971, but had to raise its own money in 1972 when it needed a new boat. The men's swimming and basketball teams retained priority for prime times on the IAB basketball court and in the pool, and Radcliffe athletes continued to hold most of their practices on the non-regulation facilities in the Radcliffe gym. Whenever Radcliffe teams had out-of-town meets, they had to find their own transportation while Harvard athletes rode in buses or airplanes. And when the women's crew--the 1973 North American champions--needed funds to travel to Moscow for the European Rowing Championships, the Friends of Radcliffe Rowing, not Harvard, financed the trip.

President Horner says that controversies over funding the crew's travels spurred her to call for full merger in athletics. "I said [last summer to Dean Rosovsky] that the whole Harvard-Radcliffe merger was on trial in athletics--either we merged or we unmerged," she said. "If this was how women would fare under merger, it didn't speak well for the future."

So in September 1973, the bureaucratic wheels began to turn. Robert E. Kaufmann '62, director of finance for Dean Rosovsky, sent Watson a memorandum directing him to work for "equal access and opportunity at all levels of athletic endeavor to undergraduate men and women," and asking for a report on Radcliffe's needs of facilities, coaching and administration.

As part of the merger agreement, the memorandum continued, Robert B. Watson '37, director of Athletics, gained control over budgeting and policymaking for Radcliffe's program, and Paget, then in her twelfth year as director of Radcliffe's Sports, Dance and Recreation Department, became a member of Watson's staff. (On the bureaucratic ladder of the Harvard Athletic Department, Paget's current post as assistant to the director of Athletics for Radcliffe is listed right under the Harvard ticket manager.)

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Kaufmann's memo to Watson, which set the merger in motion last fall, stressed that Watson should "presume that comparability [of Radcliffe to Harvard athletics] can be accmplished, rather than presume the problem is insoluble." Kaufmann referred not only to women's skill levels but also their access to Harvard's facilities, practice areas, and finances.