Let's get one thing straight from the beginning: this is a serious column. But not quite yet, because I first want to report that yesterday I had to turn down the post of Harvard athletic director due to the fact that all I was offered in salary was a year of lunches at the Varsity Club, and that's just a little too much clam chowder to take.
Thus, the post is still open, and now let's get serious, because it seems to me that the search committee in charge of finding a new athletic director really has no idea whatsoever of what it is looking for. In fact, the very idea that such an extensive search has taken place amounts to a direct slap to the face of Mr. Watson, 60 Boylston St. and the entire Harvard Athletic Department as we currently know it.
Why? Because if the search committee believed that things as they now stand were as they should be, there wouldn't have been a search at all. Either Baaron Pittenger or John Reardon would have already been named to succeed Mr. Watson, and 60 Boylston St. wouldn't be like the high school senior about to open his college acceptance/rejection letters. Nervous, on edge, scared that the future might not be as pleasant as the past.
Of course, one of these two men could still be chosen any day, and then you'll say that this column is pointless. Right? Wrong, because it won't erase the fact that the committee's first choice was Williams' Robert Peck, who, for one reason or another, was not given the job.
Do I know this for a fact? No. Do I know whether the committee withdrew Peck's name after it had leaked and the public reactions (i.e.--that of Harvard alumni and students) was negative or whether President Bok vetoed this choice? No.
What do I know? Simply the fact that even considering Peck, the committee showed the following things:
1) It showed that it sought a radical departure from the present 60 Boylston St. style. Peck's background, to be simplistic, is an intramural one. The intensity of the athletic department at Williams simply does not measure up to Harvard's, as the former's intercollegiate program pales in comparison to the latter's.
Does this mean that Peck couldn't have made an alteration in style? No, it simply means that the search committee itself is apparently seeking an alteration in style, Harvard's style.
2) It evidenced a break from history, for unless my facts are wrong, Harvard has had but one athletic director who was an invader of the Harvard community. And it was a disaster, because whether or not you want to admit it, this place is a country club, and you just don't ask non-members to lead country clubs, or all of the members will quit.
3) The search committee represents distinct constituencies. The Law School is spoken for, ditto the Business School. That is literally spoken for, as in "Let's get somebody in this office who will be equally concerned with the future lawyers of America getting squash courts as he is with the varsity football program."
Admirable, yes, but don't kid yourself, because when Joe Schmoe '38 wakes up on Sunday morning in Portland, Oregon and turns to the sports section, he wants to read that the football team defeated Dartmouth, that the hockey team made the NCAAs, and not that a bunch of Business School students had a nice pick-up game over the weekend.
Now don't get me wrong, which you probably have done already. I'm not saying that 60 Boylston St. is above criticism and change, because it isn't by any means. I'm not saying that history should necessarily be followed, for history isn't always right.
Nor am I anti-intramural sports. What are you, crazy? I don't get any exercise as it is, and if it weren't for intramurals, I'd get even less. (Winthrop, incidentally, took its fourth straight softball triumph--its second by forfeit--yesterday afternoon.)
Everybody should get a chance to play, everybody should be looked out for, but this can be accomplished within the framework of the current emphasis on intercollegiate sports, a fact the search committee is apparently oblivious to.
Athletics for all or no athletics for all, few things around here can beat walking down Boylston St. on a fall afternoon in anticipation of joining 35,000 football crazies in Harvard Stadium.
It's my guess that the search committee thinks otherwise, and who knows, maybe I'm crazy. If they didn't think au contraire, then why wasn't either Pittenger or Reardon named the new athletic director four months ago?
One opinion only, but I think the present system has already achieved the right balance between intercollegiate and intramural athletics, and that the changes that can and should be made could be accomplished using the current structure as a base.
An alteration in basic style is hardly required. The search committee, though, thinks differently. Oh, who does know, maybe they are right, but I doubt it.
Nor do I doubt the fact that it's no fun being serious. Hey, did you hear the one about the search committee that couldn't see the nose on its face?
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