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NOW that Harvard men's hockey Coach Bill Cleary '56 has been appointed to the post of athletic director, will he trade in the flea-bitten red sweater he wears each game for an administrator's three-piece suit? That may be the biggest question surrounding the transition from Jack Reardon '60 to Cleary at the athletic department.
The University is counting on Cleary to follow the path of Reardon, who has rebuilt Harvard's facilities and provided a forceful voice against commercialization of collegiate athletics as a member of the NCAA Council.
"[Cleary's] a very good supporter and manager of people. He's knowledgable about athletics at Harvard and on a national front," Dean of the Faculty A. Michael Spence said. "I'm sure he'll be a very good partner for President [Derek C.] Bok in dealing with the Ivy League and the NCAA. He's committed to the women's and intramural athletics programs. He's just got everything."
Cleary does have everything that the University is looking for in an heir to Reardon. But Reardon will be the first to tell you that there are new controversies for Cleary to mediate, new issues that will have to be faced.
First and foremost is the formidable task of managing Reardon's pride and joy--Harvard's massive athletic department. With the most varsity teams in the country (40), an extensive intramural program, including undergraduate and graduate students and negligible space for expansion, there is potential for conflict over limited resources.
Cleary is going to have to make these kinds of tough decisions, probably sooner than later, as the athletic department faces the strain of new capital programs--building new indoor squash and tennis courts across the river as well as a sorely needed, all-weather artificial surface field.
Cleary should make these decisions based on the philosophy he has inherited from Reardon, a philosophy of broad participation and an emphasis on academics and amateurism rather than athletics and professionalism.
IN AGREEMENT with these principles, Cleary should pay special attention to women's athletics and intramurals.
"I'm a strong believer in women's athletics," Cleary said. "[Women's programs] should become even bigger and better. If I have anything to do with it, they will."
"I think athletics are so important to all people, men and women," he added. "It's not about wins or losses or proficiency, but what you get out of the game, the friends, the companionship."
But such promises can become lost in the chaos of managing the largest athletic department in the country, especially when the call to glory is heard. As Reardon pointed out, Harvard and Radcliffe alumni and fans are spoiled by the many programs which began competing on the national level in the last 15 years. The men's hockey team's national championship last April might bring with it a greed for more, especially with the soccer, lacrosse, squash, tennis and rowing programs making bids for national championships.
But Cleary must downplay this issue, which could jeopardize Harvard athletics as the epitome of student-athletes with "student" first. Attention to women's athletics and intramurals would be a clear message that that's where Cleary's priorities lie.
And if Cleary's sweater does have to go, his commitment to broad-based participation rather than big headline sports shouldn't go with it.
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