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Fact and Fiction

Don't Rap It

By Bob Baggott

The Harvard powers that be have just decided to allow Joe Restic and his staff to take to the road in pursuit of prospective football players. This is surprising only in that it seems implausible that Restic had been forbidden to recruit prior to this decision.

You see, no other team in the league, or perhaps in the country, suffered under the restrictions that kept Restic bound to his office chair during the off-season. The Harvard football office was not allowed to initiate contact with prospective freshmen and was also restricted from travelling to meet prospects once contact had been established.

Now most of you never expected an official of Harvard University to come to your home to attempt to convince you to attend Harvard, but football players are a hot commodity nowadays--especially good ones--and it takes a little more than a howdy-do and a postcard to bring the big ones to Harvard.

It's not that the Big "H" doesn't appeal to the gridders, it's just that recruiters from other schools offer too much temptation for most impressionable young high-schoolers.

When I was in high school, I was recruited by a few schools to play football and the pressure was tremendous. Coaches call to express seemingly sincere opinions attesting to their appreciation of your astounding football prowess. They make you feel important--as if you were really needed. They take you out to the best restaurants in town and spend a lot of money and time on you to give you the impression you will be treated similarly once you enroll.

You are flown to visit the school's campus and are taken care of royally every minute of your visit. A player presently on the team shows you around his campus, takes you to parties, buys you drinks, sets you up with pretty college women. It goes on...

After this kind of treatment at other schools, when Harvard sends you a postcard at the most and gives you the impression that it just might accept you if you're lucky, most high-school ballplayers fall for the wine-and-dine routine. When prospective footballers do visit Harvard, they are put up on the couch of whoever gets stuck with them and are fed in the dining halls. If you had a choice between Tournedos du Boeuf or Polynesian meatless balls, which would you choose?

The bottom line on all this, however, is that Harvard's recruiting method deals in a mature manner with boys that are not mature. When they look at Harvard what they see is what they get--no steaks, no hotel suites, no special treatment. When they look at other schools they are being sold. Once someone enrolls in a college, they are no longer special, the fancy dinners disappear, the hotel room is replaced by the athletic dormitory. For many who come to believe the stories of their own importance and choose the school by the dinner, this comes as a rude surprise.

I'm all for turning Harvard's coaches loose to travel and meet prospective football players. The mails are too impersonal to give a young man a good picture of a football program in which he hopes to become deeply involved. And perhaps coach Restic can interest some intelligent athletes too caught up in the glamour of bigtime football into looking at Harvard as an alternative to the sometimes difficult path of a total committment to football.

But I caution Harvard athletics: do not let the desire to win, the desire to bring talented athletes to Harvard, get in the way of the truth. Yes, tell ballplayers about Harvard, try to convince them to attend, but do not paint too rosy a picture. Those poor visitors must still eat in our dining halls, sleep on our couches, face those that are not all that impressed with football players. That's the way it is here and if they don't like it, they shouldn't come here.

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