Weathering the Storm

The recession hit athletic departments hard in 1991-92, but Harvard has yet to make any major cuts. It insists it is...

In 1991-92, an ill wind blew through Ivy League athletics.

As the nation's economy remained in recession, universities continued scaling back their budgets to contend with the rough times.

Athletic departments across the nation were hit particularly hard. Even in the Ivy League, where institutions are known for their hefty endowments, sports programs were slashed.

Harvard, however, has managed to weather the storm without cutting a single varsity, JV or freshman program. To save money, the department is reducing budgets across the board, spending less money on transportation and travelling expenses and encouraging coaches to seek outside funding.

Ivy Blues


Most Ivy schools have opted for slash-and-burn tactics. Last fall, Yale cut funding for varsity wrestling, varsity water polo and junior varsity ice hockey. Brown followed suit, cutting its women's gymnastics program.

Students at the two schools are fighting back. The Yale wrestling team is filing a class-action suit the university, claiming breach of contract. And the Brown women's gymnastics team is suing its school, arguing that the university's cuts favor men's programs. Both cases have yet to be resolved.

Harvard, in contrast, is tightening its belt with less commotion.

Athletic Director William J. Cleary '56 has vowed not to cut any of Harvard's 40 varsity programs. But he is trying to buck a national trend.

"Within my power, I will do everything possible to maintain the programs we have," Cleary says. "I don't see that we're going to have to cut any."

He says he has a personal commitment to insuring that the athletic department provides opportunities for students at all levels of competition JV and varsity.

"Other schools have cut whole programs," Cleary says. "We haven't even cut our JV's. This is one of the great experiences kids can have. I'm not going to take it away from them."

There's clearly a will, but is there a way?

Trimming the Fat

Harvard's athletic budget is approximately $9.5 million, a number far less than rival universities such as Standord, which spends a whopping $21 million, according to Cleary.