Way back in the early seventies, Harvard and Radcliffe started down the road to their eventual merger, forever dooming Harvard men to Quad housing.
The Harvard and Radcliffe athletic programs combined themselves under one administration in 1974. But continually referring to the football team as "Harvard football" while calling the field hockey team "Radcliffe field hockey" was deemed too confusing.
So, in 1976, the athletic department held a vote. Every women's team voted to complete for the greater glory of Harvard.
Except for women's crew, that is.
In 1983-again given the choice to row for Harvard or Radcliffe-the women's crew voted unanimously to compete for the Black and White.
"I think, more than anything, it's the name," Novice Coach Holly Hatton said. "Radcliffe crew has such a strong tradition."
Hatton was a rookie coach with the program in 1983, and remembers the strong solidarity of the rowers.
"The athletes all felt very strongly about it," Hatton said. "There was a real sense of identity that came from rowing for Radcliffe."
That solidarity grew out of the outstanding success of Radcliffe crew. Founded in 1970, it represented the United States in the 1973 World Championships.
By 1976, Radcliffe crew was the preeminent women's crew program in the country, but it paled in comparison to the men's side.
"Harvard crew has such a strong identity," Hatton said. "We felt we might have been overwhelmed."
Radcliffe made the decision to go solo and became the only team to do so at Harvard.
"Radcliffe was building a name for itself in the sport," Hatton said. "We wanted to maintain our image. It was the connection with the name and the tradition that we wanted to preserve."
The Radcliffe affiliation does not affect the administering of the sport. The program is run through the Harvard athletic department, despite the renegade name.
Some ties with Radcliffe are preserved. The colors (black and white), for one. Team dinners, for another, held in the Cronkite Center and customarily attended by the president and the dean of Radcliffe.
"Occasionally, if we want to go to an extra race or something, we can get funding from Radcliffe," Hatton said, "but Radcliffe crew is a tradition, simply a name."